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What are the differences in the quality of sound output when the volume is changed in the following environments:

  • Windows 10 volume slider in bottom-right corner
  • Media program such as VLC player when playing a music file
  • Media program such as Spotify when streaming music

Is there any difference between the 3, e.g., would turning down the volume using Windows 10 volume slider be any different from turning down the volume using the VLC inbuilt volume slider?

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Windows 10 volume slider:

This is the main slider which controls overall volume of your PC.

VLC player & Spotify

These and other similar programs volume sliders control itself volume.

Example:

if you decrease volume or mute within media player then you are modifying that specific player sound; Not entire PC. Which means, Those settings won't applied on Windows Notification System OR other media players and they can play sounds.

And if you modify Windows 10 volume like "mute it" then all sounds will be muted. (Including media player, notification and other sounds)

In Short:

  • Windows 10: Global settings and will effect all sounds (players, notifications etc)
  • Media Players: Specific player settings

Hope it helps :)

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  • Hi Atlas_Gondal, I understand how the Windows 10 slider is global and the media players are specific, but is there any effects to the quality of the audio? – George Tian Jul 8 '17 at 2:54
  • If it's analog music then it can have slight sound difference in different players. But being digital and going through the same hardware, no difference at all. However, you can make difference by modifying player settings. Bit-rate and codec also plays a major role in the quality of the sound. Not the player. There are certainly big differences in features, format support capability, and ease of use. But the bottom line is if both players support the same file format, the end results running through the same sound card and speakers is the same. – Atlas_Gondal Jul 8 '17 at 6:20
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Once the audio becomes digital, various volumes basically effect that audio in the same manner. Gradations may vary but ...

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What are the differences in the quality of sound output when the volume is changed in the following environments:

Usually, none, because the players just pass through the audio(after necessary decoding due to the codec, not the amplitude). On a separate note, there would have been a difference if the audio was fed directly into an internal/external DAC (sound card) because of better noise ratio.

Is there any difference between the 3

Yes. Media player amplifies only your songs and its inherent noise signals. But the OS will amplify all the inputs, of which media player is only one. We have the default Windows sound engine that gives the sound notifications, and potentially many more, like chrome that opens up a channel. So, Windows will amplify your song and all the noise that come from other inputs. The final effect is not that bad because most inputs are designed such that when there is no sound output, it closes the path, thereby avoiding noise. Also, for a user, it is more convenient to handle just one volume control.

Windows 10 volume slider in bottom-right corner

The OS changes the amplitude of all audio being routed through the sound card. OS knows the absolute high and low that your sound card supports - so can better judge the feasible levels and gradations.

Media program such as VLC player when playing a music file and Media program such as Spotify when streaming music

It decodes, reduces amplitude, and sends to the OS.

Notes

  1. We set the media player volume at 150% and windows at 10%. Quality is bad, volume would be low (because end result would be 15%). VLC artificially amplifies the signals using interpolation, thereby adding noise.
  2. We set the media player volume at 10% and windows at 90%. Quality is fine, volume would be low (because end result would be 9%). Neither the media player or the OS messes with the actual signal, hence no losses.
  3. We set the media player volume at 90% and windows at 10%. Quality is fine, volume would be low (because end result would be 9%). Neither the media player or the OS messes with the actual signal, hence no losses.
  4. Some media players like Windows Movies etc. uses the latest Windows SDKs and hence hands over all the volume change inputs directly to the OS through SDK. So when you move the voume slide inside the Windows Movies, the OS slider also moves. This is an optimal solution, since it reduces one step of pass through.
  5. When the volume at high levels like 70% above will sound worse usually, but the culprit is the speaker system that cannot handle frequencies at that amplitude. Neither the OS, nor the media player is the issue.
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