Topic: Where to adjust volume -playback software, DAC, or Amp (or a mixture)?

Hi there,

I have just purchased a RME ADI-2 DAC FS and I will be using it at my desktop. I am a Roon user (music playback software). The DAC is fed over USB from a Allo USBridge Signature streamer using Ropieee software. I also have an optical connection from my Windows 10 machine. The DAC then feeds, via balanced XLR, a set of ADAM F5 active speakers. I do not currently use headphones in this setup, put it’s a possibility in the future.

I need some help and advice about how to set my volume on my desktop endpoint setup, as there are a number of places to adjust the volume and I am not sure which is the most optimal. I am just getting my head around volume control and it is not something I have given a huge amount of thought to previously, I do wonder if the gain leaving the DAC is too high.

As an example, I have Roon upsampling, to the power of 2, and I have some headroom management enabled (-15dB). I have also enabled volume levelling (at the max -25lufs) in order to bring the signal strength down, or its too loud. The actual volume is set to fixed in Roon so I can’t adjust via the Roon software in this configuration.

From a hardware perspective, the DAC obviously has a volume control of its own. The speakers also have volume control, but it is only accessed via a knob on the rear of each speaker, by default its set to ‘0’ but you can add or subtract 6db.

What is the best, or most optimal way, to control volume?

My choices are essentially, via Roon (either via enabling volume control, volume levelling and headroom adjustment), via the DAC or via the speakers or a mixture. Turning the speakers level down is tricky but one way to do it accurately might be to measure what is coming out of them at the seating position via a Umik microphone and REW for example.

Does anyone have any thoughts? Should I consider XLR attenuators perhaps?

Thanks for any comments or help!

Re: Where to adjust volume -playback software, DAC, or Amp (or a mixture)?

Hi Rossco!

Wow. Lotta stuff there.    Hmmm...where to set Volume?    Might I suggest you set your Computer Vol at 100%, and control Vol with the ADI-2 DAC.   You'll thank me for this later. wink  (Re: Bit Test)

We'll help you get 'er dialed in...one piece at a time.

Have Fun, and Enjoy your new DAC.

Curt

Vintage 2018 ADI-2 DAC. "Classic Edition"
Cables:  Red Ones, and White Ones.
Speakers:  Yes (2)

Re: Where to adjust volume -playback software, DAC, or Amp (or a mixture)?

I agree with Curt.
More on level matching here. smile

ADI-2 DAC (with stock PSU) - Neumann KH 310 A monitors - Cheap USB and XLR cables

4 (edited by rossco 2020-11-16 17:34:24)

Re: Where to adjust volume -playback software, DAC, or Amp (or a mixture)?

Thanks for the replies.

I will go and have a read of the level matching and then I will come back.

5 (edited by KaiS 2020-11-17 11:48:58)

Re: Where to adjust volume -playback software, DAC, or Amp (or a mixture)?

rossco wrote:

... I have Roon upsampling, to the power of 2, and I have some headroom management enabled (-15dB). I have also enabled volume levelling (at the max -25lufs) in order to bring the signal strength down, or its too loud. The actual volume is set to fixed in Roon so I can’t adjust via the Roon software in this configuration.

15 dB headroom is too much for an upsampling Sample Rate Conversion.
3 dB is more than sufficient.

If you do use "Volume Leveling" just to bring the level down, instead of balancing the loudness of different music tracks, you better get the passive attenuators mentioned.
-25 LUFS is really low, -23 is the lowest standard (German TV broadcast), and already relatively quiet for music.
Spotify uses -14 LUFS, which is a bit too hot for very dynamic tracks.


BTW: "Power of 2" means "squared", like 44,100 x 44,100 kHz, you mean "Factor of 2", like 44,100 kHz x 2.

rossco wrote:

... The speakers also have volume control, but it is only accessed via a knob on the rear of each speaker, by default its set to ‘0’ but you can add or subtract 6db.

Set the speakers to: min. (-6 dB) setting.
ADI-2 DAC Auto Reference Level: On

Done.
ADI-2 DAC's Auto Ref. Level cares for making the best use of the DAC's dynamic range.

If the meters (Post FX) show below -30 dB all the time, get yourself passive attenuators.

6 (edited by rossco 2020-11-16 18:14:06)

Re: Where to adjust volume -playback software, DAC, or Amp (or a mixture)?

Curt962 wrote:

Hi Rossco!

Wow. Lotta stuff there.    Hmmm...where to set Volume?    Might I suggest you set your Computer Vol at 100%, and control Vol with the ADI-2 DAC.   You'll thank me for this later. wink  (Re: Bit Test)

When I do this I then need to set the volume on the RME to -50dBr to get a 'normal' volume output from the speakers. So I let the music play and did the reading suggested by N00b.

Very interesting reading, I see one of the benefits of passive volume attenuation is that you no longer have to control volumes with your software's master volume fader with the suggestion being that reducing levels from software might reduce the audio bit depth. Anyway, it seems attenuators might still be an option, either the inline ones (JTS MA-123) as suggested in the link or possibly a passive volume controller.

I will have a go with what KaiS suggests now.

7 (edited by rossco 2020-11-16 18:37:14)

Re: Where to adjust volume -playback software, DAC, or Amp (or a mixture)?

KaiS wrote:

Set the speakers to: min. (-6 dB) setting.
ADI-2 DAC Auto Reference Level: On

Done.
ADI-2 DAC's Auto Ref. Level cares for making the best use of the DAC's dynamic range.

If the meters (Post FX) show below -30 dB all the time, get yourself passive attenuators.

I have just done this; if I turn right down, the volume dips off completely, and when I come back up a little its tricky to get the same volume on each speaker as there are no notches to let you know where you are which is a shame, there is just one at 0. Anyway, I have set it as best I can. With those settings, the RME is currently sitting at -35dBr when playing music and it is pretty loud.

The JTS MA-123 seem pretty reasonable, and with the possiblity of trying -10, -20 or -30 dB they are probably worth trying. Although I can get a passive volume control like this Palmer Passive Monitor MONICON Controller https://www.scan.co.uk/products/palmer- … 600-ohm-xl for around the same price, although I have not idea of the quality etc.

8 (edited by rossco 2020-11-16 19:12:07)

Re: Where to adjust volume -playback software, DAC, or Amp (or a mixture)?

I think I will try the JTS, I will check online, but can I plug in an additional cable, then the JTS so it avoids any undue pressure on the XLR connection on the RME?

9 (edited by KaiS 2020-11-17 11:50:10)

Re: Where to adjust volume -playback software, DAC, or Amp (or a mixture)?

rossco wrote:

I think I will try the JTS, I will check online, but can I plug in an additional cable, then the JTS so it avoids any undue pressure on the XLR connection on the RME?

(Yes, of course. Or plug them in the back of the speakers.)


EDIT: I've just seen, the volume controls on the ADAM F5 go down to zero, so you won't need any attenuators.


EDIT2:

rossco wrote:

if I turn right down, the volume dips off completely, and when I come back up a little its tricky to get the same volume on each speaker as there are no notches to let you know where you are which is a shame, there is just one at 0. Anyway, I have set it as best I can. With those settings, the RME is currently sitting at -35dBr when playing music and it is pretty loud.

Auto Reference Level has a switching range of 18 dB, think of it as an automatic (quasi-)passive attenuator.

-35 dBr (dBr=relative to ADI-2 DAC's max output) therefore means -17 dBFS on the Peak Meter / DAC.
Already quite good.

Re: Where to adjust volume -playback software, DAC, or Amp (or a mixture)?

EDIT: I've just seen, the volume controls on the ADAM F5 go down to zero, so you won't need any attenuators.

Could you explain a little more, as I am not sure I understand? And thank you for looking at the manual.

Auto Reference Level has a switching range of 18 dB, think of it as an automatic (quasi-)passive attenuator.

-35 dBr (dBr=relative to ADI-2 DAC's max output) therefore means -16 dBFS on the Peak Meter / DAC.
Already quite good.

Is there a level which is optimal?

In respect of the attenuators, if I was to insert them, what would be the effect?

Re: Where to adjust volume -playback software, DAC, or Amp (or a mixture)?

rossco wrote:

I think I will try the JTS, I will check online, but can I plug in an additional cable, then the JTS so it avoids any undue pressure on the XLR connection on the RME?

In case it helps, these are the right angle XLR plugs I connect into my Adam 7X speakers and then JTS into the opposite end of those plugs, followed by XLR cable into my ADI-2-PRO-FS. It works great and there seem to be no pressure applied on any of those connection points.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/163533537309

Re: Where to adjust volume -playback software, DAC, or Amp (or a mixture)?

tomg wrote:
rossco wrote:

I think I will try the JTS, I will check online, but can I plug in an additional cable, then the JTS so it avoids any undue pressure on the XLR connection on the RME?

In case it helps, these are the right angle XLR plugs I connect into my Adam 7X speakers and then JTS into the opposite end of those plugs, followed by XLR cable into my ADI-2-PRO-FS. It works great and there seem to be no pressure applied on any of those connection points.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/163533537309

Thank you! These look like a good addition to the toolbox!

13 (edited by KaiS 2020-11-17 00:09:32)

Re: Where to adjust volume -playback software, DAC, or Amp (or a mixture)?

rossco wrote:

EDIT: I've just seen, the volume controls on the ADAM F5 go down to zero, so you won't need any attenuators.

Could you explain a little more, as I am not sure I understand? And thank you for looking at the manual.

As your other post mentions, the lowerst settable level seems to be limited by the quality of the ADAM's potentiometer used.
Else you could dial down enough to make external attenuators obsolete.

rossco wrote:

Auto Reference Level has a switching range of 18 dB, think of it as an automatic (quasi-)passive attenuator.

-35 dBr (dBr=relative to ADI-2 DAC's max output) therefore means -16 dBFS on the Peak Meter / DAC.
Already quite good.

Is there a level which is optimal?

In respect of the attenuators, if I was to insert them, what would be the effect?

A good level shows between 0 and -20 dB on ADI-2's (set to Post FX) peakmeters.

Passive Attenuators can help to shift the level workrange into a more comfortable region on the speakers and into the maximum quality range on ADI-2.

Re: Where to adjust volume -playback software, DAC, or Amp (or a mixture)?

Heya Rossco...

Seems you have things moving forward.   -50 on the Vol setting needs improvement as you already know.  If we could just get the vol in the -15 or -20 range (The Big Number on the Vol display) when things get bouncing, we're doing great!   

Then, you're squeezing every drop of S/N out of your entire system!  smile  Good Gain-Staging matters. 

You're doing well.  Enjoy!

Curt

Vintage 2018 ADI-2 DAC. "Classic Edition"
Cables:  Red Ones, and White Ones.
Speakers:  Yes (2)

15 (edited by KaiS 2020-11-17 02:18:27)

Re: Where to adjust volume -playback software, DAC, or Amp (or a mixture)?

Curt962 wrote:

If we could just get the vol in the -15 or -20 range (The Big Number on the Vol display) when things get bouncing, we're doing great!   

Then, you're squeezing every drop of S/N out of your entire system!  smile

Curt, you forgot that with Auto Reference Level = On the usable gain range is increased by 18 dB.
The figures of the volume display in dBr are relative to the maximum level achievable including the analog gain change, not the usage of the DAC's dynamic range.

The only clear indicator if you are in the correct level range of DAC usage is the peak level meter figures, Post FX.

16

Re: Where to adjust volume -playback software, DAC, or Amp (or a mixture)?

KaiS wrote:

Auto Reference Level has a switching range of 18 dB, think of it as an automatic (quasi-)passive attenuator.

-35 dBr (dBr=relative to ADI-2 DAC's max output) therefore means -16 dBFS on the Peak Meter / DAC.
Already quite good.

To further clarify: this setting equals a manually chosen hardware ref level of -5 dBu (shown in the volume display when AutoRef is active) and a volume set to -17 dB. No need for any external attenuator.

Regards
Matthias Carstens
RME

Re: Where to adjust volume -playback software, DAC, or Amp (or a mixture)?

tomg wrote:
rossco wrote:

I think I will try the JTS, I will check online, but can I plug in an additional cable, then the JTS so it avoids any undue pressure on the XLR connection on the RME?

In case it helps, these are the right angle XLR plugs I connect into my Adam 7X speakers and then JTS into the opposite end of those plugs, followed by XLR cable into my ADI-2-PRO-FS. It works great and there seem to be no pressure applied on any of those connection points.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/163533537309

Clever accessory! And I've read it's better to have the attenuator close to the speaker (not the DAC). It's a matter of impedance.

ADI-2 DAC (with stock PSU) - Neumann KH 310 A monitors - Cheap USB and XLR cables

Re: Where to adjust volume -playback software, DAC, or Amp (or a mixture)?

Thanks everyone for your comments, they are helpful.

KaiS wrote:

Passive Attenuators can help to shift the level workrange into a more comfortable region on the speakers and into the maximum quality range on ADI-2.

This was my lay-mans understanding, and hence interest in passive attenuators

KaiS wrote:

A good level shows between 0 and -20 dB on ADI-2's (set to Post FX) peakmeters..

I think I am a little confused here, the main volume control indicates dBr, are we taking about the same thing? Apologies if this is very obvious...

curt wrote:

Seems you have things moving forward.   -50 on the Vol setting needs improvement as you already know.  If we could just get the vol in the -15 or -20 range (The Big Number on the Vol display) when things get bouncing, we're doing great!   

Then, you're squeezing every drop of S/N out of your entire system!  smile  Good Gain-Staging matters.

You're doing well.  Enjoy!

Curt

Thanks Curt, this made sense to me but...

KaiS wrote:

Curt, you forgot that with Auto Reference Level = On the usable gain range is increased by 18 dB.
The figures of the volume display in dBr are relative to the maximum level achievable including the analog gain change, not the usage of the DAC's dynamic range.

The only clear indicator if you are in the correct level range of DAC usage is the peak level meter figures, Post FX.

Just to be clear, how am I verifying this?

MC wrote:

To further clarify: this setting equals a manually chosen hardware ref level of -5 dBu (shown in the volume display when AutoRef is active) and a volume set to -17 dB. No need for any external attenuator.

This is obivously linked to me question above. I do have the AutoRef on, but the volume line out is reading -39 dBr currently. I can also see the -5dBr (Auto). My speakers are turned down to as low as they go, and Roon is -3dB Headroom adjustment but nothing else.

I am assuming we are talking about two different things (dB vs dBr??), if I set -17dBr it would be very loud.

Re: Where to adjust volume -playback software, DAC, or Amp (or a mixture)?

N00b wrote:
tomg wrote:
rossco wrote:

I think I will try the JTS, I will check online, but can I plug in an additional cable, then the JTS so it avoids any undue pressure on the XLR connection on the RME?

In case it helps, these are the right angle XLR plugs I connect into my Adam 7X speakers and then JTS into the opposite end of those plugs, followed by XLR cable into my ADI-2-PRO-FS. It works great and there seem to be no pressure applied on any of those connection points.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/163533537309

Clever accessory! And I've read it's better to have the attenuator close to the speaker (not the DAC). It's a matter of impedance.

I read the same thing before I started looking for this type of accessory. I can definitely recommend this particular vendor 100% - he contacted me before shipping to ask me what device these plugs are going to be used for (even asked me to send him a photo of my monitors to make sure he sends me the correct version in terms of orientation which way the plug is pointing after plugged into monitors).

Re: Where to adjust volume -playback software, DAC, or Amp (or a mixture)?

Accessories aside...now might be a good time for us to review Section 19.3 of the User Manual.  Fine overview of Auto-Ref's Function

Vintage 2018 ADI-2 DAC. "Classic Edition"
Cables:  Red Ones, and White Ones.
Speakers:  Yes (2)

21

Re: Where to adjust volume -playback software, DAC, or Amp (or a mixture)?

Yep. And have a more closer look at the volume screen (chapter 5.3) which shows both values, dBu and dBr.

Regards
Matthias Carstens
RME

Re: Where to adjust volume -playback software, DAC, or Amp (or a mixture)?

Fair enough, I have the manual next to me, I will read through in a bit more detail and come back if I have any questions. Thanks for the pointers.

23 (edited by rossco 2020-11-23 18:02:33)

Re: Where to adjust volume -playback software, DAC, or Amp (or a mixture)?

Hi All!

I re-read this thread, read the manual (I pretend to understand all of it!!)and I have just been going through the thread on Audio Science Review website.

I ordered the JTS attenuators a while ago (on the 16th), and they arrived today. I decided to keep the order as they are fairly cheap and seem like a good addition to my toolbox.

Anyway, without the attenuators, I have the turn the speakers down as far as possible, set -3db in Roon, and I then set Max PCM rate (power of 2 - I am quoting Roon's term here). I then have auto-ref on (reporting -5dBu), and the DAC is then reporting around -30dBr at day to day listening levels.

With the attenuators (they are plugged in speaker end) at -20dB, I can turn the speaker back to its middle level. I also retain Auto ref (still reporting -5dBu)and  the settings in Roon. I am then at around -25dBr at day to day listening levels. Obviously pushing the attenuators to -30dB I can listen at around -15dBr (+1dBu) at day to day listening levels.

So I need to decide which is 'best'!

I did enjoy this from MC_RME.

Any thoughts?

Re: Where to adjust volume -playback software, DAC, or Amp (or a mixture)?

rossco wrote:

Hi All!

I re-read this thread, read the manual (I pretend to understand all of it!!)and I have just been going through the thread on Audio Science Review website.

I ordered the JTS attenuators a while ago (on the 16th), and they arrived today. I decided to keep the order as they are fairly cheap and seem like a good addition to my toolbox.

Anyway, without the attenuators, I have the turn the speakers down as far as possible, set -3db in Roon, and I then set Max PCM rate (power of 2 - I am quoting Roon's term here). I then have auto-ref on (reporting -5dBu), and the DAC is then reporting around -30dBr at day to day listening levels.

With the attenuators (they are plugged in speaker end) at -20dB, I can turn the speaker back to its middle level. I also retain Auto ref (still reporting -5dBu)and  the settings in Roon. I am then at around -25dBr at day to day listening levels. Obviously pushing the attenuators to -30dB I can listen at around -15dBr (+1dBu) at day to day listening levels.

So I need to decide which is 'best'!

I did enjoy this from MC_RME.

Any thoughts?

If I were you, I would adjust the level in order to be at 0 dBr on the RME at full power, at the highest level you listen...
So my guess is that when you are "around -25dBr at day to day listening levels" it's OK smile

ADI-2 DAC (with stock PSU) - Neumann KH 310 A monitors - Cheap USB and XLR cables

25 (edited by mark2748 2020-11-24 00:48:30)

Re: Where to adjust volume -playback software, DAC, or Amp (or a mixture)?

rossco wrote:

With the attenuators (they are plugged in speaker end) at -20dB, I can turn the speaker back to its middle level. I also retain Auto ref (still reporting -5dBu)and  the settings in Roon. I am then at around -25dBr at day to day listening levels. Obviously pushing the attenuators to -30dB I can listen at around -15dBr (+1dBu) at day to day listening levels.

So I need to decide which is 'best'!

Per ADI-2 DAC FS specs, its signal-to-noise ratio for XLR OUT using Auto Ref Level is 7 dB higher at -15 dBr compared to -25 dBr.  So everything else being equal, -15 dBr would seem to be the better choice for your day-to-day listening, though the audible difference is probably very small.

26 (edited by Curt962 2020-11-24 00:52:16)

Re: Where to adjust volume -playback software, DAC, or Amp (or a mixture)?

N00b wrote:
rossco wrote:

Hi All!

I re-read this thread, read the manual (I pretend to understand all of it!!)and I have just been going through the thread on Audio Science Review website.

I ordered the JTS attenuators a while ago (on the 16th), and they arrived today. I decided to keep the order as they are fairly cheap and seem like a good addition to my toolbox.

Anyway, without the attenuators, I have the turn the speakers down as far as possible, set -3db in Roon, and I then set Max PCM rate (power of 2 - I am quoting Roon's term here). I then have auto-ref on (reporting -5dBu), and the DAC is then reporting around -30dBr at day to day listening levels.

With the attenuators (they are plugged in speaker end) at -20dB, I can turn the speaker back to its middle level. I also retain Auto ref (still reporting -5dBu)and  the settings in Roon. I am then at around -25dBr at day to day listening levels. Obviously pushing the attenuators to -30dB I can listen at around -15dBr (+1dBu) at day to day listening levels.

So I need to decide which is 'best'!

I did enjoy this from MC_RME.

Any thoughts?

If I were you, I would adjust the level in order to be at 0 dBr on the RME at full power, at the highest level you listen...
So my guess is that when you are "around -25dBr at day to day listening levels" it's OK smile


I believe I would agree with N00b, and let it go at that.  Keep in mind that Matthias (RME) has stated repeatedly that "0db" is not a mandate.   If you don't hear noise?  There is none.  Live with the Silence!

Good Stuff!

Curt

Vintage 2018 ADI-2 DAC. "Classic Edition"
Cables:  Red Ones, and White Ones.
Speakers:  Yes (2)

Re: Where to adjust volume -playback software, DAC, or Amp (or a mixture)?

If we assume my aim is to use the DAC in the maximum quality range possible. Would it be fair to say using the DAC at -30dBs (with auto ref on, and speaker level reduced) is better quality, than using the attenuators (and increased speaker level) setting the DAC much closer to 0dBS?

28 (edited by KaiS 2020-11-25 01:21:45)

Re: Where to adjust volume -playback software, DAC, or Amp (or a mixture)?

rossco wrote:

If we assume my aim is to use the DAC in the maximum quality range possible. Would it be fair to say using the DAC at -30dBs (with auto ref on, and speaker level reduced) is better quality, than using the attenuators (and increased speaker level) setting the DAC much closer to 0dBS?

If your setting allows to use the ADI-2 DAC / "Auto Ref. Level"=ON, at -18 dBr or higher, you maximized the DAC's dynamic range - hence reached maximum quality possible.

It doesn't matter which way you achieve this, with the speaker's Vol. Controls or external Passive Attenuators.

Working significantly below -18 dBr reduces, relative, S/N ratio.
But - as the absolute noise stays constant, no extra noise becomes audible when dialing down.


This, BTW, is a comparable behavior like with most analog amplifiers if you dial down their volume control: the residual noise does not change.


My guess is: your active speakers have way higher selfnoise then ADI-2 adds in an at least half-optimized setup.


smile If this horse is not yet beaten to death, I suggest to use a .44 Mag. revolver and give it the coup de grâce smile

Or read this for condensed info how to set everything up:
https://forum.rme-audio.de/viewtopic.ph … 21#p161721

Re: Where to adjust volume -playback software, DAC, or Amp (or a mixture)?

That link was useful, thanks KaiS.

Thanks everyone for all for your help.