Interesting. It’s been awhile since I stopped using volume leveling and don’t feel the need to use it anymore. Back then I was using a 32 bit DAC and had tons of headroom. But on certain tracks it definitely sucked the life out the music.
But I notice now that the default setting is -14. That’s a pretty big change in the default setting. Has anything else changed?
I will have to try it again just for fun, but I no longer have my 32 bit DAC so I don’t think it will work well with my 18 bit NOS DAC.
I just started playing around with volume leveling for the first time today. I am finding it very helpful! Not just in normalizing tracks on shuffle, but it also seems to significantly take the edge off compressed music. Sure there is nothing one cane do with horribly compressed albums (Florence + The Machine, for one), but for remasters that are not how I would have remastered them, it really helps (Van Halen HDCDs, Rolling Stones UMe, U2, etc.). To top it off, it helps normalize different masters so that when doing A-B comparisons, it is easier comparing. I listened for hours today and it was wonderful. I kept it at -14LUFS. When I tried anything higher, it was not sonically pleasing to me. I am also upsampling power of 2.
Likely you’re familiar but never know so I thought I’d throw this out. When using volume leveling, you will likely need to turn the main volume control up a touch. A small decrease in volume level will have a marked affect on the perceived sound. If you wanna get anal, put a decibel meter on your smart phone. Measure a familiar track at your preferred level without the volume leveler on. Turn the volume leveler on then turn system main volume control up to match the first measurement. Another possibility, some amplifiers just like a stronger signal on the input and lose fullness when you reduce the input level from the dac. The volume leveler may be indirectly changing what you hear due to the reduced output to your amp, (amp specific) but should not cause any degradation in and of itself.
I totally believe you that you hear volume leveling sucking out the dynamics out of the music you listen on your system. But, it can’t be the fault of volume leveling in Roon, but must be on your system that makes a difference on how much gain the input signal has. Volume leveling either reduces the gain of each of the tracks to a value that is given to level between tracks or does the same between albums, but keeps the relative volume within tracks of an album the same. This you can choose. The gain change is calculated with 64 bits, I.e. with way higher resolution than 16 or 24 bit of the original resolution. So no change in anything else than the gain can be expected from such an operation. But indeed when your system sounds better at one gain vs. another obviously you will hear changes. But when your system is linear and noise free in the range of the applied gain change of around 10dB max there’s hardly to expect a SQ change.
I have a very resolving system and have done exacting tests. I can adjust the gain to similar standards, and there are no issues. Volume levelling is the culprit. Even Roon admins have admitted this. Happy though it works for you. Enjoy,
Interesting topic. Based on the varying results, good chance it is system dependent. For instance some amps sound better with a passive volume control (fewer electrical components in the signal chain) other amps function better with a stronger signal input and need a preamplifier. I found a benefit from running with the volume leveler on. Without it, I can only turn my volume control just past the 9 o’clock position. Doesn’t make sense to me to needlessly over amplify the signal then smash it back down with the volume control. Who knows, maybe Roon is damaging the signal, but my system has too much gain and reducing the signal provides greater benefits than damage Roon might inflict.
You listen to crappy Wilco on your highly resolving system? With volume leveling set to auto, Roon reduces the volume of that track by -4.5db. Running a quick test with a decibel meter on my iphone, the dynamic range looks the same with volume leveling enabled vs disabled - specifically looking at the section of music starting around 4:20. If I adjust the volume on my preamp to match the two, the graphs appear damn near identical.
I’d like to hear from the Roon admins or developers if there is any compression going on with volume leveling before I listen to any more Wilco. I’m not saying you are wrong or right, I’d just like to hear from the people who wrote the code.
Yes! And the Velvet Underground is bone chilling! Another good one for dynamics is Muddy Waters Folk Singer. I match the volume when doing these comparisons. My wife though has golden ears. She will come into the room and right away tell something abs sure enough… it’s a blessing and a curse. Ignorance is bliss.