[LAU] Advice on Multiple Volume Settings

Mark Knecht markknecht at gmail.com
Wed Aug 19 13:28:33 EDT 2009

On Wed, Aug 19, 2009 at 8:38 AM, Kenneth Jacker<khj at cs.appstate.edu> wrote:
> I want to ask the "experts" on this mailing list a question I've had
> for years.  It involves "best practices" for the multiple volume
> settings available on most computer systems ...
> Say I am playing an audio stream from 'last.fm'.
> The way I see it, there are *four* different possible volume settings:
> "line" (e.g., PCM) volume, application (e.g., Rhythmbox, TVTime, ...)
> volume, mixer "master" volume, and speaker volume.
> I would guess that the last (speaker) volume should be set (dynamically
> when needed) to whatever is currently most appropriate for the listener.
> But what about the other three?  Should they all be set at 50%?
> If not, what other values should be used?
> Can anyone give some guidelines?
> Thanks for your comments!
> --
> Prof Kenneth H Jacker       khj at cs.appstate.edu
> Computer Science Dept       www.cs.appstate.edu/~khj
> Appalachian State Univ
> Boone, NC  28608  USA
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> Linux-audio-user mailing list
> Linux-audio-user at lists.linuxaudio.org
> http://lists.linuxaudio.org/mailman/listinfo/linux-audio-user

Simple - Keep every 'early' volume control in the chain as high as you
can without creating clipping or distortion at that stage. This keeps
signal to noise as good as you can for this audio data. Set your last
volume control to a level you want to listen to. (Depends on the size
of the power amp and efficiency of your speakers.

Typically for me doing this right requires some understanding of how
much overhead any given stage can tolerate. If I have VU's then I
might strive for some level averaging anywhere from 0 to -6. If I
don't have VUs then I'll do this by ear or maybe use some equipment
(software or hardware) to measure system response if I think it's
important. Most of the time it isn't so I'll try pushing a stage hard
with loud material until I think I hear some problems and then I'll
back off by some amount. If you do ti this way it's important to NOT
set the later stages loud as the distorion I hear might be from a
later stage and not the one I'm adjusting.

Hope this helps,

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