Lack of volume control (or, the most annoying thing about loudness war CDs?)

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Retro Music Man, Sep 27, 2020.

  1. Retro Music Man

    Retro Music Man Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    I've often noticed something very frustrating about CDs affected by the loudness war - and it has nothing to do with the poor quality audio.

    Instead, it pertains to the actual loudness (high RMS levels). Many discs are impossible to enjoy at a reasonable level on my system, because my amp's volume control doesn't give me enough control at the bottom end of its range. At the lowest position, the disc sounds way too quiet, and just one notch above, it's uncomfortably loud.

    I know you can buy in-line attenuators from companies like Rothwell, but I'm too much of a cheapskate. So I've actually imported some CDs into Adobe Audition, knocked down the gain by 10dB or so, and burnt CD-R copies for more comfortable listening.

    It's pretty annoying that the consumer is forced to create workarounds for the music industry's intentionally shoddy products.
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2020
  2. Chilli

    Chilli Pretend Engineer.

    Location:
    UK
    If you're unable to get off the the bottom of the dial it sounds like your input stage is massively overloaded. How is your CD player connected to the amp?

    I did notice in the manual this Caution note;

     
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  3. Retro Music Man

    Retro Music Man Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    It's just connected with coax digital. It's fine for CDs with conservative levels (say, -15dB RMS), but anything above -8 dB RMS and there's virtually no control whatsoever.
     
  4. punkmusick

    punkmusick Formerly 4011021

    Location:
    Brazil
    No CD should be so loud you can't use the volume knob. Something must be wrong with your setup. Did you check the bottons mentioned in post #2?
     
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  5. Retro Music Man

    Retro Music Man Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    Yep. I don't use CD DIRECT AMP because my CD player is connected via digital coax, not analog RCA. And I never touch the loudness control - it's always turned off.
     
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  6. Oelewapper

    Oelewapper Plays vinyl instead of installing it on the floor.

    Maybe it's a mismatch between the output of your CD player and input of your amp?
    Or maybe the power rating of your amp is much higher than the power rating of your speakers?

    Do you have the same issue when using other devices at max volume on the same input?
    If so, it's probably a bad match between your amp and speakers.

    I see that the amp (Yamaha A-S701) has an impedance selection switch at the back, have you checked that?
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2020
  7. Wayne Nielson

    Wayne Nielson Forum Resident

    We haven't been told what amp (or preamp) you are using, but one of my preamps with digital direct inputs (uses its own internal DAC), has a input level control feature to adjust the incoming volume before the DAC.

    You could also try the regular analog outputs of your CD player into an ordinary line input on your amp (or preamp). That should tame things down.
     
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  8. LostArk

    LostArk Well-Known Member

    Location:
    New York
    I've experienced this phenomenon as well, I always thought it was due to my AB amp outputting class A at low power and then jumping up in volume when it "kicks in" to AB. Based on some measurements with a decibel meter my volume pot is logarithmic, so I can't explain why there would be a low volume "jump" otherwise. Someone please set me straight if my speculations have no merit.
     
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  9. Curiosity

    Curiosity Just A Boy

    Location:
    United Kingdom
    All volume controls are logarithmic with most of the action centred in the first third of its rotations.
    What can make this issue of insufficient range in adjusting worse is when in any stages before the volume control comes into effect they have overloaded which can happen as typically a cd player has an output of around 2 volts while most other sources are around 0.775 or less and it is rare for a manufacturer build into a cd input a means of attenuating it prior to going through the same stages with the same gain as any other line level input.
     
  10. Tim 2

    Tim 2 MORE MUSIC PLEASE

    Location:
    Alberta Canada
    Interesting problem, can't recall having that issue with any system.
     
  11. Oelewapper

    Oelewapper Plays vinyl instead of installing it on the floor.

    The OP is using a S/PDIF over coax connection.
    Are you sure those voltages also apply to that?
     
  12. George P

    George P Notable Member

    Location:
    NYC
    I am going to assume that you are using the A-S701 amp in your profile.

    I have the A-S801 amp and can say that I have plenty of control over the volume for all CDs/SACDs using the knob or the the remote for the amp. For CDs/SACDs that are mastered at a low level, I barely hear a difference in volume with each push (and quick release) of the remote's volume buttons. For stuff that is mastered super loud, though, I get a bigger change with each push of the button, but that is to be expected. Even still, I can adjust the volume in reasonable increments with these loud masterings. Can I get the volume to where it sounds good for all recordings and not be uncomfortably loud? No, but that is also to be expected. The sad truth is that there are a lot of crappy masterings out there.

    In fact, crappy masterings are what brought me to this forum in the first place. I had bought my first decent stereo and began collecting CDs. Around that time, Accelerate by R.E.M. came out. Being a huge fan, I rushed home with the CD, only to find out that it sounded like absolute crap. I thought maybe the disc was defective, so I did a Google search and ultimately found this place. Here I learned that the quality of one's stereo gets better, it becomes more revealing. This means if the mastering has distortion, tons of compression, etc, then I will hear all of that, loud and clear on my stereo.

    Since then, when I play something on my stereo and it sounds bad, I don't listen to it on my stereo anymore. I play it through earbuds on my Android. Usually, even then it sounds bad, so I end up rarely listening to it. It really sucks, but luckily there are still labels out there doing good work, producing great mastering, labels like Analogue Productions, Mobile Fidelity, Intervention Records, etc.

    I do find it ironic that the people who master this stuff do so to create the loudest possible sound. However, on my stereo, I can't play loud masterings very loud before they sound terrible. The stuff I can play loud on my stereo has been mastered with full dynamics.
     
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  13. Curiosity

    Curiosity Just A Boy

    Location:
    United Kingdom
    If effectively they have added the internal DAC to their amplifier regular design without consideration that issue it, then yes it may and unless their is any kind of way of setting the output of the dac for example a setting on the remote, you can't do anything about it. I'd like to think the designer had considered it but wouldn't count on it.

    This has been an issue ever since the cd has been around as for reasons best known to themselves they set the output on the chips noticeably higher than any other line level source and some solid state inputs switching systems have less headroom than traditional switches.
     
  14. AP1

    AP1 Well-Known Member

    Location:
    TX
    Some integrated amplifier with internal DAC have excessive gain from digital input. You may read Stereophile reviews fro examples. There is nothing good you really can do. If you reduce volume in digital domain, you loose already low resolution. For each 6 dB down, you sacrify one bit.

    Check you amplifier if it has input trim adjustment. That is the only thing you can do other than get analog signal from CD player or get an external DAC.
     
  15. Oelewapper

    Oelewapper Plays vinyl instead of installing it on the floor.

    Ah okay, I just assumed that S/PDIF would be a standardized transmission protocol, but I have zero knowledge about it.
     
  16. AP1

    AP1 Well-Known Member

    Location:
    TX
    It is. But it is a DIGITAL protocol.
     
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  17. Oelewapper

    Oelewapper Plays vinyl instead of installing it on the floor.

    Yes exactly, that’s why I thought that the line voltages didn’t apply.
     
  18. Retro Music Man

    Retro Music Man Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    Thanks for all of your suggestions. I ended up connecting my CD player to the analog input of the amp, and I now have quite a bit more control over the volume. It's not perfect, mind you, but definitely better than before.

    Maybe the A-S701 has a poorly designed digital stage, or maybe they weren't expecting people to put signals that resemble 0dBFS square waves through it :D
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2020
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  19. George P

    George P Notable Member

    Location:
    NYC
    Have you tried the CD Direct Amp function? That should give you the best sound quality.
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2020
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  20. Retro Music Man

    Retro Music Man Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    Yep, that's currently switched on, even though it doesn't seem to make a perceptible difference. I always have the tone controls flat anyway.
     
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  21. George P

    George P Notable Member

    Location:
    NYC
    The difference I hear varies from CD to CD and its best heard in the sweet spot.
     
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  22. George P

    George P Notable Member

    Location:
    NYC
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2020
  23. Cast Iron Shore

    Cast Iron Shore Forum Resident

    Location:
    US
    One of many problems I have with brickwalled or crewcut files is that whenever they come on my listening device, they roar on in and I have to reach for the volume knob. Then when the song is over I have to turn it up again, as my music collection consists (mainly) of well mastered music and LP rips when I can't find a decent sounding digital copy.
     

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