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Perfect Volume Control?, What dial do we turn? (high qualitty digital volume reduction?)
post Aug 21 2006, 14:50
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Here's my next question in my 'Quest To Perfect Digital Audio'-series.

Winamp (personal reasons, but the question applies to foobar2k too)
Play a bit-perfect copy of a CD source
All volume controls on 100%
Playback to digital out (straight to an external DAC)

Current output is too loud! (Ouch!)

The question is:
Will turning down the digital volume (either winamp or windows master volume) impact the quality disproportionately negatively?

More specifically: turning down the volume will force some part of the digital audio chain to resample the output audio before it gets sent to the DAC. A lot of quality loss can be incurred (or prevented) by doing (or not doing) things like upsampling to higher kHz'es or bit depth, dithering/anti-aliasing etc etc etc.

Is there any way to determine what happens in my audio chain? I realise that it's probably best to just attenuate volume by my analog hardware (preamplifier) but the digital way is much more convenient for me. Does anyone have the detailed stats on:

- Does the windows mixer do stuff itself, or is it purely controlling the soundcard vendor's driver
- What does the vendor driver do? Are all vendors equal or do you have to have a good one?
- Does winamp hurt things? Is the MAD plugin a viable choice? Some other plugin? Kernel streaming?

Thoughts would be welcome!
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