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Low gain vs high gain vs Windows volume?

Yam

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Jul 12, 2020
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#1
Hi there folks,

I’ve got a brand new setup consisting of Laptop -> Apple USB-C to headphone -> Geshelli Archel2 amp -> Sennheiser HD6xx. And I’m loving it so far! This is an upgrade over my previous laptop -> HD598. For music, I’m mostly listening to Apple Music (classical), although now with this setup I’m probably going to start going through my dad’s CD collection to see if there‘s a difference there. I also have enjoyed this setup for Netflix.

That said, I’ve currently got Windows volume set to 100, the amp on Low Gain, and the volume knob on the amp varies between about say 40-60% depending on the source media. I guess I’ve got a couple questions:
  1. Is this better than switching the amp to High Gain and turning down Windows volume? Does it matter?
  2. Any advice on setting bit/sample rate in Windows?
  3. Any other advice for optimizing this setup? I’m totally new to the world of headphone amps/DACs, I’ve been browsing this forum for the past month but definitely have a lot to learn.
Thanks!
 

AnalogSteph

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Nov 6, 2018
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#2
I would advise turning down main volume to about 75-80%, which is about 3 dB down... I've seen some onboard audio implementations where 0 dBFS at full volume would clip (as resulting full-scale output was large enough to require a 5 V analog supply but only 3.3 V was provided due to cost-cutting - this can happen with some Realtek chips). (You can get a dB reading in the "traditional" playback device properties, levels tab, by right-clicking the number field. It's ever more hidden in Windows 10.)

You seem to have enough output to stick with low gain as-is... you should have about 20 dB left to max volume on the Archel, about as much as I'd recommend.

Re: 2), I'd say use your most common sample rate and 24 bit. Also, read this:
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...indows-resampling-not-actually-that-bad.9092/

Recording wise, always stick with 48 kHz and its multiples if you can. Performance in 44.1 can be quite mediocre.
 
OP
Y

Yam

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Thread Starter #3
I would advise turning down main volume to about 75-80%, which is about 3 dB down... I've seen some onboard audio implementations where 0 dBFS at full volume would clip (as resulting full-scale output was large enough to require a 5 V analog supply but only 3.3 V was provided due to cost-cutting - this can happen with some Realtek chips). (You can get a dB reading in the "traditional" playback device properties, levels tab, by right-clicking the number field. It's ever more hidden in Windows 10.)
Awesome, thanks for the info, that’s something I would never have thought of! Does this still apply since I’m using the Apple USB-C to headphone adapter? I’m guessing since that’s getting USB power, it should probably have 5 V?

Re: 2), I'd say use your most common sample rate and 24 bit. Also, read this:
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...indows-resampling-not-actually-that-bad.9092/

Recording wise, always stick with 48 kHz and its multiples if you can. Performance in 44.1 can be quite mediocre.
By “most common sample rate”, do you mean the sample rate in my files? My (extremely basic and possibly incorrect) understanding is that CDs are all 44.1 kHz, so I’m curious - for music, where do you get 48 kHz recordings?
 

twsecrest

Active Member
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Nov 27, 2018
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#4
Hi there folks,

I’ve got a brand new setup consisting of Laptop -> Apple USB-C to headphone -> Geshelli Archel2 amp -> Sennheiser HD6xx. And I’m loving it so far! This is an upgrade over my previous laptop -> HD598. For music, I’m mostly listening to Apple Music (classical), although now with this setup I’m probably going to start going through my dad’s CD collection to see if there‘s a difference there. I also have enjoyed this setup for Netflix.

That said, I’ve currently got Windows volume set to 100, the amp on Low Gain, and the volume knob on the amp varies between about say 40-60% depending on the source media. I guess I’ve got a couple questions:
  1. Is this better than switching the amp to High Gain and turning down Windows volume? Does it matter?
  2. Any advice on setting bit/sample rate in Windows?
  3. Any other advice for optimizing this setup? I’m totally new to the world of headphone amps/DACs, I’ve been browsing this forum for the past month but definitely have a lot to learn.
Thanks!
I usually max out (75%-100%) volume controls that are in the chain, before the amplifier and use the amplifier to control loudness.
Low gain setting might keep the signal (slightly) cleaner, otherwise gain setting is not that big a deal.
 
OP
Y

Yam

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Thread Starter #5
I usually max out (75%-100%) volume controls that are in the chain, before the amplifier and use the amplifier to control loudness.
Low gain setting might keep the signal (slightly) cleaner, otherwise gain setting is not that big a deal.
Yup makes sense, thanks!
 

AnalogSteph

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#6
Awesome, thanks for the info, that’s something I would never have thought of! Does this still apply since I’m using the Apple USB-C to headphone adapter? I’m guessing since that’s getting USB power, it should probably have 5 V?
Oh, I missed that. Yeah, no problems anticipated there below 0.985 dBFS, I don't think the volume control would do much more than providing digital attenuation here anyway.
By “most common sample rate”, do you mean the sample rate in my files? My (extremely basic and possibly incorrect) understanding is that CDs are all 44.1 kHz, so I’m curious - for music, where do you get 48 kHz recordings?
Guess why I'm using 44.1? I have loads of CD material (and Foobar2000 set up with the SoX resampler targeting 44.1), YouTube is 44.1, regular Amazon Music sans HD is 44.1 I think.
I am losing a few dB of dynamic range like that in my Xonar, but in use as a high level source it doesn't matter whether you've got 110 or 116 dB available, and I'd rather be using the higher-quality SoX resampler than the Windows (7) resampler.

If I didn't make myself clear, when I was talking about recording and 48 kHz I was referring to the input (ADC) side. You can expect most music recording to take place at 96 or 192 kHz these days. It will appear that current DAWs will generally have at least decent-quality resampling to offer (even if it's funny how the resampler built into lowly Audacity beats the pants off the one in ProTools).
 
OP
Y

Yam

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Thread Starter #7
Guess why I'm using 44.1? I have loads of CD material (and Foobar2000 set up with the SoX resampler targeting 44.1), YouTube is 44.1, regular Amazon Music sans HD is 44.1 I think.
I am losing a few dB of dynamic range like that in my Xonar, but in use as a high level source it doesn't matter whether you've got 110 or 116 dB available, and I'd rather be using the higher-quality SoX resampler than the Windows (7) resampler.

If I didn't make myself clear, when I was talking about recording and 48 kHz I was referring to the input (ADC) side. You can expect most music recording to take place at 96 or 192 kHz these days. It will appear that current DAWs will generally have at least decent-quality resampling to offer (even if it's funny how the resampler built into lowly Audacity beats the pants off the one in ProTools).
That’s really interesting - I had to look up a bunch of terms haha, but I learned a lot from this. I hadn’t even thought beyond CD quality - just goes to show how much I have to learn, and how much I can grow into my current setup. Sounds exciting :D thanks for the help!
 
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