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Best software audio volume level in Windows XP?
post Dec 15 2012, 18:37
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Hello there folks, as someone who likes music I would like to know, what is the best volume level to use on the system volume sliders in 64-bit Windows XP. My father who has some experience with sound equipment and music always taught me to set the volume on all the sliders to around 70 percent but not above that as it may cause clipping/distortion, is that true? I've read the opposite on the internet, that lowering the volume sliders in Windows XP "reduces the bit resolution" of the signal and therefore all volume sliders should always be set to 100 percent, so what is true? I have however also read that on certain onboard audio cards setting the slider to max indeed causes clipping and distortion. I have the onboard Realtek HD audio.

Thanks in advance for any good tips.
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post Dec 16 2012, 15:53
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Anyone help please?
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post Dec 16 2012, 18:34
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The first thing to have in mind to answer that question is that the master volume slider works in the digital domain, and usually by the driver itself (I think the master volume on ISA-Bus soundblasters was in the card itself, but don't quote me on that).

As such, while it stays in floating point (i.e. if the audio application sends it in floating point, which isn't usual in Windows XP), no clipping occurs, but the transmission to the soundcard (and sometimes already to the driver) happens in integer, which is where digital clipping can appear.

In general, in windows, 100% volume represents "don't change the audio". (It's the rule, but there can always be a driver that doesn't follow this).
As such, you are interested in sending the signal as is, and, if anything, control the volume on the application that produces it. The master volume itself doesn't have a problem, so use it if needed. I wouldn't put the focus there when trying to avoid clipping.
(Also, what you say about "reducing the bit resolution" is a consequence of reducing the volume, but having the same SNR, because of outputting in 16bits or 24bits. It is only a problem if then you need to increase the volume on the amplifier/speakers. That increase would cause an increase of the noise floor).

Also... It is important to know where do you send the soundcard output to. If you are using an external amplifier (or some active element that has a volume control), it is generally a good idea to use that control (setting it to the desired listening volume), and sporadically use the one in windows to reduce the volume.

Addenum: I am not saying that your father is wrong. He is just applying the logic of leaving some margin to the amplifier, but on the wrong place.

This post has been edited by [JAZ]: Dec 16 2012, 18:39
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post Dec 29 2012, 13:07
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Thanks, so should I leave main Windows volume at max and adjust the volume in Winamp? What about foobar2000? What about highly clipping tracks (of which I unfortunately have a lot because I like modern music [but hate the atrocious mastering])?

This post has been edited by Neuron: Dec 29 2012, 13:08
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post Dec 29 2012, 15:43
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QUOTE (Neuron @ Dec 29 2012, 04:07) *
What about highly clipping tracks (of which I unfortunately have a lot because I like modern music [but hate the atrocious mastering])?

What about them? Unless your DAC is making them worse because it can't handle samples at full scale very well including possible inter-sample overs, the damage is already baked into the cake.

This post has been edited by greynol: Dec 29 2012, 16:00

Your eyes cannot hear.
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post Dec 29 2012, 16:32
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I'm using Windows XP SP3 + RealTek HD Audio Driver + foobar2000 with Kernel Streaming output.

My goal is to play (within reason) bit-perfect high resolution full dynamic range audio through conventional audiophile equipment as 2+2 (4 speakers) stereo.

Inside Computer:
- Windows: Set all controls of Windows Volume Control (sndvol32.exe) to: "Balance=Center" and "Volume=Max"
- foobar2000: Set volume control to maximum (0 dB); Set Preferences>Playback>Output>Device to "KS: Realtek HD Audio Output"

Outside Computer:
- Using Pro quality cables with Neutrik connectors everywhere, and nice fat speaker wire.
- Output signal from back of PC is split as two signals using a splitter box.
- Signals go to two identical powerful integrated amplifiers (600 Watts, Class AB, 0.02% THD, 60 RMS Watts per Channel @ 8 ohms) with all tone circuits defeated/bypassed.
- Amp 1 - signal goes to rearfield speaker pair: Fostex SM6600 vintage studio monitors.
- Amp 2 - signal goes to nearfield speaker pair: ATC SCM19 loudspeakers.

I adjust the volume knob of each amplifier so the total effect of all 4 speakers sounds nice and balanced.

That's it . . . it's a very impressive listen with a mind-blowing sound stage . . . I am happy.

The listening room is rather small with no reverberative coloring which helps give me an immersive and intimate experience with the loudspeakers.

I am not ALWAYS hung up on perfect signal quality; In practice, I frequently use the foobar2000 volume slider without concern for 100% bit-perfect output ....I have got many MP3 tracks in my collection which sound better than 16/44 or 24/96 lossless tracks which have been ripped from a different release .....It just goes to show that the quality of the source material is MUCH more important than the quality of the audio format or any other consideration (such as volume control).

This post has been edited by derty2: Dec 29 2012, 17:29
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