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Thread: Windows has multiple levels of volume controls. How to set properly?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2006

    Windows has multiple levels of volume controls. How to set properly?

    My W2K carputer uses an Audigy 4 board to send audio to my I-Bus head unit and thus pretend to be a cd changer.

    The thing is, there are multiple levels of volume controls on Windows to adjust the line out volume:

    • WAV level (I'm playing wav files)
    • Master volume control
    • WinAmp volume control

    What combination of setting these will result in the best output sound quality?

    I will be using a 1K Hz (-3db) test tone to set the input level to the head unit so that the level out of my amp matches the original level amp input level I set using the cdchanger playing the test tone.

    I will be using the head unit volume control to adjust volume in actual use, I hope to get this to be a one time setup on the carputer side. Should I max the WAV volume, and maybe the master volume and use the winamp volume to adjust the line out? Should no control ever be maxed out, but always limited to 80%? What is the best strategy?

  2. #2
    Low Bitrate
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Isle of Orkney. UK
    I personally would never run anything at Max, in order to avoid any possible distortion. To advance your idea start with setting everything at 50%.

    As the final sound is subjective, increase each setting slightly until you find a quality/volume you are happy with.

    At the end of the day it will be the quality of the speakers which will decide.

  3. #3
    Variable Bitrate Area3's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Garland, Texas, United States
    In All the Recording and Pro Audio I do I always Run My Volume At 75%...
    Microsoft Is a Evil Empire that has corrupted a generation!

    Thanks - Eric Scott
    Area 3 Productions

  4. #4
    Variable Bitrate Arrow's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    West Lafayette, IN
    Use winamp set at 100% because using less than that actually causes winamp to render the audio at a lower level than it is meant to be. Winamp then uses the Wav output to send the audio to the sound card. Keep this as 100% as well. Use your Master to control your output volume. Adjust it to your liking.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Thanks. That's the info I hoped to learn.

  6. #6
    Car Audio Moderator durwood's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Chicagoland (St. Charles,IL)
    lots of wrong info here.

    The Windows Kmixer set anything below 100% degrades the signal by reducing the bit resolution. A good quality soundcard in the computer should never distort at full volume unless the original signal/recording is distorted. I cannot say the same for cheaper quality cards and the way they setup the outputs of them, but I believe onboard sound should not distort.

    Same thing with WAV since it is part of windows kmixer.

    However, one of the developers of winamp specifically stated that the volume control implemented in winamp does not reduce bit resolution IIRC. I'd have to dig around to find the link.

    Windows Vista was suppsoed to redesign the way the mixer works and it was supposed to eliminate the bit resolution issue.

  7. #7
    Constant Bitrate Felix509's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Lafayette, LA
    Well, i have to agree with Durwood, Digital volume controls are bad, decreases bit resolution.. Keep them at 100% and use the Winamp volume control only as it is supposedly designed better.

    I cannot get the link to work, but here is some tech info on Digital Volume.

    Digital volume control with a PCM bitstream is actually very simple, you simply multiply
    each sample by a binary constant. This apparent simplicity is a trap for improperly
    implemented digital volume controls that can really mess up a digital signal. The result
    length in bits of any binary multiplication is equal to the sum of the word lengths of both
    input terms. For example a 16 bit pcm signal multiplied by a 16 bit volume control
    constant results in a 32 bit binary number. This conversion is completely loss-less, the
    original signal can be completely reconstructed from the 32 bit output data. However as
    there are no 32 bit DACs a 32 bit bitstream must truncated and possibly dithered or
    noise shaped to a manageable word length before it is converted into analog audio.
    Truncation is always a lossy process, once a signal is truncated no amount of processing
    may restore the original, it may be possible to to make any truncation artifacts inaudible
    with dither or noise shaping but the key to good digital volume control is to avoid any
    lossy translations. Instead of multiplying the pcm bitstream by a 16 bit constant you
    may multiply it by constant with an 8 bit or less word length, a 16 bit data stream and 8
    bit volume coefficient will result in a 24 bit word, which is attainable by many high
    quality DAC designs so no truncation is required. However the loss-less resolution of the
    result comes at the price of volume control steps that do not accurately track the ideal
    logarithmic attenuation curve, an 8 bit word my only attenuate a signal by a maximum
    of 48db and the last few steps will be very large making a reasonable attenuation limit
    of an 8 bit volume coefficient about 30db or so.
    The best digital volume controls are those that use a table that attempts to limit the
    amount of truncation needed. Such a volume control may use 4 bit constants for the
    first few attenuation levels, then gradually increase the word length as needed for
    greater amounts of attenuation. This table should include as many "magic" attenuation
    values as possible, -6.02db is only a 1 bit coefficient, -12.04db is only 2 bits ect... This
    approach maximizes the signal quality but also minimizes the linearity of the attenuation
    steps so that each volume step will be slightly different, however as volume control is more of a
    bulk attenuation and human hearing can easy adapt, a linear volume control is not really
    It should also be apparent that the least amount of attenuation possible should be used in a
    system with digital volume control, in an ideal system you should always be listening as near as
    possible full volume, this usually requires amplifiers with low gain.
    This can be a real problem since
    most amplifiers are designed with as much gain as possible to give the customer the illusion of
    "Power". Using amplifiers with too much gain requires too much digital attenuation at normal
    listening levels leading to very low resolution (too much truncation of the digital signal before it is
    converted in the DAC.) Digital volume control should also never be used with DACs of insufficient
    word length, a 16 bit DAC will require truncating a CD resolution digital input for any attenuation
    value at all so digital volume controls should only be used with DACs capable of converting word
    lengths of 20 bits or more. Of course better, higher resolution DACs result in better sound quality
    with digital volume control than lesser DACs. An acceptable DAC used without digital volume
    control may become unlistenable when used with digital volume control due to linearity errors that
    are normally masked when converting full level data, delta sigma DAC designs are perhaps the
    worst in this respect while sign-magnitude DAC designs are the best. A sign-magnitude DAC always
    increases its linearity with decreasing signal level making it ideal for digital volume control use. A delta-sigma DAC on the other hand has a noise level that increases with decreasing signal level
    making most of DACs of this type very poor choices to use with digital volume control.
    Ours is the age that is proud of machines that think and suspicious of men who try to.

    Current SYSTEM
    AMD64X2 2.5
    Rainbow Profi CS365 & Profi Vanadium 12"

  8. #8
    Car Audio Moderator durwood's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Chicagoland (St. Charles,IL)
    Cool good info felix.

    Found my link

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Little Elm, Texas
    good info in here!

    I always felt that using WinAmp for volume control was the best option, but never knew exactly why.

    Jan Bennett
    FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

    Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!

  10. #10
    Variable Bitrate
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    What about for folks using Centrafuse. To my knowledge the developer ties stragiht into DirectX for sound output. Doesn't use WMP or Winamp.

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