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Volume using USB PS Audio DAC III


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I've recently upgraded my modest music server with the addition of a PS Audio DAC III. My system now consists of an iMac connected to the DAC via USB and then I've connected my B&O Beolab 3 speakers to the DAC. The Beolabs are powered speakers and connect to the DAC's RCA jacks. Prior to the introduction of the DAC I would control the volume going out of the iMac using it's volume control but now that I have introduced the USB DAC, the iMac volume control has no affect. Any ideas on how to correct without having to introduce a pre-amp into my system?

 

Using Apple's Front Row with the nice little remote to flip through 600 CD's ripped in Lossless is amazing!! It's so nice to ditch my separate audio components I'd hate to have to bring a remote controled pre-amp back into the equation.

 

Thanks,

Mike.

 

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Hey Mike - What timing! I just got a DLIII in for review. To control the volume use the iTunes volume control. In OS X there is no sound degradation. Are you looking to control the volume via remote control?

 

When connecting any DAC the system volume will lock at 100%

 

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Thanks Chris...by the way the site is a great source of info.

 

Yes, remote control is a must. I did try the iTunes volume control but it lowest setting is still really, really loud. If I slide the iTunes volume slider all the way to the left it mutes, if I then just nudge it to the right its way loud....and if I keep sliding it to the right it gets louder and louder (of course).

 

Bummer, I'd hate to have to abandon the external DAC.

 

Mike.

 

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What you need to do IMHO is to improve things by adding a decent poweramp/set of speakers and set the "clipping" of the poweramp so that you don't have the overvolume problem. That way it's a win win. Better amp, better speakers (ie sound) and better control.

 

AB

 

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You may not have to give up your DAC, just get a different one. There are DACs with volume controls. Check www.audiomagus.com for starters. Some of those have built-in amps/preamps. There would be no need to control the DAC with a remote (they usually don't come with remotes anyway); you simply set the output volume to a suitable level, keep it there and control the volume in iTunes. That way, it should be possible to get around the volume-control problems you are describing.

 

Good luck!

 

Best - MM

 

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Thanks for the suggestions everyone. I suppose I should have thought the DAC choice through a little more carefully; live and learn.

 

The Beolab's don't have an easily controllable volume control so I'll try to return my DAC III and look at a different unit. Otherwise, I'm sensing a new pre-amp purchase may be on the horizon.

 

Mike.

 

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I used a few digital volume controls in the past, a Z-Systems digital eq piece that sat between your transport and DAC, and a Meridian piece that did the same plus jitter reduction and noise shaping. I assume this is the same process. The early iteration of my Levinson DAC was 16 bit, it later became 24 bit. Running at 16bit I could clearly hearly the loss of resolution with even moderate attenuation. Both pieces had the ability to convert to a 24bit word. Once my Levinson was upgraded to 24 bit capability, the volume control became much more viable and I didn't notice resolution degradation until you were getting down into the casual listening range.

 

I did notice that my DAC output, which was directly driving the input of the power amp, matched up with some amps better than others. I assume it was due to the buffering stage of the output of the DAC and the input impedance of the amp. I had a 750w pair of VTL monoblocks and they did not like the arrangement at all. I always felt like I missed a little in dynamics by avoiding the preamp. Really fine preamps are hard to find.

 

I don't know if that helps, but I suspect there may be several variables.

 

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  • 10 months later...

Hi Mike

 

I have the same set-up as you described (MacBook Pro, DAC Magic and Beolab 3 powered speakers) and I have exactly the same problem with the volume control - it's simply to loud. Did you manage to solve the problem? I have reduced the problem by setting the equalizer in ITunes to manual and -12 dB but its still very loud. Bose

 

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Besides that I doubt the iTunes volume does any good (but never mind that one) you should never try to solve this by even more digital attenuation. In normal circumstances any digital volume is not OK, and the more you apply of it, the worse it gets.

 

The really best thing to do, is bring your amplifier to a good engineer (knowing that amp) and reduce the gain.

Note that this is very different from any analogue attenuation (which latter by itself is no good either).

 

Peter

 

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I have a similar problem with my super pro dac but only on usb not on the optical out. It is too loud on the bottom of the volume when the top is perfect. Seems like the first 3-4 positions on the itunes volume are very insensitive. I think it could be a driver issus. Any ideas?

 

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Thankyou for the quick response. I have read that the newest iTunes volume does not affect total sound quality. For me with my pair of tube amps biamping my B&Ws with passive line level filters is good enough for my office system and iTunes volume with apple remote is so convenent. It's just that I'm replacing the Airport express and opitical outputs with an old mini mac (that I restored) and USB to the same dad that I used with the AE. Now I have this volume control issue. PS apple remote to control iTunes though Mira software. Any other thoughts.

 

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Thankyou for the quick response. I have read that the newest iTunes volume does not affect total sound quality. For me with my pair of tube amps biamping my B&Ws with passive line level filters is good enough for my office system and iTunes volume with apple remote is so convenent. It's just that I'm replacing the Airport express and opitical outputs with an old mini mac (that I restored) and USB to the same dad that I used with the AE. Now I have this volume control issue. PS apple remote to control iTunes though Mira software. Any other thoughts.

 

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Hi John - I definitely hear what you're saying about the convenience of the iTunes volume and apple remote. All iTunes volume controls affect the sound quality.

 

One suggestion is to look at the Wavelength Audio Proton DAC. This thing is really advanced as it has full 24/96 async USB support and the volume on the DAC is controlled by the Mac OS X volume control with the Apple remote. The cool thing is the Proton actually has a hardware volume control that is controlled via software so there is no sound quality degradation. This would allow you to connect the Proton to your Mini via USB, then straight from the Proton to your amps bypassing a preamp. It's really a nice solution. The Mira solution is pretty cool and similar to Remote Buddy. Not sure your need either though.

 

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  • 8 months later...

If you use the digital out from the Imac into a DAC (that has no volume control) and active speakers,

obviously, the volume will be too loud. Digital output signal is not volume-controllable from the computer, as it's a fixed line level output signal, kind of like a tape output on a preamp.

 

If you need to control volume via the Imac, you need to go out analog, not digital.

So if your active speakers have analog inputs, go directly from Imac to active speakers via ANALOG out

and control the volume from the computer.

 

If you want to (bypass the Imac's DAC and) go out digital, your outboard DAC (or your speakers) MUST have a built-in volume control.

 

And don't forget, in an analog setup, impedance-matching is the KEY to good sound.

 

It's pretty simple.

 

Cheers !

 

 

 

 

 

Imac ----> dcs Delius DAC w/volume control----> Goldmund Active Logos speakers

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