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post #1 of 16 Old 05-11-2020, 08:18 PM - Thread Starter
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DAC question- headphone related

I tried posting this in the amplifier sub forum. Not sure where this belongs, so I thought I would try here too:

Looking to buying a budget/cheap DAC unit from Amazon. One that actually has a volume control. For ones that have a volume knob, does that mean it amplifies the sound going into your headphones at all? I bought one recently that didn't have a volume control knob on it and it was a fixed volume level. I couldn't even adjust it using the TV controls and it was terrible that I couldn'tcrank up the volume. Do the ones with volume control act as at least somewhat of an amp when hooked up and set correctly? Or is the top volume level just the same as it would be if it were a fixed volume DAC unit? And the volume control function just allows you to reduce the sound from the standard fixed level from the optical cable? Need help to make a decision. Thanks

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post #2 of 16 Old 05-12-2020, 02:26 AM
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A DAC with volume control is basically a pre-amp with digital inputs.
The output level is not standardized.
This applies to both line out and headphone out.
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post #3 of 16 Old 05-12-2020, 05:47 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roseval View Post
A DAC with volume control is basically a pre-amp with digital inputs.

The output level is not standardized.

This applies to both line out and headphone out.
I just want to get something where I can turn the volume up a bit and get the experience while watching a movie or TV Show that you mighy get while sitting in a theater with the surround sound booming.

Will I not be able to get that with a standard DAC? What will the highest volume level sound like with one?

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post #4 of 16 Old 05-12-2020, 06:08 AM
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A DAC is like any other source e.g. Tuner, CD-player, etc.
It delivers a line level out.
The power doesn't come from the source or the pre-amp but from the poweramp.
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post #5 of 16 Old 05-12-2020, 07:33 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roseval View Post
A DAC is like any other source e.g. Tuner, CD-player, etc.

It delivers a line level out.

The power doesn't come from the source or the pre-amp but from the poweramp.
Here is the issue. I purchased a DAC recently that didn't have a volume control on it. It turned out to be a fixed volume level at all times no matter what I tried. My headphones don't have the ability to adjust the volume themselves. The volume level that it was fixed at was kind of soft to be honest. I had it connected via the optical cable. I just returned it because I was no happy with it at all.

Will a standard DAC with a volume control knob be able to get the volume any higher than it was with the fixed volume DAC that I had? Or will I be able to get the volume any louder? Or is that what I need one with an amp for?

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post #6 of 16 Old 05-13-2020, 01:22 AM
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You shouldn't hook headphones straight to the output of a DAC. You need a power amp in between - the amp buffers the DAC output from the headphones, and lets you adjust the volume. The advantage of a DAC with headphone amp is a single unit instead of multiple boxes.
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post #7 of 16 Old 05-13-2020, 02:35 PM
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I just ordered this from Schiit, have not received it yet so I cannot comment on how good it is, but I was looking for a simple device I could control the volume of my Peachtree M24 powered desktop speakers as well as plug in my headphones on occasion if I wanted to use them at the computer. It looks to meet my needs, again, I haven't received it yet so I cannot comment on how good it is.


https://www.schiit.com/products/fulla-1
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post #8 of 16 Old 05-14-2020, 09:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveS78 View Post
I tried posting this in the amplifier sub forum. Not sure where this belongs, so I thought I would try here too:

Looking to buying a budget/cheap DAC unit from Amazon. One that actually has a volume control. For ones that have a volume knob, does that mean it amplifies the sound going into your headphones at all? I bought one recently that didn't have a volume control knob on it and it was a fixed volume level. I couldn't even adjust it using the TV controls and it was terrible that I couldn'tcrank up the volume. Do the ones with volume control act as at least somewhat of an amp when hooked up and set correctly? Or is the top volume level just the same as it would be if it were a fixed volume DAC unit? And the volume control function just allows you to reduce the sound from the standard fixed level from the optical cable? Need help to make a decision. Thanks

Sent from my SM-N950U using Tapatalk
You haven't told us what specific headphones they are, nor the DAC that wasn't strong enough, however I'd say generally speaking any DAC with an optical in and headphone out with a volume control will successfully play loud enough for most people with most headphones. Random example:
https://www.amazon.com/Converter-Blu...9474086&sr=8-5
Note this unit has two options for how much gain there is: low and high.

Some headphones need more power than most and some people like it louder than most so I can't make any promises.

P.S. My guess is this unit will insist on stereo (PCM) digital input only so be sure your transmitting device is not set to send Dolby Digital.

Let us know how it all works out.

Last edited by m. zillch; 05-14-2020 at 09:53 AM.
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post #9 of 16 Old 05-16-2020, 06:54 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
You haven't told us what specific headphones they are, nor the DAC that wasn't strong enough, however I'd say generally speaking any DAC with an optical in and headphone out with a volume control will successfully play loud enough for most people with most headphones. Random example:

https://www.amazon.com/Converter-Blu...9474086&sr=8-5

Note this unit has two options for how much gain there is: low and high.



Some headphones need more power than most and some people like it louder than most so I can't make any promises.



P.S. My guess is this unit will insist on stereo (PCM) digital input only so be sure your transmitting device is not set to send Dolby Digital.



Let us know how it all works out.
Here are my headphones:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01A0EAYDI..._96-VEb9FZ6EV0

Here is the DAC I bought:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KNNSKV0..._X7-VEbJH15GS2

Take note that this DAC doesn't have a volume control on it. It was a fixed volume and I couldn't increase it for the life of me. I tried everything I could think of to no avail. The volume it produced was very disappointingly not powerful and not very loud at all. Which is not acceptable for someone like me who likes to crank up movies to feel the full power of all the sound effects, music and voices...

My worry is that even if I buy a DAC like the one you posted above, even if there is a volume control, since its technically still not an amplifier on its own, its maximum volume won't go higher, generally speaking, than the fixed volume one I purchased. I thought I read that somewhere anyways, that it would have to be an amp to actually increase the volume beyond the fixed level that the optical input sends to it...

Let me know if I am wrong though. I am hoping I am. I would love to just purchase the one you posted for a little over $20 and be done with it and satisfied. Haha


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Last edited by SteveS78; 05-16-2020 at 06:57 AM.
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post #10 of 16 Old 05-16-2020, 09:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveS78 View Post
Here are my headphones:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01A0EAYDI..._96-VEb9FZ6EV0

Here is the DAC I bought:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KNNSKV0..._X7-VEbJH15GS2

Take note that this DAC doesn't have a volume control on it. It was a fixed volume and I couldn't increase it for the life of me. I tried everything I could think of to no avail. The volume it produced was very disappointingly not powerful and not very loud at all. Which is not acceptable for someone like me who likes to crank up movies to feel the full power of all the sound effects, music and voices...

My worry is that even if I buy a DAC like the one you posted above, even if there is a volume control, since its technically still not an amplifier on its own, its maximum volume won't go higher, generally speaking, than the fixed volume one I purchased. I thought I read that somewhere anyways, that it would have to be an amp to actually increase the volume beyond the fixed level that the optical input sends to it...

Let me know if I am wrong though. I am hoping I am. I would love to just purchase the one you posted for a little over $20 and be done with it and satisfied. Haha


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By my read your headphones are wireless primarily but happen to have a direct wired in option as well. I have zero experience with such hybrid designs but I wonder if they have been optimized for wireless rather than wired operation. For instance, hypothetically, the designer could have thought, "Since I have to market this with the least expensive parts as possible, I'm going to use a lower quality internal amp which has enough power but a high level of background hiss. The solution to keep customers from complaining about the hiss during quiet or silent passages is to make the headphone drivers (the actual cones) inefficient so they don't reveal that faint hiss or at least keep it very low." Such a design then would suffer from needing a higher than normal input level from external gear.

One way to discover if your headphones need a higher than typical input level would be to plug them into some alternate source like a cell phone or, even better, a full size stereo receiver's headphone jack. Have access to those?

P.S. Just in case you don't know, listening to music or movies at high levels can cause permanent hearing damage.
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Last edited by m. zillch; 05-16-2020 at 09:12 AM.
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post #11 of 16 Old 05-16-2020, 10:11 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
By my read your headphones are wireless primarily but happen to have a direct wired in option as well. I have zero experience with such hybrid designs but I wonder if they have been optimized for wireless rather than wired operation. For instance, hypothetically, the designer could have thought, "Since I have to market this with the least expensive parts as possible, I'm going to use a lower quality internal amp which has enough power but a high level of background hiss. The solution to keep customers from complaining about the hiss during quiet or silent passages is to make the headphone drivers (the actual cones) inefficient so they don't reveal that faint hiss or at least keep it very low." Such a design then would suffer from needing a higher than normal input level from external gear.



One way to discover if your headphones need a higher than typical input level would be to plug them into some alternate source like a cell phone or, even better, a full size stereo receiver's headphone jack. Have access to those?



P.S. Just in case you don't know, listening to music or movies at high levels can cause permanent hearing damage.
The headphones are fine. They have volume control when turned power on for the bluetooth. When plugged in, the power has to be off and the wired function can't use volume control.

Can you answer the question about the DAC amp ability and volume in my previous post? Thanks

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post #12 of 16 Old 05-16-2020, 10:47 AM
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Originally Posted by SteveS78 View Post
Can you answer the question about the DAC amp ability and volume in my previous post? Thanks
Sorry, not without the unit in hand to test, no, and the listed specs aren't detailed enough to calculate maximum output either.

The unit I linked to with the volume knob and the high gain option [implying to me it does amplify in that mode, but I can't be sure] only receives positive reviews on Amazon and nobody mentions the word "volume" one way or another.

From its description:
"Support 16-300Ω Headphone, you can use it as a Hi-Fi amplifier with the volume control"
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Last edited by m. zillch; 05-16-2020 at 10:51 AM.
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post #13 of 16 Old 05-16-2020, 11:28 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
Sorry, not without the unit in hand to test, no, and the listed specs aren't detailed enough to calculate maximum output either.



The unit I linked to with the volume knob and the high gain option [implying to me it does amplify in that mode, but I can't be sure] only receives positive reviews on Amazon and nobody mentions the word "volume" one way or another.



From its description:

"Support 16-300Ω Headphone, you can use it as a Hi-Fi amplifier with the volume control"
Thanks I might try it

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post #14 of 16 Old 05-16-2020, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by SteveS78 View Post
Thanks I might try it

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Let us know your results, good or bad. Thanks.
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post #15 of 16 Old 05-16-2020, 03:15 PM - Thread Starter
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Let us know your results, good or bad. Thanks.
I will.

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post #16 of 16 Old 05-18-2020, 07:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
By my read your headphones are wireless primarily but happen to have a direct wired in option as well. I have zero experience with such hybrid designs but I wonder if they have been optimized for wireless rather than wired operation. For instance, hypothetically, the designer could have thought, "Since I have to market this with the least expensive parts as possible, I'm going to use a lower quality internal amp which has enough power but a high level of background hiss. The solution to keep customers from complaining about the hiss during quiet or silent passages is to make the headphone drivers (the actual cones) inefficient so they don't reveal that faint hiss or at least keep it very low." Such a design then would suffer from needing a higher than normal input level from external gear.
This hypothetical was informative in and of itself!
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May 2020 update: home is sold, 9.1.4 HT is in storage! Surviving lockdown with Sennheiser HD 58X & Sony WH1000-XM3 & JDS Labs Atom headphones/amp
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