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Volume control - analog or software? Speaker or DAC?

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

Like the title says, what would you say is the best source to control audio volume with so as to reduce noise and achieve the best SQ possible?

It seems obvious to assume that you would want the least to do with software volume controls, as they are essentially messing with the signal and (or so I've read) actually result in the loss of bit depth - http://superuser.com/questions/492281/from-a-quality-perspective-what-is-better-turning-volume-up-in-the-software-i

So that leaves the question, in my specific context, for instance: I have a pair of active Audioengine A5+ speakers connected to an Essence One Muses DAC through RCA. The speakers themselves have a volume control and so does the DAC. At the moment, and for the sake of convenience and control, I have the DAC volume set at 1 or 2 o' clock and control the volume mainly through the speakers.

Am I doing this right or is there a better way?

post #2 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by Compfy Listenin View Post
 

Like the title says, what would you say is the best source to control audio volume with so as to reduce noise and achieve the best SQ possible?

It seems obvious to assume that you would want the least to do with software volume controls, as they are essentially messing with the signal and (or so I've read) actually result in the loss of bit depth - http://superuser.com/questions/492281/from-a-quality-perspective-what-is-better-turning-volume-up-in-the-software-i

So that leaves the question, in my specific context, for instance: I have a pair of active Audioengine A5+ speakers connected to an Essence One Muses DAC through RCA. The speakers themselves have a volume control and so does the DAC. At the moment, and for the sake of convenience and control, I have the DAC volume set at 1 or 2 o' clock and control the volume mainly through the speakers.

Am I doing this right or is there a better way?

 

As long as Windows system volume is set at 100% and providing both dac & speaker volume pots are set above the channel imbalance threshold (present at the very start of the pots range on most pots) I don't think it really matters too much with a quality DAC like the Essence muses one edition which likely has a very low noise floor.

 

 

With the above in mind and from the link you provided..

 

"@Lyman Enders Knowles pointed out in the comments that the issue of bit depth reduction does not apply to modern operating systems. Specifically, starting with Vista, Windows automatically upsamples all audio streams to 32-bit floating point before doing any attenuation. This means that, however low you turn the volume, there should be no effective loss of resolution. Still, eventually the audio has to be downconverted (to 16-bit, or 24-bit if the DAC supports that), which will introduce some quantisation errors. Also, attenuating first and amplifying later will increase the noise floor, so the advice to keep software levels at 100% and attenuate in hardware, as close to the end of your audio chain as possible, still stands."  ;)

 

Which is probably not far off what you are doing?


Edited by Ari33 - 1/11/14 at 11:14am
post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 

Thanks a lot, Ari33. You took the time to read a bit of the link as well :) .

Yeah, I tend to think I am doing it right as I spent the afternoon listening to some 24bit /96-192 khz recordings and was absolutely blown away (yet again, it's everyday with this setup which I got myself for christmas) with how good it sounded. I could swear there were people playing in front of me if I closed my eyes. So I can hardly believe there is something I could do to make it even better.

And yes, I am aware of the channel imbalance on the E1. A regretabble stain (along with the 8x upsampling feature which simply makes the music lose clarity) on an otherwise wonderful product.

post #4 of 8

http://www.head-fi.org/t/689942/digital-vs-analog-volume-control

 

 idealy you should get digital to the max as long as you don't get clipping, but for just a few DB it really doesn't matter.

post #5 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by Compfy Listenin View Post
 

Thanks a lot, Ari33. You took the time to read a bit of the link as well :) .

Yeah, I tend to think I am doing it right as I spent the afternoon listening to some 24bit /96-192 khz recordings and was absolutely blown away (yet again, it's everyday with this setup which I got myself for christmas) with how good it sounded. I could swear there were people playing in front of me if I closed my eyes. So I can hardly believe there is something I could do to make it even better.

And yes, I am aware of the channel imbalance on the E1. A regretabble stain (along with the 8x upsampling feature which simply makes the music lose clarity) on an otherwise wonderful product.

 

That is a very nice piece of kit, would love to have the opportunity to have a listen to one. What you describe sounds a bit like what I experience when listening to one of my fave David Gilmour DVD 'Remember that night' through my Onkyo 5.1 AV receiver in 5.1 DTS... Holly sjitt!  :D

 

Channel imbalance at the start of the range in pots is not really a stain, I've yet to come across a pot that doesn't have any at all.

post #6 of 8
Thread Starter 

I can only imagine. Although I'm not the biggest fan of Pink Floyd, David Gilmour solo stuff is exceptionally well produced and I enjoy it very much. I will look up the DVD you mentioned, although I don't have a nice surround setup and doubt I will anytime soon. Not a lot of room to acommodate it.

post #7 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ari33 View Post

As long as Windows system volume is set at 100% and providing both dac & speaker volume pots are set above the channel imbalance threshold (present at the very start of the pots range on most pots) I don't think it really matters too much with a quality DAC like the Essence muses one edition which likely has a very low noise floor.


With the above in mind and from the link you provided..

"@Lyman Enders Knowles
 pointed out in the comments that the issue of bit depth reduction does not apply to modern operating systems. Specifically, starting with Vista, Windows automatically upsamples all audio streams to 32-bit floating point before doing any attenuation. This means that, however low you turn the volume, there should be no effective loss of resolution. Still, eventually the audio has to be downconverted (to 16-bit, or 24-bit if the DAC supports that), which will introduce some quantisation errors. Also, attenuating first and amplifying later will increase the noise floor, so
the advice to keep software levels at 100% and attenuate in hardware, as close to the end of your audio chain as possible, still stands."  wink.gif

Which is probably not far off what you are doing?
100% is not necessarily 0 dB amplification. It's best to double check although this is usually not the case for audio output but it is extremely common in audio input.

Example (volume is at 90% but it's actually amplifying):
90s5yf9.png
You can switch between dB and percentage by right clicking the value.
post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 

Great point, Anarion. I also didn't know I could check db by right clicking. Thank you.

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