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Dumb question, but how much volume should come from the source and how much from the amp?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

For example if I'm listening to music on my pandora, what volume setting shoudl I have the slider at in Pandora, and what should I have my amp at? Should most of the sound increase be coming from the amp or the source?

 

I have just been putting the slider on pandora in the middle then adjusting my amp to a comfortable listening level, and that way if I need to turn it up or down a little I can just use the slider on pandora.

 

I"m not sure if this is the idea way to do it though, any insight? Sorry for the noob question, I feel like I should know this but I've never been sure. Thanks!

post #2 of 9

I'm not sure how it works with something like Pandora but I've always heard that you want the volume output of the source to be as high as possible...I believe this is called "unity gain" in some situations.  The reason for this is that anything south of full volume is actually requiring your source to take away part of the signal and you want every bit of that signal to reach your amp.  So even if it means you have to turn your amp way down, the SQ is supposed to be optimum with your source volume all the way up.

 

Again, I'm not a software or computer or electronics engineer so I'm not sure if this is gospel.  It makes sense, however, that you want your source to output a pure, full signal (that's its job) and you want your amp to amplify that signal (again...its job).  This approach would seem to address that first part very well.

post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 

Interesting, bump for more input

post #4 of 9

Because each component of your signal chain is adding a certain amount of noise, it's generally advisable to get your source to as high level as possible, as boosting the signal in the later stages also means boosting a larger amount of noise. However, how loud you should set it really depends on your source and how high it can output without overloading. I usually like to leave some headroom to prevent any clipping or distortion (usually around 80-90% of max vol), but all this depends on the equipment you are using.

post #5 of 9

There's a point where the output signal starts clipping, so you want to stay below that threshold. This point depends on many factors, starting with the recording, so it's variable even between different passages of the same song. You'd need an oscilloscope to pinpoint when clipping begins to occur or becomes noticeable.

 

The above being complicated (and anyway it's impossible to get 100% rid of clipping),just keep below 75% of maximum volume, likewise in your amp.

post #6 of 9

Two ways to look at it.

 

One, where you can control the volume. Sometimes its more convenient to control the source, at other times the amp's volume control is more accessible. 

 

Two, the gain provided by the amp is limited, anything beyond that will cause the amp to clip. Hence, it makes sense to keep the source as high as possible. 

 

However, if your source is very high, adjusting the amp slightly will cause a massive change in volume.

 

So, a possible way would be to ensure the source is high enough such that the volume control on the amp has adequate travel. For example, you don't want the volume at 50% to be ear splitting, it can be dangerous for someone caught unaware.


Edited by proton007 - 12/11/12 at 10:59pm
post #7 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by proton007 View Post

Two ways to look at it.

 

One, where you can control the volume. Sometimes its more convenient to control the source, at other times the amp's volume control is more accessible. 

 

Two, the gain provided by the amp is limited, anything beyond that will cause the amp to clip. Hence, it makes sense to keep the source as high as possible. 

 

However, if your source is very high, adjusting the amp slightly will cause a massive change in volume.

 

So, a possible way would be to ensure the source is high enough such that the volume control on the amp has adequate travel. For example, you don't want the volume at 50% to be ear splitting, it can be dangerous for someone caught unaware.

 I've always been very leery of maintaining a "dangerous" level of travel in my portable setup (as you mention). Just afraid of that doomsday scenario when someone you're giving a demo to decides to start mashing the volume buttons without asking... yikes!  

post #8 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by The.Yield View Post

 I've always been very leery of maintaining a "dangerous" level of travel in my portable setup (as you mention). Just afraid of that doomsday scenario when someone you're giving a demo to decides to start mashing the volume buttons without asking... yikes!  


Happened with me at a party once. I increased the volume by half a cm (it was a slider control), and the volume went way high, startling everyone around. Seems the equipment was badly calibrated, the pre amp gain was too high.

post #9 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by gregr507 View Post

For example if I'm listening to music on my pandora, what volume setting shoudl I have the slider at in Pandora, and what should I have my amp at? Should most of the sound increase be coming from the amp or the source?

 

I have just been putting the slider on pandora in the middle then adjusting my amp to a comfortable listening level, and that way if I need to turn it up or down a little I can just use the slider on pandora.

 

I"m not sure if this is the idea way to do it though, any insight? Sorry for the noob question, I feel like I should know this but I've never been sure. Thanks!

 

If your concern is the sound quality, then you should avoid any digital signal alterations - i.e. keep it at 100% through the entire digital path. That way you have the best chance it will reach the DAC exactly the way it has been recorded. Clipping would be introduced only if you increase the volume, and it's not going to disappear by turning the volume down if it is in the original signal.

Once the signal has been converted to analog, the optimum is to keep it close to the nominal input level of the next device in chain - this way you minimise noise and distortions. If you don't know where that optimum is, you can increase the volume upstream until you start hearing the distortions and then decrease it by 1/3. The actual volume control is best left to the last device in chain, usually the power amplifier.

This may not always be practical, and if it's not - don't stress about it: most likely you won't notice any difference.

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