I use a headphone amps with my Mac Book Air, there are two volume controls in this setup: one is the Mac Book Air, and the other one is the amp.

What should be the optimal settings for both volumes?

p.s. I found that best sound is when I set my MBA to 100% volume and control the amp to find the suitable volumne, but I am not sure if it is recommended.


In general it is best to keep the signal as hot as possible (i.e. 100%) until the final volume step. The reason is that you may have a noise floor from the computer and you may get additional noise on the cable between the computer and headphone preamp. By running the signal as hot as possible and the reduce the volume as last step, you will also reduce the volume of that noise, hence get a cleaner sound.

There are a few things to keep in mind though:

  1. some software start to introduce compression/clipping at high volume settings
  2. the output amplifiers in the computer sound adapter output may start clipping/distorting/popping with very hot/loud mastered music.
  3. the headphone preamp might not like the input that hot - i.e. it will start distorting/clipping

The only way to find out is to experiment a little and listen. You might go for something like 90-95% from the computer (and possibly also the software you play from). If it doesn't make a positive audible difference, just go for 100%


Yes, as you are writing, at 100% you get best quality and control. As a sound engineer I want loudest signal possible, so I would set output to 100% unless it is clipping on the input.

For headphones loudness it is suggested that if someone wants to talk to you, he should not have to raise his voice for you to notice him. Another one is that you should be able to hear a microwave beep.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.