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Where to attenuate volume on a Mac?


tfarney

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My headphone system has just evolved. Based on a recommendation from the head-fi forum, I tried amping my Senn 580s, a hard to drive phone, with my 70s Harman Kardon A-402 integrated. Vintage SS audio headphone jacks almost always use the main amps, knocked down by a resistor, instead of cheap op amps to power headphone sections. So the theory is they'll deliver a lot more power, with a lot more current behind it, and the big 300 ohm Senns will become both more open and more precise.

 

It worked like a charm. I don't know how this would work out with every source, but with the old HK, a dual mono design with specs that are still pretty respectable by today's standards, it worked great. There is one problem, though -- that resistor in the circuit isn't really doing all that much. There is LOTS of gain and it takes very little movement of the volume knob to crank way beyond comfortable listening levels.

 

Of course it's easy enough to attenuate the gain at the source when a Mac is the source, but where? Output volume in Preferences (or the menu bar), or the volume control in iTunes? Does it make any difference? And should I expect any impact on SQ?

 

Tim

 

I confess. I\'m an audiophool.

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In the audiophile world, it would serve well not to have any expectations upfront and simply try things to see if they make a difference...

 

Having said that, I keep the general output (System Preferences) at its maximum and control the volume in iTunes when I need to. I have never done any thorough testing myself, though.

 

When HiFi equipment is connected to a Mac, it is said that it is generally best to have the output at max and to control the volume at the amplification stage. Aficionados have dedicated headphone amps with sensitive volume controls.

 

In the end, it comes down to my first statement: try it out yourself and go with the settings that work best for you. Only you can decide if something has an impact on SQ.

 

Best - MM

 

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I've been fooling around with it this afternoon and really, I can't hear an appreciable difference either way. Just on general principles, though I think I'll leave the soundcard opened up, the amp set at too damn loud, and control the gain from iTunes. It doesn't seem to have any effect on SQ.

 

Tim

 

I confess. I\'m an audiophool.

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