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Topic: 24 bit audio and Windows volume (Read 8352 times) previous topic - next topic
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24 bit audio and Windows volume

This may sound like a completely brain dead question but here goes....

Having a discussion on another forum about how I don't want to have to deal with the OS volume level in Windows and tend to leave my Windows volume at 100% and I adjust the volume externally.

The reply I got was that it was OK that take the volume down to 50%, as long as I'm using 24 bit audio,  If I use 16 bit I could introduce "digital noise," which I assume means raise the noise floor.

This, to me, sounds like complete placebophile BS, that a higher bit depth than 16 is required in order to achieve an optimal listening experience at lower volume levels.

So, assuming that I am right, I'd like to know the scientific reason I am right.  And this place knows more about digital audio than any place I've been to, so I am hoping you can educate and enlighten me.

Re: 24 bit audio and Windows volume

Reply #1
Having a discussion on another forum about how I don't want to have to deal with the OS volume level in Windows and tend to leave my Windows volume at 100% and I adjust the volume externally.

The reply I got was that it was OK that take the volume down to 50%, as long as I'm using 24 bit audio,  If I use 16 bit I could introduce "digital noise," which I assume means raise the noise floor.

First, it depends what you're using for audio output.  For most analog sound devices, volume control is implemented via analog gain, so the digital format of the data does not matter.  From the post here though, I'm assuming you are referring to digital output (HDMI, etc), not analog. 

In which case, the volume in windows is not linear, so 50% is not 6 dB like they are assuming.  Assuming they meant 6 dB rather than 50%, it really depends on your situation.  Every 6dB reduction discards one bit of dynamic range.  However, it is not the format of the audio that really matters, but rather the number of effective bits in your audio and that your DAC supports.  Just because you have 24 bit output does not mean you have more than 16 effective bits.  Likewise, just because you have 16 bit source material does not mean you have a full 16 effective bits dynamic range. 

Effectively, if you are using digital gain for volume adjustments you must have at least as much dynamic range as the sum of your audio and your volume reduction. 

This, to me, sounds like complete placebophile BS, that a higher bit depth than 16 is required in order to achieve an optimal listening experience at lower volume levels.

The person you were talking to had some of the details wrong, but yes, if you are going to use digital gain, you must have more dynamic range than in the more common case of not using it.  Of course, this assumes you even want to use digital gain at all.

Re: 24 bit audio and Windows volume

Reply #2
I am using the Windows volume to control the volume of the sound coming out of as Schiit Modi 2 external DAC.

The Modi 2 is connected to the PC via USB.

Re: 24 bit audio and Windows volume

Reply #3
Quote
The reply I got was that it was OK that take the volume down to 50%, as long as I'm using 24 bit audio,  If I use 16 bit I could introduce "digital noise," which I assume means raise the noise floor.

This, to me, sounds like complete placebophile BS, that a higher bit depth than 16 is required in order to achieve an optimal listening experience at lower volume levels.
There is quantization noise (at something like -93 or -96dB at 16-bits).  

When you reduce the volume digitally the quantization noise does NOT increase, but the signal (obviously) goes down.   This degrades your signal-to-noise ratio.     

But...   It's generally not  a problem unless you re-amplify the signal
(together with the noise) which brings up the noise level.

The same thing tends to happen in analog (although depending on the circuit the noise and signal may be reduced together).    But in general, if you reduce the analog signal and then re-amplify it, you end-up boosting the noise.

Re: 24 bit audio and Windows volume

Reply #4
It's also possible that the final volume control is done in hardware level (in DAC chip) and the system volume control is just used to control that feature (this is quite common in case of sound cards but maybe not in case of all external DAC devices).
Since native driver is bundled with the Modi 2, there might be a chance this feature is used but, it depends on DAC type and implementation they did. As for an example, Cirrus CS4398 DAC chip has a build-in volume control which works in 0.5 dB steps (-127.5dB - 0dB) (chapter 7).

Re: 24 bit audio and Windows volume

Reply #5
Having a discussion on another forum about how I don't want to have to deal with the OS volume level in Windows and tend to leave my Windows volume at 100% and I adjust the volume externally.

A working plan, depending on the details of the rest of your hardware configuration.

Quote
The reply I got was that it was OK that take the volume down to 50%, as long as I'm using 24 bit audio,  If I use 16 bit I could introduce "digital noise," which I assume means raise the noise floor.

If we take this at face value, it is bogus.  A naively designed volume control implemented @n bits has artifacts that are  better than 6 dB * n  down.  So, 8 bits puts the artifacts about 48 dBdown, 16 bits puts them about 96 dB down, and 24 bits puts them  144 dB down.  Turning the volume down 1/2 way is the same as about 6 dB attenuation, and again our naively designed volume control would have arfiacts that are 6 dB worse than the previously mentioned list of numbers.  Artifacts 138 (144-6) dB down are ludicrously highly attenuated,. Measuring them with some of the best test gear is pretty challenging, let alone hearing them where random artifacts that are as little as 60 dB down are inaudible.

Quote
This, to me, sounds like complete placebophile BS, that a higher bit depth than 16 is required in order to achieve an optimal listening experience at lower volume levels.

Good call.

Quote
So, assuming that I am right, I'd like to know the scientific reason I am right.  And this place knows more about digital audio than any place I've been to, so I am hoping you can educate and enlighten me.

Hopefully the numbers I just calculated and presented will suffice. If not please ask for a clarification.

Note that I qualified this with a highly simplified design for the volume control. More sophisticated designs that are now easy to embed in DSP code and device drivers, can do better.

Re: 24 bit audio and Windows volume

Reply #6
Thank you everyone for your explanations.  i will explain my setup, in case that makes a difference.

I am using a ThinkPad T450 with Windows 7 SP1 connected to a Schiit Modi 2, with the switch set to use the native USB Audio Class 1 driver (which is built into Windows).  This outputs to a headphone amp and a pair of Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 multimedia PC speakers. via pass-through line out on the headphone amp.

The Klipsch speakers are annoyingly loud.  Turning the volume knob 20% makes the speakers too loud.  And going from 0-10% there is a pretty nasty channel imbalance.  So my choice is to turn down the Windows volume, or put an inline POT between the headphone amp and the speakers.

Re: 24 bit audio and Windows volume

Reply #7
Thank you everyone for your explanations.  i will explain my setup, in case that makes a difference.

I am using a ThinkPad T450 with Windows 7 SP1 connected to a Schiit Modi 2, with the switch set to use the native USB Audio Class 1 driver (which is built into Windows).  This outputs to a headphone amp and a pair of Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 multimedia PC speakers. via pass-through line out on the headphone amp.

The Klipsch speakers are annoyingly loud.  Turning the volume knob 20% makes the speakers too loud.  And going from 0-10% there is a pretty nasty channel imbalance.  So my choice is to turn down the Windows volume, or put an inline POT between the headphone amp and the speakers.

Since it costs you nothing, why not try using the Windows volume control?  Or, have you let a bunch of internet trolls take such complete control of your life to the extent that you won't even give the windows volume control a try?

Re: Measurement of sound wave perception range

Reply #8
Naw, he just has a propensity involve himself in arguments in other venues where he gets in way over his head and then comes here in the hopes that we can bail him out.

He also rarely bothers, if ever, to search for answers himself as this topic demonstrates.

Re: 24 bit audio and Windows volume

Reply #9
Thank you everyone for your explanations.  i will explain my setup, in case that makes a difference.

I am using a ThinkPad T450 with Windows 7 SP1 connected to a Schiit Modi 2, with the switch set to use the native USB Audio Class 1 driver (which is built into Windows).  This outputs to a headphone amp and a pair of Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 multimedia PC speakers. via pass-through line out on the headphone amp.

The Klipsch speakers are annoyingly loud.  Turning the volume knob 20% makes the speakers too loud.  And going from 0-10% there is a pretty nasty channel imbalance.  So my choice is to turn down the Windows volume, or put an inline POT between the headphone amp and the speakers.

Since it costs you nothing, why not try using the Windows volume control?  Or, have you let a bunch of internet trolls take such complete control of your life to the extent that you won't even give the windows volume control a try?

I ideally would want to have one place to adjust my volume, and it seems that that is an artifact of the days where you had a component stereo system.

Re: 24 bit audio and Windows volume

Reply #10
Naw, he just has a propensity involve himself in arguments in other venues where he gets in way over his head and then comes here in the hopes that we can bail him out.

He also rarely bothers, if ever, to search for answers himself as this topic demonstrates.

That is quite cold and far too accurate.

I actually did a little research on this one, before I came back here to get the right answer.  It didn't get me anywhere, due to ignorance on what exactly I should be searching for,

Re: 24 bit audio and Windows volume

Reply #11
For what its worth, in the time it takes someone to post a thread like this, they could test what happens directly using RMAA at both volume settings.

Re: 24 bit audio and Windows volume

Reply #12
Since it costs you nothing, why not try using the Windows volume control?  Or, have you let a bunch of internet trolls take such complete control of your life to the extent that you won't even give the windows volume control a try?
I ideally would want to have one place to adjust my volume, and it seems that that is an artifact of the days where you had a component stereo system.
I think you ought to read what you quoted again.

Re: 24 bit audio and Windows volume

Reply #13
For what its worth, in the time it takes someone to post a thread like this, they could test what happens directly using RMAA at both volume settings.

If I knew RMAA existed, then I would have gone that route.  Off to install.

Re: 24 bit audio and Windows volume

Reply #14
Thank you everyone for your explanations.  i will explain my setup, in case that makes a difference.

I am using a ThinkPad T450 with Windows 7 SP1 connected to a Schiit Modi 2, with the switch set to use the native USB Audio Class 1 driver (which is built into Windows).  This outputs to a headphone amp and a pair of Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 multimedia PC speakers. via pass-through line out on the headphone amp.

The Klipsch speakers are annoyingly loud.  Turning the volume knob 20% makes the speakers too loud.  And going from 0-10% there is a pretty nasty channel imbalance.  So my choice is to turn down the Windows volume, or put an inline POT between the headphone amp and the speakers.

Since it costs you nothing, why not try using the Windows volume control?  Or, have you let a bunch of internet trolls take such complete control of your life to the extent that you won't even give the windows volume control a try?

I ideally would want to have one place to adjust my volume, and it seems that that is an artifact of the days where you had a component stereo system.

I had no idea that the Windows volume control for a computer existed in multiple places, even perhaps multiple universes at the same time. The one I'm familiar with (Widows 3.1 - 10) exists in just one place at a time. ;-)

I'm also kinda amused that your system is composed of ca. $150 speakers driven by a ca. $150 DAC, and who knows what was spent on the (undisclosed) headphone amp. Might be as much as the DAC and speakers put together.

More money spent on the speakers and less on the DAC would make some sense in retrospect. As you use your DAC,  a Behringer UCA 202 @ 29.95 would be equal or better.

The core of your problem is the poor quality analog volume control on the  Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 multimedia PC speakers.  Unfortunately it is about what you get under the circumstances. Cheap speakers.  In the face of things, a volume  setting for it that avoids the imbalance seems to be the best idea.

 In an effort to get a "One size fits all" solution, Klipsch has fallen in line with industry standards and made its input way too sensitive for many people.

In the world of pro audio, products like the TC Electronic Level Pilot Analog Stereo Volume Control (ca. $50) are commonly used, but it is balanced in-balanced out. Wrong kind of analog interface and wrong connectors.  But its output would be just the thing for some decent speakers like the JBL Pro LSR 305/8 or Behringer B1030 or B2031A.

Re: 24 bit audio and Windows volume

Reply #15
Thank you everyone for your explanations.  i will explain my setup, in case that makes a difference.

I am using a ThinkPad T450 with Windows 7 SP1 connected to a Schiit Modi 2, with the switch set to use the native USB Audio Class 1 driver (which is built into Windows).  This outputs to a headphone amp and a pair of Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 multimedia PC speakers. via pass-through line out on the headphone amp.

The Klipsch speakers are annoyingly loud.  Turning the volume knob 20% makes the speakers too loud.  And going from 0-10% there is a pretty nasty channel imbalance.  So my choice is to turn down the Windows volume, or put an inline POT between the headphone amp and the speakers.

Since it costs you nothing, why not try using the Windows volume control?  Or, have you let a bunch of internet trolls take such complete control of your life to the extent that you won't even give the windows volume control a try?

I ideally would want to have one place to adjust my volume, and it seems that that is an artifact of the days where you had a component stereo system.

I had no idea that the Windows volume control for a computer existed in multiple places, even perhaps multiple universes at the same time. The one I'm familiar with (Widows 3.1 - 10) exists in just one place at a time. ;-)

I'm also kinda amused that your system is composed of ca. $150 speakers driven by a ca. $150 DAC, and who knows what was spent on the (undisclosed) headphone amp. Might be as much as the DAC and speakers put together.

More money spent on the speakers and less on the DAC would make some sense in retrospect. As you use your DAC,  a Behringer UCA 202 @ 29.95 would be equal or better.

The core of your problem is the poor quality analog volume control on the  Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 multimedia PC speakers.  Unfortunately it is about what you get under the circumstances. Cheap speakers.  In the face of things, a volume  setting for it that avoids the imbalance seems to be the best idea.

 In an effort to get a "One size fits all" solution, Klipsch has fallen in line with industry standards and made its input way too sensitive for many people.

In the world of pro audio, products like the TC Electronic Level Pilot Analog Stereo Volume Control (ca. $50) are commonly used, but it is balanced in-balanced out. Wrong kind of analog interface and wrong connectors.  But its output would be just the thing for some decent speakers like the JBL Pro LSR 305/8 or Behringer B1030 or B2031A.


By multiple places, I meant the fact that there is a Windows volume control, and then a volume knob on my speakers.  I much prefer to use a physical volume knob vs the Windows volume control.  Hence why I like to leave the Windows volume up to 100% at all times.

My DAC was purchased used for $50.  The speakers were also purchased used for $50.  I was planning to get the Behringer UCA202, because I refuse to believe that more expensive DACs have some magic in them that makes them sound better.  But this one looked cleaner on my desk and was also a driverless USB Audio Class 1 amp.  So, it was worth the $20 to me over the Behringer to have all the cables come out the back and have it sit under my monitor shelf.

The headphone amp was the thing that cost the most.  It was $100.  But to get a Headphone amp with a gain switch on the front, and one that plugs in the wall, as opposed to battery powered, $100 and up seems to be the going price.  I didn't have a lot of luck trying to find something used in this space.

I originally had a Micco Origen+, which was $100 and served as a combo headphone amp and DAC with a pre-out.  But it was a USB Audio Class 2 device, which Windows does not have native support for.  And the driver Micca provided was just awful.  Occasional blue screens.  Locking up audio apps.  So, my relatively cheap one size fits all solution was sent back to Amazon.

I have heard many good things about the JBL speakers, but $50 the Kplisch speakers, which sound more than good enough to me, and were a massive improvement over the $10 Dell sound bar I had, were a more affordable choice as compared to the JBLs at $200 a speaker.

Re: 24 bit audio and Windows volume

Reply #16
IMO, you should install the native driver for your Modi2 from Schiit site ... and the ASIO driver listed there as well since if you want to get rid of the use of Windows 'master' volume control, you need to use driver API which bypasses it (ASIO and WASAPI Exclusive Mode are available in your case). VB-Audio's Voicemeeter Banana would allow you to do that system wide and includes bunch of features you might like to use.

Re: 24 bit audio and Windows volume

Reply #17
IMO, you should install the native driver for your Modi2 from Schiit site ... and the ASIO driver listed there as well since if you want to get rid of the use of Windows 'master' volume control, you need to use driver API which bypasses it (ASIO and WASAPI Exclusive Mode are available in your case). VB-Audio's Voicemeeter Banana would allow you to do that system wide and includes bunch of features you might like to use.

WASAPI works just fine with the native driver.  No reason to go class 2.  What else is the Class 2 driver going to get me?  I have no interest in fairy tale 24/192 support.

Re: 24 bit audio and Windows volume

Reply #18
IMO, you should install the native driver for your Modi2 from Schiit site ... and the ASIO driver listed there as well since if you want to get rid of the use of Windows 'master' volume control, you need to use driver API which bypasses it (ASIO and WASAPI Exclusive Mode are available in your case). VB-Audio's Voicemeeter Banana would allow you to do that system wide and includes bunch of features you might like to use.

WASAPI works just fine with the native driver.  No reason to go class 2.  What else is the Class 2 driver going to get me?  I have no interest in fairy tale 24/192 support.
?
Sure WASAPI it works since it's the native mode for Windows since Vista.
What's wrong with class 2 drivers Schiit offers for your device?

Re: 24 bit audio and Windows volume

Reply #19
IMO, you should install the native driver for your Modi2 from Schiit site ... and the ASIO driver listed there as well since if you want to get rid of the use of Windows 'master' volume control, you need to use driver API which bypasses it (ASIO and WASAPI Exclusive Mode are available in your case). VB-Audio's Voicemeeter Banana would allow you to do that system wide and includes bunch of features you might like to use.

WASAPI works just fine with the native driver.  No reason to go class 2.  What else is the Class 2 driver going to get me?  I have no interest in fairy tale 24/192 support.
?
Sure WASAPI it works since it's the native mode for Windows since Vista.
What's wrong with class 2 drivers Schiit offers for your device?

Since I haven't used it, I don't know if anything is wrong or not wrong with it.  But the built in Class 1 driver in Windows works fine.  Other than getting 24/192 support, which is pointless, I don't see any benefit to installing the driver.  And after the horrendous experience I had with the Origen+ driver, I'm wary of DAC drivers now.  It's kind of disappointing that that Mac and Windows both have native USB Audio Class 2 support out of the box, but Microsoft hasn't added it yet to even Windows 10.

Re: 24 bit audio and Windows volume

Reply #20
Since I haven't used it, I don't know if anything is wrong or not wrong with it. 

I see no evidence that these suggestions are supported by actual hardware tests or reliable listening tests.

Therefore, your skepticism seems justified.

Quote
But the built in Class 1 driver in Windows works fine.  Other than getting 24/192 support, which is pointless, I don't see any benefit to installing the driver.

The windows sound subsystem has been getting changed again and again as the releases change  (XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10), and also its implementation has changed in the same release.   I doubt that anybody has done much testing of a variety of hardware in every permutation that has existed.

IOW wisdom in some contexts may be stupidity in others.

When I've taken time to test the comparison between the Windows Class 1 driver and proprietary drivers, basic audio performance has remained in that range where measured differences may exist, but nothing that should be expected to be audible.

Quote
And after the horrendous experience I had with the Origen+ driver, I'm wary of DAC drivers now.  It's kind of disappointing that that Mac and Windows both have native USB Audio Class 2 support out of the box, but Microsoft hasn't added it yet to even Windows 10.

If its not broken, why fix it? KISS!

Re: 24 bit audio and Windows volume

Reply #21
Quote
The windows sound subsystem has been getting changed again and again as the releases change  (XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10), and also its implementation has changed in the same release.   I doubt that anybody has done much testing of a variety of hardware in every permutation that has existed.

IOW wisdom in some contexts may be stupidity in others.

When I've taken time to test the comparison between the Windows Class 1 driver and proprietary drivers, basic audio performance has remained in that range where measured differences may exist, but nothing that should be expected to be audible.

We have these things called ears.  They have genetic limits imposed on them by our species.  There may be differences in the sound of the generic Class 1 driver and the proprietary driver, and those differences may be measurable on test equipment.  But that doesn't mean you can actually hear the difference yourself.  You might.  But even if you do, can you be sure that it's not "different."  And if MS had a generic Class 2 driver , I can guarantee you that nobody would ever write another driver for a consumer DAC again.  Almost no manufacturer writes DAC driver for Mac or Linux, because Class 2 support is built into the OS.  The only time you need a driver is if there are features in the hardware that USB Audio Class 2 doesn't support.

Quote
If its not broken, why fix it? KISS!

Having worked in IT now since 1996, this is a really a good rule to live by.  A lot of "audiophiles" seriously need to think about this.  I bough a DAC and a headphone amp and I'm done.  I know people that own a half dozen headphone amps and just as many DACs.  I would much prefer taking the time to decide what music I am going to listen to, rather than spend forever deciding what equipment I am going to listen to it on.

But that's just me.  Some people just love collecting audio hardware.  As long as they're not deluding themselves into believing they're on the hunt for the next great thing that will make their ears hear something they can't, more power to them.  I'd rather spend my money on the music.

 
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