Headphone amp and source volume

Is there a rule of thumb regarding how loud your computer’s audio should be in relation with headphone amp? I’ve seen people saying that source should be around 90% and the amp as low as possible to avoid distortion but I’ve also seen people saying the exact opposite as well.

I maybe should’ve posted in gear equipment? I didn’t know where to make this question lol

90-99% in windows and adjust amp as desired is what I’ve heard.

If it’s digital volume I would personally max it out, you really want to avoid digital volume if you can. If your dac can adjust it’s analog line out, that might be worth putting at like 95% or something, but for digital volume you really want that max


I can second that. ~%95 in windows and adjust your volume on the amp. The reason behind this as far as I can tell us that lowering digital volume reduces the bit rate if the song (I’m not sure why) so you don’t want your windows volume too low. You also might not want %100 since it can possibly cause some strange and complicated issue that I’m not at all qualified to even try to describe.

I have mine at 99% because I’ve heard people say when you max out windows is does some weird shit.

I knew that happened with older windows but if you are using an external dac with no dsp or audio enhancements, there really should be no issue in doing so. I would say with windows audio that windows does weird shit from time to time if you run in 32 bit, so I would always go 24 bit there. But personally I haven’t had a weird experience with maxing out windows volume in win10


Listen to these ^^^^ people.

I see, what about video players or audio players built in volume? Like the volume bar in youtube or Spotify, should they always be maxed out as well for better sound quality?

Personally I do that as well, in stuff like youtube, vlc, or services like spotify or tidal I would max those as well if you can. For software that supports it, also running in exclusive mode is really good to have for sound quality but most software doesn’t support asio or wasapi and if they do, it will prevent any other application from using your dac muting other programs on the desktop, so it’s not always convenient.

If you really want to get anal about optimizing your pc for audio you can start to mess around with drivers (like graphics and network drivers can cause issue with audio specifically) and disable services you don’t need (windows update, index services, windows defender, etc), and then do performance tweaks like disabling fast boot, disabling speedstep and c states, disabling hyperthreading, messing around with power management, having your music player have very high priority, having your dac plugged into a separate usb controller with no other devices, tweaking your ahci and sata drivers and settings (like disabling any link power management), tightening up ram timings for lowest latency and better stability, etc, but this stuff is getting into the realm of unnecessary and something that will effect the usability of the system. Also some of the more intensive tweaks helps with audio production moreso than playback tbh


ive had my windows volume at 100% since windows 95. never had an issue. i have been streaming master quality via tidal for years now on windows 10 with 0 issues at it set to 100%

It may sound a bit silly.
But I have noticed that with cheap dac amp combos it is more likely that you have to reduce the overall volume on your pc to get the distortion under control.
On my current dac amp where there is one unit and it is placed a bit higher technically, I don’t have such problems anymore.
I can turn the volume of the pc down to 100% and the rest I fiddle with the potentiometer myself.
Without distortion or anything else in any way.

Now it is purely a personal experience that I have made and have felt so.
If you generalize it is on another sheet of paper.

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Spoken like a true tweaker/modder/min-maxer/perfectionist and I love it. Welcome to the rabbit hole that can always go deeper.

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You can also use something like Audirvana and set it to high priority, shut off needless services through it, use integer mode, etc. I use CAD software that can tax a system but haven’t noticed a performance hit with Audirvana running.

You can optimize the hell out of foobar but it’s hit or miss, audirvana does a really good job of painlessly optimizing itself. Jplay is also good at that too.

I keep my pc volume at 100% and there’s no issue. However when playing my local music collection, I use Foobar2000 with WASAPI which completely bypasses any windows influence on the audio output. It essentially sends the raw bits to the DAC.

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Could argue, it’s not the source volume / windows or PCs fault.
More likely the cheap and in this case, bad dac/amp or it’s cables.

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Maybe even bad isolation as well

Hmm, my current set-up is FiiO E10k -> Liquid Spark -> HE400i (2020) and I have some questions regarding the volume:

  1. I have my Windows (or Linux when I’m working) volume at about 70%. The thing is that when I set it at 100% and turn the volume on the LS down, the left driver seems to be louder than the right. This imbalance is gone when I set the source at 70% and the volume on the LS higher. Is this a problem and what would be the best way to fix it? I have an IEMatch I could use, but it feels a bit silly to use an IEMatch when connecting a big headphone.

  2. I have the E10K connected from the line-out with a 3.5mm to RCA cable. If I were to swap out the E10K for a D10s or something, would that have any effect on the volume control of the amp? Basically, do the E10K and D10s output at the same volume? The line out of the E10k is pretty loud, at least last time I connected a headphone to it it was.

Make sure the Windows drivers are installed correctly.
I had an interpolarity every time I started the PC due to a wrong driver, sometimes it was good, sometimes not.

That would be the first thing I would check.
Driverhub is very good for this.

If you could rule out everything in Windows, then I would look at the hardware.
Check the cables and so on.

The E10 driver won’t install and won’t tell me what the problem is :confused:. This would also not work on Linux since I doubt there is a driver for Linux.
I’m using the standard USB Audio Device driver on Windows, is that bad? It says it’s up-to-date.