Volume control DAC / Headphone Amp / Roon?

I’m going to upgrade my system again, and now I’m unsure how to control the volume in a safe / comfortable / best sounding way

This is my chain (balanced connections):
Roon <–> Auralic Altair (DAC) <–> Auralic Taurus (Headphone Amp) <–> Headphones

How should I control the volume correctly (and why)?

  1. Roon and DAC Volume fixed, control manually the Amp (no remote control).
  2. Roon controls the DAC, Amp volume fixed?

Do you have any recommendations / remarks?
Thank you

That would depend on how well your DAC handles volume, but try both and hear if you can spot any differences (they will likely be very small), and if equal SQ then select the most practical one. Use “Decive controlled” option in Roon if that is available.

Changing volume with DSP does effectively reduce the bit resolution of the music, so that might not be preferable (although I am not sure how bad it is in practice, since lower volume also mean ears have harder to hear details).

The DAC is an ESS Sabre Chip, so hardware volume control is possible (to a certain amount of no loss of SQ).
So I should set the DAC at max volume first, adjust the headamp to my desired max volume and the control the DAC via Roon?

Yes, that sounds correct, just make sure you can select “Use Device controls” from the volume combo box in Roon device setup (and of course you should use exclusive mode for the DAC, setting is under Device Control - Playback- Use Exclusive mode).

At least its a good starting point, some audio purists would probably argue that you can gain a little SQ by letting the amp control the volume but I doubt you will hear any differences.

Thank you for your very helpful comments :grinning: