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For my computer, there are a dozen different ways to adjust the volume in various ways and on various levels using both software and hardware. The following things have individual volume controls:

  • Speakers
  • Headphones
  • Keyboard volume dial (pretty sure this is tied to the Win7 master volume...)
  • Windows 7 master volume control
  • MP3 software (like iTunes or foobar2000)
  • Movie software like VLC
  • In-browser video or audio players like YouTube
  • etc...

It would be very nice if there was ONE single place that I could control the volume of things I hear on my computer. But that's not at all how it is...

Now, I know that obviously different audio sources have different levels of audio that require me to adjust volume and that adjusting volume is necessary, but what I hate is that I seemingly adjust the volume in 10 different places throughout the day. Sometimes I have to adjust my speaker volume for certain things, sometimes I have to adjust my Windows volume, sometimes I have to adjust the specific YouTube video volume, sometimes I'm adjusting the volume in iTunes, etc...

Early today I started watching some YouTube video and I begin to turn up the volume using the volume control on my keyboard, only to discover that the volume got EXTREMELY loud with even the slightest turn of the dial because the dial on my speakers was almost set to the max level. I didn't set my speaker level like that on purpose, but unintentionally did it earlier in the day because that was the volume level that I needed it at to hear some YouTube video or something (presumably because the Windows 7 volume must have been extremely low at the time).

What I'm getting at, is that it would be nice if there was some way to "normalize" everything. Somehow know what the set all my volume levels to, so that I would NEVER have to touch them and that I would only need to adjust one single master volume control and thats it.

Is this possible? Am I the only one that ends up adjusting the volume in a dozen different places? How to professional audio engineers setup their computers to deal with these types of issues?

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Feel your pain. I hate it when I end up turning everything up for something on youtube, then forget, and get blasted out of my chair when my Mac chirps at me. Goodness gracious, there needs to be a better way. –  Kerri Shotts May 22 '11 at 4:45
    
I think the easiest way is to just leave everything at full volume (YouTube, iTunes, whatever) and only use one method to change the volume, that covers everything. So either use the Windows master volume control, or the volume control on your speakers. That way everything will always be the same volume. –  Connor W May 22 '11 at 16:25

2 Answers 2

Its not really possible, although you can do some things to mitigate the problem.

For a start, if the sounds comes out of your computer in analog form to your speakers/headphones etc, there's no way to somehow sync the physical volume control on the speakers back to the PC etc. As your speakers/headphones are the last device in the chain to your ears, that is preferably where you should be controlling the volume.

Ideally at the output, you want a high signal to noise ratio, so you want to reduce the volume as little as possible before it leaves your PC as analog, as quieter volumes make line noise more noticeable, which will then get amplified when you turn up your speakers/headphones.

You are correct that your keyboard volume buttons should control the Win 7 master volume.

Additionally, media players' volume control should link to the applications volume control in the windows sound mixer panel. I know Windows Media Player does this, I'm not sure about others. If they don't, you should probably file a bug report/feature request for it.

The Windows sound mixer panel should be the 1 stop place for volume control, although clearly some apps take things into their own hands. Flash etc inside browsers doesnt seem to link to the volume control panel in any way, the volume percentage for the host application gets multiplied by the setting in Flash etc (eg if both are 50% you will get .5 x .5 = .25 -> 25%). I guess this is so you can have two or more Flash vids playing with different sound levels...

Basically, its going to vary per user how they want the volume to behave, and what they think is normal.

For me, I set everything to 100% in applications and the windows sound mixer, and control the volume purely with the physical dial on my speakers or headphones (its faster than having to click your way around the UI to change), as I rarely have more than 1 sound source + system sounds going at a time, and I try to keep system sounds at a minimum. If you music catalog has lots of quiet music you listen to, you may wish to turn down other apps + system sounds to compensate.

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The issue is that not all audio is created equal on YouTube or other video sharing sites. It really is the job of the video creator to normalize the sound before it gets uploaded to YouTube. That job is done through compressors, limiters and audio gain.

Theoretically, I guess, you can create a program that listens to the master audio out and applies the same principles but I would also guess it to be resource hungry and not worth the trouble. An easier option, though still not perfect, is to purchase hardware that is capable of compressing a signal and boosting the output to get a normalized sound. The reason why it is not perfect as you will never be able to compress and boost the signals enough for every situation.

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