Setting Volume Levels

I want to connect my MacBook Pro to my Sennheiser HDV 820 DAC/Amp via the USB input.
For playback, where should I set my MacBook’s volume…half, three-quarters, full? I guess I want enough of an output to be off the noise floor, yet not too much as to cause concern for distortion.
Appreciate your thoughts.


Assuming you are using a usb connection to the dac then typically you want the player at 100% volume and set the listening volume in the amp. Distortion is not a concern with this connection

If you are using an analog out to the amp then yes, it is possible to have the output signal too high and cause distortion. Usually 75% is a place to start. If your normal listening volume is at a reasonable setting of the amp volume and it all sounds fine then nothing too worry about.

Edit: You did say you are using usb. I left the analog part in, in case someone might find it helpful.


Yup, +1 on the 100% volume and adjusting volume on the amp…

1 Like

Thank you…my brain is still in analog, but yes, my connection will be usb :grin::+1:
Realizing now there is the players volume in the app, and the MacBook’s volume.
Would you set them both to maximum?

With my Mac, a USB connection to a DAC results in a fixed line-level output. One cannot adjust the volume on the Mac itself.

When using the analog output (3.5mm headphone jack; internal Mac DAC), various sources have different recommendations. Some say set it to 100% to best preserve the signal and reduce the volume at the external amp. Others say set it to 97% to avoid internal amp distortion. These seem to be theory driven, as I don’t hear much difference between 35% and 100%. The Mac or PC has already converted to analog and sent the signal through its weak internal amp, so there are limits to the final quality no matter what.

EDIT: I always keep the “Audio MIDI Setup” app in my dock. It lets one control the DAC and output options.


Yes, set all the computer volume controls at max. The idea is that you want the original data (like from a streaming service) to be sent to the dac unchanged.

Lowering the volume alters the data so that’s why you want to stay at max volume.

It’s a good habit to never have your headphones on when setting up gear, and also to lower the amp volume to zero before starting playback. This avoids a surprise blast of full-volume music to your ears.

I don’t have a mac so I can’t advise on the specifics there.

1 Like

Thank you Nick…greatly appreciate your time.

Having a 380W Carver amp teaches you to turn down the volume.
I’ve yet to launch a voice coil across the room :grin::+1:

Stay well,


This +1! Exactly on point!