USB volume controllable in Roon

I run my powered speakers (Dynaudio X14A) connected directly to the DAC, and control the DAC volume from Roon (volume setting “Use device control”). Now I am thinking about upgrading my DragonFly Red, but I don’t know which DACs support this USB volume feature.

For example, I don’t think Mojo supports it, and I was just told that Schiit DACs dont either. But its a very convenient feature for me, since I typically set Windows default audio to the USB DAC and control Windows volume from keyboard (which in turn controls Roon volume which in turns control the DAC volume). The DAC is of course in exclusive mode.

Is there a list of DACs that has this support? I am interested in DACs for around $500.

adding @brian to this, as he knows more about this stuff… we should make this topic public as well, so others can benefit.

It’s not an extremely common feature, and it’s less common for it to be implemented well on DSD capable DACs, but it does exist.

We keep track of this information in the Partner Devices Matrix for Roon Tested USB Devices in the “USB Volume” column. Make sure to pay attention to the footnotes if you’re interested in DSD.

Thanks, but that was a rather depressing read. I had considered a number of DACs to upgrade to: Chord Mojo, Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 Digital, iFi Micro Black Label and Schiit Bitfrost Multibit. Turns out none of them support this feature.

2 of them has convenient manual volume controls though (the IfI and Pro-Ject), and are small enough to be placed below the monitor.

Strange that this is not more supported, since most modern DAC chips seems to support volume control. Reading digital volume information from USB and applying it to the DAC-chips output voltage should not be to complicated, but maybe its more complicated than that.

It shoudl be easy to do 1-way, it’s very complicated to do 2-way.

I don’t have first hand experience with this, but the Mytek Brooklyn supposedly does this very creatively. @brian does have first hand experience with this.

Usually, the DAC-integrated volume controls (for example, the ones provided by ESS chips) are digital-domain adjustments, and require writing some custom code to speak a protocol between the USB interface and DAC over I2C. Whether or not that happens depends on how ambitious the company is with their product, and what sorts of developers they have on staff. It’s very common for manufacturers to have qualified electrical engineers, but no-one who really goes deep on software/firmware.

There are some legitimate product complexities here–for example, USB volume control is traditionally “one way”. Meaning, the computer owns the volume number, not the DAC, and the DAC is just following commands.

In the USB Audio protocol there is no way for the DAC to change the volume–it must be driven by the computer. This further discourages any DAC with a knob from implementing volume control over USB, since in most cases, that means either disabling the knob based on a setting (the LH Labs approach) or having a cascade of two separate volume controls–one owned by the computer, and one managed using the knob on the front–which is how most of the DACs with that little (1) footnote work.

Danny mentioned the Brooklyn–it is a rare product that breaks this rule. When you turn its volume knob, it actually sends HID (human interface device) commands back to the computer to change the volume at the computer, which then round-trips back to the DAC to change the volume. This roundabout approach is not common, but it works. I think we’ll be seeing more of it in the future.

In the <$500 bracket, The Pro-Ject Pre-Box S2 that you mentioned is really nice. Despite not having this feature, it packs in a ton of functionality/versatility + has a good user experience for switching between main/headphones, support for lots of formats, ability to use an external power supply, IR remote, etc.


Thanks for the explanation, the Brooklyn solution sounds neat and should even provide the opposite direction, that is changing volume on the DAC to change Roon (and Windows?) volume. All in all, a sexy hack :slight_smile:

Have you tried and listened to the Pro-Ject Pre-Box S2? It’s so recently released there are hardly any reviews on it, but looking at the specs it looks pretty awesome for its price. And adding a good power supply should give it a nice boost in sound quality as well. (for example, the iFi nano iUSB).

I use it every day as the system output of one of the computers at my desk. In terms of sound, it’s a competent ESS Sabre implementation. No signs that they made mistakes or careless choices.

Btw, I read at another forum that they are working on USB volume on the Pro-Ject DAC, with a firmware update.

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@Magnus do you happen to have any update on this feature on the Pre Box S2? I could really use a DAC with Mytek Brooklyn bridge-like volume control in a lower price bracket… (it would replace a rather clumsy setup with 2 dacs, one with digital volume only, one with analog only).

I don’t own that DAC anymore, upgraded to a RME ADI-2 DAC. But as far as I know, USB volume was never fixed properly in the Pro-Ject DAC.

Thanks for your reply! How does that DAC perform? Hadn’t heard of it before…

Its an excellent DAC, lots of functionality and very transparent and neutral sound. Google reviews on it, for example

It also got a small upgrade recently, with AKM 4993 chips (price is the same) which gave it a little higher SNR.

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I have a Chord Hugo TT2 Dac/Pre and when I select device control It doesn’t work. The dac is in amp mode so the volume control use enabled but still no joy.

Those devices don’t support volume control over USB, but some of the Chord products report volume control capability to the OS, so Roon thinks that they can do it, which makes the device controls option available even though the actual volume slider does nothing.

Makes sense. Is this something Chord need to enable at their end or can I submit a request here?

It’s a roon tested product, I assumed that meant everything just works.

Roon Tested means that we have the hardware in-house for qa/support staff to access, enter its limitations/quirks into our device database/knowledge base and figure out default settings so it works with minimal configuration out of the box.

Under the Roon Tested program, we do not have the power to force 3rd parties to build features they don’t want to build. We will occasionally fail a product that has major deficiencies, but quirks like this are extremely common for USB devices, and are rendered mostly invisible by auto-configuration.

The Roon Ready program works differently–with these products we are involved in the development of the product + its network streaming support and can withhold certification until our standards are met. It’s a much more involved relationship for both parties, but ultimately produces the best experience.

For this product, “just works” means that the device should be auto-configured to use fixed volume mode the first time it is plugged in so that the quirky behavior only becomes apparent after digging around in a settings screen.

I suspect that Chord never intended this product to support volume control over USB. Nothing’s stopping you from making the feature request, but it seems more likely that they would resolve this by making the device report its capabilities accurately rather than by adding the volume control feature.

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Thank you for your comprehensive reply. How could chord apply this feature after its sent out into the wild? As far as I can see their isn’t a way for the user to upgrade the firmware.