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Where to control the volume?

Taltalon

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Aug 11, 2020
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Hi All,

My desktop setup is a Mac mini M1 + DACAMPS such as Fiio K7, Topping EX5, Zen DAC v2 and various iBasso/Fiio dongles that I got over the years.
My speakers on the desk are Harman Kardon's SoundStick 4. It's powered 2.1 solution - and it has its own volume control (which is difficult to reach and annoying to mess with).

My Q: How should I control the volume for best audio experience?

My Fiio K7 is connected via RCA cables to the SoundSticks 4. I must use PRE mode instead of full LO mode from the RCA outputs, because the LO voltage seems too high for the SoundSticks as I get clipping sound on the right speaker. When the LO RCA output is configured as PRE - I can control the volume on the Fiio K7 that is going to the SoundSticks over the RCAs and this clipping issue is gone.

The Mac is connected via USB to the Fiio K7 - volume for now is controlled only from the K7 knob.

- Should I turn the SoundSticks 4 volume to the max and control the volume on the K7 or do something else?
- What's the best way to get less distortion if this is relevant here.

For now I turned the K7 Know to around 1-2 O'clock and the SoundStick 4 are not at Max - I dialed it down like 3 presses down (there is no way to know the real level :) ) - its not on max (where it beeps if u reach it). Is that OK?

Many Thanks
Tal
 
Last edited:

Golftee99

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Apr 13, 2024
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Another option is using the Mac volume control if convenient but with a slight penalty in dynamic range. You want to find each device sweet spot, called “gain staging” when you have multiple devices with their own volume controls, to set each device gain above its noise floor and just below clipping to produce your highest comfortable listening level. I suspect your current setup is already in the ballpark, with your speakers being the next limitation.
 

stanxl

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Jun 2, 2024
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Hi @Taltalon, I will not give you a definitive answer but I will share my own experience with you. In general, I think I agree with the previous reply: "You want to find each device sweet spot".
I had a pre-amp from Atoll (HD100) and active speakers (Ruark MR1). I had a volume control knob on each. After doing some research online and experimenting, I found out that:
- I needed a fixed volume output on the pre-amp.
- I needed to control the final volume on just one of the devices (the speakers).
So I ended up with a "medium" volume on both devices. I set the volume on the speakers at a level I knew was confortable (without any music, just by knowing my speakers). Then put some music on, set the volume of the pre-amp at a desired level without touching the speakers' volume. In the end, both devices would have been in their kind of sweet spot. I just had to control the volume on the speakers.
 
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