Where we set our audio system-level can make a tremendous amount of difference.
One of the problems I often see in digital audio is people hell-bent on setting the volume level in the app they are streaming from. In almost every case, this is exactly the wrong thing to do. Changing the playback level at the source is a really bad way to reproduce high-performance audio. For example, if you’re using Audirvana, iTunes, or Bit Perfect, the last place you want to adjust the playback level is in those programs. The moment you do that any chance of bit-perfect performance flies right out the window.
The exceptions to this are when you’re using a program like Roon, or our upcoming program Octave. There, the levels can be adjusted right in the music management program because the source remains bit perfect. What you’re actually doing, in that case, is controlling the DAC itself through the interface. Thus, it looks like it’s happening right in the app when actually you’re doing it just right.
It’s a common mistake to make and one we see all the time. Your preamp or DAC is where you should be adjusting the level.
Keeping digital audio at its bit-perfect best is always going to sound best.
Part of knowing our HiFi Family so well is understanding what I like to think of as Audiophile Wisdom, the collective agreement of what we believe. For example, audiophiles pretty much agree that vacuum tubes sound one way, solid-state devices quite another. Or, LP’s and vinyl has its sound and digital something different.
Every interest group on Planet Earth has its share of collective wisdom. That’s certainly nothing new, but when it comes to audio I have yet to find any other passion-driven endeavor to be so rich and vocal when it comes to our beliefs.
Some might refer to the common wisdom as myths while others would consider much to be gospel. Whatever your viewpoint on the audiophile’s wisdom, it’s helpful to recognize some of the more popular tropes. Separating the things we believe from facts can be very helpful when attempting to untangle often complicated subjects.
One of the main goals of the Ask Paul video series is unraveling some of the conventional audiophile wisdom and helping people understand the origins of the stories and beliefs. Often, I have to check myself to make sure what I am saying isn’t simply a regurgitation—hard when you’ve been so immersed in the culture for such a long time.
I think it’s always helpful to share our collective wisdom with others. It’s also important to check your sources. Most audiophile wisdom is based in old history that may or may not be true anymore.
Be careful your accumulated wisdom doesn’t send you down the wrong road.