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Attenuator/Volume Controls - Digital vs Analog
I have a large music collection of about 2,500 albums, all ripped from CD’s using EAC.  The wav. files produced and archived by this are the equivalent of the original discs.  I will soon start using AudioEngine’s D2 wireless DAC to allow me to access the music files stored on my main desktop computer and route them to my main (mid-fi) audio system or to one of several lesser audio systems in my household. 

I will need to add an inexpensive wireless/remote controlled volume control as part of the new system.  I have been studying this and I see two options:  the LDR approach, such as the Lightspeed, which I can build for well under $200, or the RelaiXed Passive approach, which uses discrete resisters controlled by relays, also in the same price range.  Both devices are passive, which appeals to me especially considering that decent digital attenuators tend to get expensive.  (I know, I know, I am already introducing one into my system with the D2, but I should be able to minimize its effects by setting its gain to unity.  I think. Plus, I'm not sure I would hear the difference on my system.)

What are thoughts on these approaches?  And please, keep in mind that this is not a $30,000 system.  If something is not likely to make a difference in how my system sounds, that will be a factor in my decisions.  My modest system consists of:

Harmon Kardon  HD7600 II CD player
Sumo Athena preamp
Adcom GFA555 II mains power amplifier
Mirage M-3 speakers
Sumo Delilah active crossover
Leach DBA monoblock subwoofer power amplifier
JBL B380 subwoofer (aka Sumo Sampson)

Re: Attenuator/Volume Controls - Digital vs Analog
Reply #1
I have a large music collection of about 2,500 albums, all ripped from CD’s using EAC.  The wav. files produced and archived by this are the equivalent of the original discs.  I will soon start using AudioEngine’s D2 wireless DAC to allow me to access the music files stored on my main desktop computer and route them to my main (mid-fi) audio system or to one of several lesser audio systems in my household. 

I will need to add an inexpensive wireless/remote controlled volume control as part of the new system.  I have been studying this and I see two options:  the LDR approach, such as the Lightspeed, which I can build for well under $200, or the RelaiXed Passive approach, which uses discrete resisters controlled by relays, also in the same price range.  Both devices are passive, which appeals to me especially considering that decent digital attenuators tend to get expensive.  (I know, I know, I am already introducing one into my system with the D2, but I should be able to minimize its effects by setting its gain to unity.  I think. Plus, I'm not sure I would hear the difference on my system.)

What are thoughts on these approaches?  JBL B380 subwoofer (aka Sumo Sampson)

Your paranoia about the attenuator in the D2 is questionable. If reviews mean anything to you,  I have here Ken Rockwell's review

http://kenrockwell.com/audio/audioengine/d2.htm(I'm not a fan) that says:

"As we'll see at Measurements, performance is spectacular in that it doesn't vary with the relative level of the audio signal itself, or with the setting of the volume control."

Re: Attenuator/Volume Controls - Digital vs Analog
Reply #2
I read reviews of the D2 before I purchased it and decided it was of high enough quality that it would not negatively impact my system.  I was just prepared to have it ripped to shreds by some of the more serious audiophiles.  This opens the option of using a digital attenuator instead of the analog versions I mentioned in the first post.

the D2 transmitter contains a manual volume attenuator.  Since I will need at least one or two more D2 receivers for my household, perhaps I could buy one of them as the full kit - the receiver represents most of the cost of the transmitter/receiver pair so the additional transmitter comes at relatively small cost.  I would then have an extra transmitter unit that I could cannibalize for its digital attenuator and convert it to remote control.  I'll have to talk to AudioEngine about that; they may have a solution already in hand.

Re: Attenuator/Volume Controls - Digital vs Analog
Reply #3
I read reviews of the D2 before I purchased it and decided it was of high enough quality that it would not negatively impact my system.  I was just prepared to have it ripped to shreds by some of the more serious audiophiles. 

This is a rationalist audio forum, not a typical audiophile audio forum. Paranoia about modern quality digital level controls is irrational and out-of-date.

Quote
This opens the option of using a digital attenuator instead of the analog versions I mentioned in the first post.

Exactly.    The resistor ladder attenuators are the gold standard, but are generally overkill.   They often sacrifice the size of the steps to get price down. Step size of 0.5 dB or less is required to be a good approximation of a common variable resistor attenuator.

Well-made resistive attenuators that are made out of plastic element attenuators may be preferable. I'm talking Alps RK40 potentiometers or better.  I guess RK27s can be OK.  A common AVR with the common stepped attenuator chips are IME equally satisfying.

The most common audio attenuator in consumer gear are the almost universally used,  basically silicon resistor ladders switched with solid state switches on a chip.  They have a tiny bit of measurable distortion but are generally much cleaner than the optical attenuators.   Since all channels are controlled on the same tiny chip, thermal tracking is excellent. 

Attenuators based on an optical attenuator are prone to relatively high amounts of nonlinear distortion.  I don't know if it is audible, but it sure is measurable. 


  • ajinfla
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Re: Attenuator/Volume Controls - Digital vs Analog
Reply #4
I read reviews of the D2 before I purchased it and decided it was of high enough quality that it would not negatively impact my system.  I was just prepared to have it ripped to shreds by some of the more serious audiophiles. 
Why would you care what mental midgets think? Perhaps you could ask your shoes or a rat what they think of the D2 also?

the D2 transmitter contains a manual volume attenuator. 
Right. Use your computer to adjust volume when playing files via software.
Loudspeaker manufacturer

Re: Attenuator/Volume Controls - Digital vs Analog
Reply #5
An important feature of the D2 is that its USB connection allows it to "intercept" the signal at the computer, bypassing the computer sound card and other controls. 

  • ajinfla
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Re: Attenuator/Volume Controls - Digital vs Analog
Reply #6
I have two D2s. I'm listening to music via one right now. This isn't theory
Loudspeaker manufacturer

Re: Attenuator/Volume Controls - Digital vs Analog
Reply #7
So do you use your computer to adjust volume of your system?

Re: Attenuator/Volume Controls - Digital vs Analog
Reply #8
So do you use your computer to adjust volume of your system?

Only with a pair of headphones plugged into the soundcard itself.  I  adjust it externally on computer speakers and AVRs.  Some really old computer I had could drive a pair of speakers directly, so I adjusted the volume at the computer in that case as the speakers provided didn't have the volume control.  Most computers now a days I see volume knobs on the provided pair of speakers.

Also for laptops I use the computer to adjust the built in speakers.

  • ajinfla
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Re: Attenuator/Volume Controls - Digital vs Analog
Reply #9
So do you use your computer to adjust volume of your system?
Yes, the D2 is the usb sound card. Volume on stereo preamp kept around 75% gain.
Use netbook w/D2 for streaming and stored music, with volume adjusted from computer
Loudspeaker manufacturer

  • greynol
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  • Global Moderator
Re: Attenuator/Volume Controls - Digital vs Analog
Reply #10
I like to adjust tone as I adjust volume*, so that usually happens at the receiver unless I'm too lazy to get up.

(*) Fletcher-Munson, anyone??
  • Last Edit: 29 August, 2017, 10:57:48 AM by greynol
Is 24-bit/192kHz good enough for your lo-fi vinyl, or do you need 32/384?

  • krabapple
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Re: Attenuator/Volume Controls - Digital vs Analog
Reply #11
I like to adjust tone as I adjust volume*, so that usually happens at the receiver unless I'm too lazy to get up.

(*) Fletcher-Munson, anyone??

There are AVRs with settings that can do that for you (e.g. Denon's Dynamic EQ)

Re: Attenuator/Volume Controls - Digital vs Analog
Reply #12
I like to adjust tone as I adjust volume*, so that usually happens at the receiver unless I'm too lazy to get up.

(*) Fletcher-Munson, anyone??

There are AVRs with settings that can do that for you (e.g. Denon's Dynamic EQ)


I use one of those in my main system, The full name of the feature is "Audyssey Dynamic Eq".