Volume control - Roon, DAC, active speakers? Attenuators?

Hi there,

I need some help and advice about how to set my volume on my desktop endpoint setup, as I think the signal is too strong leaving my DAC.

I am just setting up a new DAC, a RME ADI-2 DAC FS. Lots of settings, lots to play with. Anyway, it sits on my desktop and is fed from an Allo USBridge Sig using Ropieee. The DAC then feeds, via balanced XLR, a set of ADAM F5 active speakers. Roon Core is on a NUC and feeds all my endpoints via ethernet.

I am just getting my head around volume control and it is not something I have given a huge amount of thought to previously.

I have Roon upsampling, to the power of 2, and I have some headroom management enabled (-15). I have also enabled volume leveling (at the max -25lufs) in order to bring the signal strength down (the gain??). The actual volume is set to fixed so you can’t adjust in roon.

The DAC has a volume control of its own, which I can access either with a remote or with a dial on the unit.

The speakers also have volume control but it is only accessed via a knob on the rear of each speaker, by default its set to ‘0’ but you can add or subtract 6db.

So I have the ability to access volume control from multiple locations, but I am not sure which is best or most optimal.

I think the signal leaving the DAC might be too ‘hot’, and I wonder whether some balanced xlr attenuators might be useful, but not sure if it should be -10db or -20db (or anything else)? I could then set Roon volume leveling to much lower or even off. I could then leave the volume control on the DAC at 0.0db.

Another option could be to reduce the volume on the speakers, but the only way to do it acurately might be to measure what is coming out of them at the seating position. At least set at ‘0’ there is clear notch to feel when you adjust them.

Does anyone have any thoughts? Is this the right situation to consider attenuators?

I’m no expert but if you already have a few options to adjust volume without adding extra components, I would do that.

I would:

  1. Change Roon headroom management to -3dB.

  2. Disable auto volume levelling (only if you’re using that to bring volume down, not if you actually wanted that feature)

  3. Leave the Adams on ‘0’.

  4. Then adjust track/album volume with your RME’s volume knob (or remote) only.

Thanks for the reply.

Thats essentially how I set up initially. I have to set the volume on the DAC to -44dbr (plus it adds -5dBu automatically) to get to a manageble listening level.

Also, I quite like DSD upsampling, if I do that I lose the ability to adjust the volume via the DAC completely, so I am then back to using headroom managment and volume leveling.

Its definitely a first world problem! And interesting, so keen for any input.

I wouldn’t worry about that, it’s all done in digital domain and very transparent.

Ah yes, this changes things, if you prefer the ‘DSD Direct’ mode on the RME

Both the RME and Adams are likely to have options for ‘pro’ (+4dB) and ‘consumer’ (-10dB). Make sure you have selected the right options.

I’d also not worry too much about turning the gain down a bit on the Adams if that gives you better control on the volume pot on the RME. I have a similar(ish) setup (M-Audio and Genelec); the gain on the Genelecs is probably only about half way up.

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I can’t see anything on the Adams, I have the overall level option I mentioned above and I can EQ above 5kHz and below 300hz, + or - 6 respectively.

I can set whatever I like on the RME including have the Auto ref level or or off. I need to read the manual in a little more detail probably, its great, but much weightier than anything I have seen before!

Tricky for me to get an even sound level, I was trying last week using my Topping D90, I had the Adams level right down as an experiment. So I think the Toppings’ gain is also fairly high.

Unfortunately reading the manual is sometimes the best option…

A quick glance at the Adam manual suggests to me that they are quite sensitive, but the same on xlr and rca.

The RME looks to have software controlled output level between +19dBu and 0dBu for 0dBFS on the xlr outputs; -6dB lower for rca.

What is it currently set to?

On the line out ‘Auto Ref Level’ is set to ‘on’ and as a result the DAC is at -5dBu. I think this will change under certain circumstances.

I have no idea how that works in practice - the manual is not clear to me!

I’d be tempted to set it manually to the lowest level, but without any real understanding I don’t know if it will help. If nothing else we’ll maybe have learned something.

Let us know…

I had pretty much the same issue, but with a Topping and without active speakers. (And interestingly I’m considering the ADI-2!)

In the end I went with attenuators - you can see some of the thinking and (unscientific) is thread: Where to adjust volume - Roon, DAC, or Amp?

Thanks @Nic. I had a read through. Very interesting. I have currently got roon outputting DSD, just playing really. To manage I need head room adjustment set to -20db and volume leveling on which is at -13db.

I can set my speaker volume lower and aim for 0db on Roon and the DAC, but that also gives me pause due to your experiences. The attenuators might be fun to have a play with. I would need XLR, and I think it might make the connections on the back of the DAC a problem. I can see various options as well in terms of level and make, I think the -20db might be the ones to go for, but I am not sure which make yet. I might also seek out the RME forum to see what they have to say.

This scenario described by Rothwell sounds pretty applicable to my main set-up too (Topping D90 into Musical Fidelity M6si).

I ended up posting on the RME forum. I was linked to this thread about level miss-match solutions which was an interesting read.

IMO, I’d avoid adding attenuators unless there’s no option

Have you tried some ‘extremes’ listening? i.e. set two of the options in the middle and only use one control at a time to assess impact on SQ, then cycle through the other options?

I’d even try some max/min settings e.g. two at max - with one as the control, and cycle/compare those, then two at min etc etc

Hi @Andrew_Stoneman - thanks for the comment.

In terms fo the extremes listening, that is essentially what I am doing I think. Just getting used to the equipment.

What would be your concern around the attenuators?

If I were you…

Reset all the Roon ‘adjustments’ to default
Turn the gain down to zero on the Adams
Set the RME volume control to about mid travel
Play some music
Turn up the gain on one Adam until it’s ‘about loud enough’
Turn up the gain on the other Adam to match
Stop worrying

(If it really bothers you, use a pink noise track and a smartphone spl app to set the same level on both Adams)

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Hi Ross, if you’ve seen my system pics, what I’m about to write is clearly ‘do as I say…’ :grinning:

I’ve no technical insight, no ‘never actually heard it myself’ and no ‘never actually tested it myself’ foundation for my opinion, but my opinion is; start with KISS (the Keep It Simple Stupid acronym, not the band :metal:) for what that’s worth

Since you have several variables, I’d try to isolate and identify what they do - to find the best compromise

HiFi, for me at least (and notwithstanding the enjoyment of the music and talent of the makers) is about experimenting - it pushes my nerd buttons :nerd_face:

Sounds like you’re doing that, and I’d be very interested to hear what you find…

That’s a nice systematic approach - far more specific and eloquent than my attempt :nerd_face::+1:

apologies link had already been posted.