Volume settings at 94 and DSD white noise?

I need to set the volume at “Use Device Controls” and set volume at 94, this is because with some 24/192 albums, some are mastered very hot and I get some digital clipping/distortion if set at 100. But unfortunately DSD albums produce only white noise if anything but 100 is set. Is this just a function of how this works or can this be corrected as I would love to just be able to set the volume at 94 and turn it to fixed, so I can set and forget it

It took me quite a long time to figure this DSD white noise was because of a volume setting in Roon.

You need to specify your endpoints and how they are set up.

1 Like

It’s a MacMini using USB directly into my Unison Research CD Due.

Hi Mystic,

My understanding is that this behaviour is peculiar to particular DACs. Let’s drop a flag for @brian and see if he can confirm/explain.

This is the DAC’s shortcoming–“use device controls” means that we pass the volume number onto the DAC. It’s up to the DAC to do the right thing with it.

In this case, the wrong thing is treating DSD data as if it were PCM and trying to scale it down that way–digitally–most often in the USB interface.

If you scale DSD content as if it were PCM, the signal is destroyed.

About half of the DACs we have in-house for testing have this shortcoming.

@brian Thanks for the info. Is this a limitation of the ESS Sabre ES9018K2M dac chip or could this be solved by Unison Research with a future firmware update?

The ESS 9018K2M is capable of adjusting PCM + DSD volume internally, but the DAC manufacturer has to make the right decisions to enable it.

There’s another component in the device that converts from USB to I2S before feeding the DAC–it’s likely that the “bad” volume control is happening there, not in the ESS. Many of those chips come out-of-the-box doing stuff like this and need some customization to integrate with an external volume control in the DAC.

@brian Thanks Brian.

Is this the same reason I need to turn down the volume in the first place? I first noticed when I purchased the new hi-res D’angelo - Brown Sugar in 24/192 from PonoMusic, mainly in track 3 has these little static ticks every so often, which I guess would be digital clipping or distortion, the same happens if I upsample the new Adele album (track 2) in either Roon/HQP (PCM, which I prefer the sound of over DSD) or Audrivana+ if I have the volume set to 100 fixed.

I’d like to know if these are things that could/need to be fixed in a firmware update by Union Research (I emailed them a couple months ago to see about this and have heard nothing back)… Thanks for your help here.

Probably not–every volume control module I’ve seen is bit-perfect at 100% (this must be true for you, too, or DSD playback wouldn’t work at all).