Double volume control - aye or nay?

suburbansky

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I've got a classic integrated amp (Denon PMA 1600) into which I feed the signal of an external DAC (Cambridge Audio DAC Magic 200+). Now both the amp and the DAC have individual volume knobs - the amp an analogue one, the DAC a digital one. I've gotten used to using both simultaneously, as the amps volume progression is a bit too steep - it gets too loud too fast, especially late at night - and the DAC steps in with more intricate adjustments. Now I've been wondering whether this setup may have any drawbacks, sonically or technically? After all, the DAC does have the option to disable volume control altogether and go into fixed-level output - why would they bother implementing such a feature?
 

Horowitz

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If I'm correct, the Cambridge DAC Magic 200+ also serves as a headphone amp. My Naim Uniti Atom HE does much the same. Having variable volume control enables me to listen via the Atom alone (ie not needing to have my big Arcam amp switched on) to any sources plugged into the DAC/headphone amp, and be able to control volume through my Naim app. I would expect the Cambridge Stream Magic app would let you do the same.
I know this doesn't answer your question about potential sonic drawbacks (I'll leave that to the techies), but might explain - from a purely practical standpoint - why your DAC Magic provides the option! If not listening on cans I use the variable output of my Atom as a preamp, but restrict max output to about 75% (just a personal choice as the two amps play together nicely and offer a little more fine-tuning, as you mentioned).
 

twinkletoes

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yes, there is a drawback with the DAC depending on how the volume dial is implemented it can do 2 different things which i won't go into, this can all be explained better than what i can do with a quick google. The DAC SHOULD be set to a fixed volume for maximum output to the inputs.

The implementation is there mostly for feeding straight into a power amp, headphones OR if the input on an integrated isn't designed around the Redbook standard of CD output of roughly 2volts so you can find the inputs happy place and not overload it. Your amp is designed around the redbook standard
 

aversaurus

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I have a double volume control with my Leema tucana amplifier and my Leema elements dac .
The dac is also a pre amplifier.
I'm not a fan of the double volume but on my dac a get a warning message if I set it to fixed volume.
Tbh I'm not really sure with mine what the dac volume should be set to .
 
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I have a double volume control with my Leema tucana amplifier and my Leema elements dac .
The dac is also a pre amplifier.
I'm not a fan of the double volume but on my dac a get a warning message if I set it to fixed volume.
Tbh I'm not really shore with mine what the dac volume should be set to .
In fixed mode your DAC will put out 2.1mV , so for attaching to an integrated amplifier where it is acting purely as a DAC, it needs to be set to Fixed Output.
 
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Amormusic

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I've got a classic integrated amp (Denon PMA 1600) into which I feed the signal of an external DAC (Cambridge Audio DAC Magic 200+). Now both the amp and the DAC have individual volume knobs - the amp an analogue one, the DAC a digital one. I've gotten used to using both simultaneously, as the amps volume progression is a bit too steep - it gets too loud too fast, especially late at night - and the DAC steps in with more intricate adjustments. Now I've been wondering whether this setup may have any drawbacks, sonically or technically? After all, the DAC does have the option to disable volume control altogether and go into fixed-level output - why would they bother implementing such a feature?
This is why attenuators exist for exactly this problem. Pick up some cheap Rothwell -15db or -20db attenuators and this will give you far more play on your volume dial. I used these with my Sugden amp which had a zero-to-hero fast volume dial to cure exactly the same issue.
 

gasolin

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Don't know what you bought first but the new PMA 1700NE costs les then your amp and your dac

When i had an adjustable dac i gain match it to all my other components
so i don't play loud from my turntable an then a cd which could easily be 10 db higher,louder
 
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suburbansky

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Thank you all for your replies. Based on your feedback, I switched the DAC into fixed output... and quite as I expected, it is way too loud: I couldn't go much beyond about 7 o'clock on the amps volume dial - it's even louder than my streamer and CD player (now feeding into the DAC) connected directly to the amp. I'm starting to think my speakers are way too sensitive for the amp - I had bought them with the option of switching to a tube amp somewhere down the line. (Interestingly, the phono input (amp has in-built phono stage) is way lower, I can easily go to 9 or 10 o'clock and still have agreeable late-night volume levels.)

It seems to be a general problem with 'mechanical' volume dials, I used to have a similar problem on my ancient Yamaha amp and thus started to prefer the digital volume adjustment of my otherwise sub-par Onkyo AV-Receiver.

Conclusion is I ordered a set of Rothwell attenuators, as suggested by AmorMusic - looking forward to trying these out!
 
Thank you all for your replies. Based on your feedback, I switched the DAC into fixed output... and quite as I expected, it is way too loud: I couldn't go much beyond about 7 o'clock on the amps volume dial - it's even louder than my streamer and CD player (now feeding into the DAC) connected directly to the amp. I'm starting to think my speakers are way too sensitive for the amp - I had bought them with the option of switching to a tube amp somewhere down the line. (Interestingly, the phono input (amp has in-built phono stage) is way lower, I can easily go to 9 or 10 o'clock and still have agreeable late-night volume levels.)

It seems to be a general problem with 'mechanical' volume dials, I used to have a similar problem on my ancient Yamaha amp and thus started to prefer the digital volume adjustment of my otherwise sub-par Onkyo AV-Receiver.

Conclusion is I ordered a set of Rothwell attenuators, as suggested by AmorMusic - looking forward to trying these out!
they should be just what you need.
I find it strange it's that different to your other sources as all put out about the same mV, unless you are using balanced output.
 

Amormusic

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Thank you all for your replies. Based on your feedback, I switched the DAC into fixed output... and quite as I expected, it is way too loud: I couldn't go much beyond about 7 o'clock on the amps volume dial - it's even louder than my streamer and CD player (now feeding into the DAC) connected directly to the amp. I'm starting to think my speakers are way too sensitive for the amp - I had bought them with the option of switching to a tube amp somewhere down the line. (Interestingly, the phono input (amp has in-built phono stage) is way lower, I can easily go to 9 or 10 o'clock and still have agreeable late-night volume levels.)

It seems to be a general problem with 'mechanical' volume dials, I used to have a similar problem on my ancient Yamaha amp and thus started to prefer the digital volume adjustment of my otherwise sub-par Onkyo AV-Receiver.

Conclusion is I ordered a set of Rothwell attenuators, as suggested by AmorMusic - looking forward to trying these out!
They should be exactly what you need and should sort your problem.

On a tangent, but how did you find the little Amptastic amp?
 
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suburbansky

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On a tangent, but how did you find the little Amptastic amp?

Oh yes, the Amptastic! Absolutely great! It's in daily service in my office at home, taking in the signal from the Denon in the next room and driving my old T+A speakers just wonderfully! Also, with the Amptastic I can go up to 2 o'clock or so for a full-bodied sound without blasting any windows... :D

Thanks again for your help in obtaining this fun little box!
 
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Amormusic

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My one is just about to be put into use for a little system for my son with some Kralk ribbon speakers I've picked up and some other bits and bobs. Will be truly a kick ass sweet little first system for him. I've actually just bought another one, to set up an office system for me, along with some QA Concept 20's. They are excellent little boxes. Very surprising the sound quality for the cost. Truly a slept on hifi best buy, up there with the value of the Chromecast Audio, imo.

Anyway, glad your enjoying it. All the best.
 

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