Volume control and sound quality

Hi all

I have recently pulled the DAC from my main system into the living room and grabbed a headphone amp to make a little listening spot.

Only issue I’m finding is the amp appears to have a bit much grunt for the headphones I’m using and am barely able to touch the volume pot when running them balanced.

I’ve always just left the output from Audirvāna locked when using it with my main system but was wondering if lowering the output in the app so I can use more of the volume pot on my amp will bring about any unwelcome effects to the sound quality.

If possible, keep the volume on your computer or software at 100 or the highest possible. and then to adjust the volume output of the hardware To get the best experience and quality.

Note : from my opinion.

The referenced article is below. :arrow_down:


Thank you for the reply. I will read that link when I get some time later this evening.

From what you have said though it sounds like my initial thoughts were the right ones. Doesn’t help that my headphones are pretty sensitive and my DAC doesn’t have any level controls.

Thank you again

How did it sound when you tried this?
Did you notice any problems?
If you didn’t notice any degradation in the sound quality then no problem.

Audirvana’s software volume control is a very good one, it applies anti-aliasing, it’s well-refined. In my lstening experience, I use it for headphones because my headphone amp (iFi Zen) has an anologic knob, which is unreliable at low volume. So I use Audirvana’s software volume, especially for very quiet listening sessions, and it’s flawless to my ears. And it’s more convenient since I can toggle it with Audirvana Remote ^^
Some people will disagree, because when it comes to high fidelity, “high” fiedlity isn’t enough, but for me it’s high enough haha

My ifi Zen DAC has excellent, well balanced sound, at all levels. from the really quiet ( though rarely used! ) to the rather loud.
Also, you must have a very long headphone cable if you need a remote to turn the volume up :crazy_face:

Well, either you’re very lucky or don’t really listen at very low volume, because when I told them I had this issue, they answered it was a design flaw of analog volume knobs (and I don’t mind since I’m aware I’m regularly listening to a much lower volume than many people haha, sometimes volume 1 on TV speakers is too loud for my taste). Sound gets also distorted after reaching the second half (I’m not using “power match” or “true bass”), but that’s already pretty loud for my headphones so I don’t mind either. I had my unit replaced for another issue and it behaved exactly the same (L/R unbalance at very low volume, distortion after 50% volume). And yes, it’s a pretty long cable (3 metres balanced cable) :relaxed:
So what I do now is to let it sit at 40-45% and use Audirvana’s software volume which really doesn’t harm the quality to my ears :slightly_smiling_face:

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It is strange, I am currently listening to a track at the lowest possible volume on my Zen Dac, and balance is excellent. Also, using power match with true bass at very high levels doesn’t distort, just very loud! Though I don’t use true bass, as my phones are pretty good across all frequencies, I do use power match though, just because…

@Yohmi You might want to take that up with the iFi Zen DAC designers…

From the Zen DAC user manual:

:notes: :eye: :headphones: :eye: :notes:

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That’s just pr talk from iFi. Channel imbalance is quite common with standard analog stereo pots on very low volumes especially when used with sensitive headphones/iems. Only the really expensive ones (like Alps pots) are more precise. I don’t think the iFi Zen DAC is in the price range to have Alps pots.


It works perfectly fine for me and I’m very happy. The topic here is Audirvana’s software volume, not the ifi Zen DAC.

off topic about Zen DAC v1

Yes I read the manual, thank you :laughing:
If you look for their official support on the web (I think it’s a british forum), you will find what I said (I’m too lazy to look it up again, it’s past). I talked to the support directly through private message, I followed their public answers too and I visited their local antenna office. So I don’t have much doubt about what I’m saying as it’s been confirmed from these “sources”. Bottom line : I don’t have any problem since the product fits its duty perfectly in my listening chain. I use Audirvana’s software volume and the results don’t disappoint me.

If you use Power Match (which is basically a “boost” switch), your lowest volume is way higher than my lowest volume. Also, take in account I’m using the 4.4mm balanced output, and I’m running their updated firmware (the one carrying the GTO filter). They’re the only reasons I can think of :sweat_smile: Or you just got a more capable unit than their factory target and that’s awesome :smiling_face:
For distorsion, I don’t know why you’re not experiencing it. I’m using a Sennheiser HD 800 S and it’s very clear, at 70% for example (without Power Match or True Bass) it sounds totally flat. Experienced on both units (v1, GTO filter, no true bass and no power match, 4.4mm).

[edit] Thanks AndyLubke :smile:

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@AndyLubke … The issue is analog volume control vs digital attenuation… There are many ways to skin the analog volume control in a given device’s amplifier topology… a Class-A amp is attenuated… In some cases the volume pot is a digital encoder controlling an analog volume control circuit… If you know exactly what is being implemented in the Zen DAC, then describe where it is not living-up to the marketing rhetoric…

:notes: :eye: :headphones: :eye: :notes:

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So what you will want to do whenever you listen is begin with the analog volume control lowered to listening volume for safety’s sake (your ears’ and the headphones’), then lower the Audirvana volume and increase the analog to maximum. This should give you the best sound quality - you want, as far as possible, only one volume control in the chain rather than two, so you take the analog out of the chain as much as you can by turning it to max (unless the Zen has a fixed volume setting, which would be ideal, totally removing the analog control circuit from the chain).

I don’t attenuate the Audirvana output (disabled) I send full code to the DAC and the output of my DAC feeds my dual-mono HPA via balanced interconnects (9 inch)… Never a problem at any level…
:notes: :eye: :headphones: :eye: :notes:

EDIT: My HPA is Class-A circuitry so my ‘volume control’ is an attenuator…

I can’t use the software volume control because I’m connecting via UPnP/DLNA, and everything sounds lovely to me. However, this isn’t about what we like, it’s about someone wanting to use Audirvana’s software volume control, so I’m providing information on how best to do that.

Best advice is to not use it…


But (he explained patiently) if you look at the original post, we have here an Audirvana user who has a need for it because of his system, the common problem of channel imbalance at low levels in some volume pots, and his desire to listen at low volume. So we can either help him or not. I choose to help.


To use the headphones on the NEO will you always need to change to the variable volume control?
My question is because many devices when connecting the headphones already make this change automatically.

I just leave the NEO on but at the lowest volume level (-100, Mute) when not in use, so the variable volume stays selected.

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Taking advantage of the question, how are you connecting the NEO via UPnP/DLNA?