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Windows PC not outputting loud enough?

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Windows PC not outputting loud enough?

Postby zicmaveric » Sat Jun 09, 2018 3:12 pm

I recently replaced my crappy little computer speakers for a 90's Panasonic S8-CH80 system with S8-CH79 speakers. These seem to me to be a better choice than lower-end modern powered bookshelf speakers in the same range (I bought the system for approx. $30 USD).

Though the stereo sounds good enough to me (until I can afford upgrades), my setup has a flaw that I'm investigating and cannot find answers for anywhere. I am hoping you can help me figure this out:

The volume of integrated system components i.e. CD, Tape deck and Tuner, is much louder than the volume of the AUX, which is the connection I am using for my computer. Is that because the AUX input bypasses the integrated preamp in the stereo system? Or is it because the computer simply does not output a signal as high as the other components? Or is it another reason completely?

Windows PC volume has been set at 100% for all my tests. When I plug in my headphones directly in the PC, the volume at 100% is a little too loud, but still, not deafening. Does the problem lie in my PC? I have tried fixing the output devices and drivers and Windows settings to that effect with no success.

I have tried using my cheap DAC between the PC and the AUX (which I had from a different setup) and turning its potentiometer to the max, which I think helped but still couldn't match the volume of the FM tuner. And I don't want to use the DAC because it has developed a noticeable background gain. So how do I fix my level problem? I'd rather not have to use the power amp in the stereo up near it's top end. So would I need to use a preamp between the analog output of my PC and the stereo's AUX? And if so, would a small headphone or phono preamp do the trick or are they no good for this job?
Windows PC has been set at 100% for all my tests. When I plug in my headphones directly in the PC, the volume at 100% is a little too loud, but still, not deafening. Does the problem lie in my PC? I have tried fixing the output devices and drivers and Windows settings to that effect with no success.

Thanks for your help!
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Re: Windows PC not outputting loud enough?

Postby ef37a » Sat Jun 09, 2018 9:21 pm

The most likely factor is the PC output is too low. Are you coming from RCA 'phonos' on an internal sound card or using a stereo 3.5mm jack to RCA cable? Either way it seems the CH80 does not have sufficient gain to give a good output. (though try as I might I cannot find a figure for that gain/sensitivity!)

Not a lot can be done save find a simple stereo line pre amp with around 10dB (X3) gain. Trouble is they are like hen's teeth! I can find any number of "pre amps" and many are basic, battery powered devices but are all PHONO i.e. corrected for amplifying a pickup cartridge.

If you were up for a spot of DIY, easy. Velleman make a kit (as did Maplin) .

Two solutions come to mind.
An Audio Interface (Google Steinberg UR22) One those will take the USB data and produce enough drive for the mini 'hi fi'. This is however a bit of an expense and overkill unless you want to embark on the home recording hobby.

Next up, a small mixer (Xenyx 502 e.g.) One of these will have line inputs and should easily give enough gain to drive the amp. A mixer would also allow the input of other devices, a phone for instance.

Dave.
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Re: Windows PC not outputting loud enough?

Postby James Perrett » Sat Jun 09, 2018 9:35 pm

Headphone output voltages tend to be lower than line level so, if you don't want to spend any money, you are going to have to set the level to full on the computer and turn the volume up on the stereo (just remember to turn it down again before switching sources).

It may be worth checking that all the relevant levels are at full on the computer - sometimes there's a master level control that isn't obvious.
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Re: Windows PC not outputting loud enough?

Postby Agharta » Sat Jun 09, 2018 9:55 pm

I would test the AUX input using another device, ideally something with a line level output.
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Re: Windows PC not outputting loud enough?

Postby Wonks » Sat Jun 09, 2018 10:43 pm

What output on the PC are you using to connect to the Aux input? The normal integrated audio stereo line output jack surround is normally coloured lime green, though this often doubles as the headphone output.

If you have a multimeter, you could check that the mini-jack to twin RCA connector cable you are using isn't faulty, and that the ground and left and right signal paths all have a low resistance (should be less than 1 ohm). If there is a bad ground connection, then you'll probably still get a very low level signal (providing that both the PC and the Hi-Fi have power supply ground connections, but nothing like as strong as if the ground wire in the cable is fully connected at both ends.

Otherwise there is no real issue in turning the amplifier volume control up, apart from raising the background noise level. The volume control merely attenuates the signal coming from the pre-amp that feeds the power amp section, it doesn't make the power amp work harder - that is driven by the signal level the power section receives.
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Re: Windows PC not outputting loud enough?

Postby zicmaveric » Mon Jun 11, 2018 12:15 pm

Thanks, guys! I will do some tests and search in the user manual and will be coming back here soon to post more questions or... hopefully... an answer!
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