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Volume and how to control it...

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In regards to the level of sound from a PC, is it better to control the volume of a program via the program itself or through the speakers?

 

ie. Is it better for iTunes to be at 100% and speakers at 10% or iTunes to be at 50% and the speakers at 25% (just an example)?

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I'm interested in this too. Would it depend on the sound card/speakers/amp in question?

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since i can get plenty of volume out of my amp i always leave my master volume within windows backed off to about 85% or lower, and all others backed off a little.

 

2 reasons:

 

- a paranoid suspicion that driving my soundcard's output all the way up *possibly* isnt operating it within in its optimal and flattest range.

 

- i really like having a little extra grunt to add via software controls for those times when i am too lazy to reach the physical knob, or its not as practical.

 

 

eg. i dont need to knob twiddle every time i get a quiet youtube vid (and then forget and later get my head blown off by an mp3 playing too loud). i 'normalise' them in the browser with the YT volume slider, coz ive left headroom.

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- a paranoid suspicion that driving my soundcard's output all the way up *possibly* isnt operating it within in its optimal and flattest range.

Turning to 100% volume in Windows is not driving your sound cards output "all the way up", it's quite possible that the soundcard would perform better at these levels.

 

Rob.

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are you saying its not possible to drive your soundcard "all the way up"?

 

not that i am against the idea of them being engineered that way.

 

as i said, its a 'paranoid suspicion' neither a conviction or a particularly educated guess.

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I think if there was any adverse effect in setting windows volume at 100% it would be audible, as in distortion/artefacts.

 

I am also guessing ;)

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I'm using an Auzentech Prelude soundcard connected via optical output to a set of Logitech z-5500D speakers. As a result, the windows volume control doesn't work (it is set at 100%) though. So it's either via the program settings or the speaker control panel.

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i set mine at 100% through windows, then control it on my speakers, as the on/off for mine is the dial itself, and the lue light it emits annoys me.

 

dunno if it makes any differance though, my speakers still sound awesome....

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Software volume controllers reduce the bit rate. Its better to use analog volume controllers to attenuate volume. The lower you go with a software controller, the more definition you lose.

 

If your soundcard software volume control does not add gain, then running it at one hundred percent and attenuating the speaker volume control keeps you at unity gain until the final output stage; this is ideal. Software players can boost the signal though.... VLC for one, and also keep in mind boosts from eqs, and gain controls in effects. Set all gains to 100% but no higher. If you are going to use eq, then cut only, dont boost.

Edited by komuso

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I've never heard of software controllers doing that. I'll be researching that tonight!

 

As for me, I usually have the comp set between 50% and 90% so I can adjust for small volume changes but get out of my chair and whack the amp for large ones.

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are you saying its not possible to drive your soundcard "all the way up"?

If I had to bet either way, then yes, this is where I'd be putting my money.

 

I'd guess that the most we could ever get out of our sound cards are +-2v, and there are very few components that would have trouble reaching this volume when being fed the 12v that a computer is giving them.

 

Rob.

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i always leave computer at 100% and use speakers to control volume.. in the past, when i have put speakers up high and controlled from computer i have had random programs or errors jump to 100% vol and then blast incredibly loud out of speakers. that cant happen if speaker volume is controlling.... also, i have found better quality this way.

 

(and the volume spinner on my speakers is all light and clicky and cool :P :D :P)

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Volume around 75%

 

Then use speakers after that for home gaming setup.......

 

Work:

 

Speakers set to around the Half way mark

 

Use Griffin Power mate to control audio up and down via software (essence STX) and to skip FWD/BWD/Mute as it is a programmable controller.

 

Works very well

 

I normally set my software output at 75% as it makes the incremental control easier/more exact for my setups.

 

Komuso: Are you sure Software volume controllers reduce the bitrate? It sounds unusual to me.

 

This is what I have found

 

here http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/lofive...php/t41985.html

 

"No, no bits are ever added or subtracted. Each sample is a number, a signal level measurement, normally expressed in dB for convenience. That value is modified, increased or decreased, so the new value (the new signal level) is closer to, or further from, 0dB.

 

As you decrease the volume level, sample values decrease below the minimum supported (e.g. aprox -96dB for sixteen bit files) so you are effectively decreasing the bit depth."

Edited by gun_sl1nger

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This is what I have found

 

here http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/lofive...php/t41985.html

 

"No, no bits are ever added or subtracted. Each sample is a number, a signal level measurement, normally expressed in dB for convenience. That value is modified, increased or decreased, so the new value (the new signal level) is closer to, or further from, 0dB.

 

As you decrease the volume level, sample values decrease below the minimum supported (e.g. aprox -96dB for sixteen bit files) so you are effectively decreasing the bit depth."

Let's think of an waveform that we are describing using 8 bits - this gives 256 different values.

 

In the most ideal situation 0 represents the lowest part of the signal, and 255 represents the highest part of the signal.

 

That means there are 254 different levels of "in between".

 

If you turn the volume down, though, now 0 (still) represents the lowest part of the signal, but 128 represents the highest part of the signal.

 

This means there are only 127 different levels of "in between" for exactly the same signal as before.

 

Rob.

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From: http://www.wadia.com/technology/technicalp..._Control_2.pdf:

 

Digital volume controls function by multiplying the each successive word in the original signal data stream

by a coefficient that is less than one. For example, if the incoming signal is multiplied by a coefficient of

0.5, the output will be half of the original value. This corresponds with a volume reduction of 6 dB. In a

binary system, a reduction of 6 dB is the same as shifting the signal towards the least-significant bit by one

bit.

 

In the drawing below, the 16-bit signal is attenuated by a factor of eight, resulting in a volume reduction of

18 dB. The resolution is now reduced to 13 bits.

 

Continuing to reduce the volume reduces the resolution as well. In this case, a volume reduction of 36 dB

results in a resolution of 10 bits, as illustrated below. Based on this loss of resolution, it is clear why

digital attenuation has garnered a reputation for degrading sound.

 

----

 

On the other hand, its not as though analog controllers are problem free either though... active volume controllers can colour the sound. Passive volume controllers are said to colour the sound less, but a good one is expensive. Cheaper ones might have slight differences in volume for left and right channels throughout the range, and more often there is an imbalance at lower levels. For listening it might not matter so much but for mixing it totally upsets stereo imaging. Stepped volume knobs are better but a good one is expensive.

 

It probably doesnt make a big difference on cheap gear but I would still run software volume at 100%.

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Also, keep in mind that most sound cards are designed to output directly to a small 1-2" passive speaker. Usually 4-8ohms.

 

 

Average input impedance of the amps you'd be connecting the sound card up to is probably in the realm of 100ohms, so many orders of magnitude harder to distort.

 

 

amirite?

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Average input impedance of the amps you'd be connecting the sound card up to is probably in the realm of 100ohms, so many orders of magnitude harder to distort.

 

 

amirite?

Yes but no :P It should be quite a lot higher than 100ohms.

 

The headphone amps I've built tend to have input impedances of at least a couple of kilo-ohms.

 

Rob.

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