Paul McGowan writes: Have you ever been leery of turning up the volume control too high because you don’t want to push the system too hard? I don’t mean in terms of volume level but stressing out the preamp by getting too close to its limits? If that’s happened to you, you’re not alone.
It’s a common misconception that turning the volume control up near its limits will have negative affects on the sound when actually the opposite is true. The higher you can set the volume control, the better your system will sound and here’s why.
Volume controls add resistance or a limiting element into the signal path. If you were to remove the volume control altogether- just solder a wire straight across it – then the signal path would have a direct shot at the power amp and the sound would benefit from it.
Most people I know seem to have this vision in their head that relates the volume control to the gas pedal of a car. It’s common knowledge that stepping on the gas all the way maxes out the engine and you’re much better off keeping it at half throttle. But just the opposite is true in a hi fi system.
Think of the volume control more like the brakes of your car. You can imagine that if you apply the brakes and the gas at the same time, the car is stressed out – so too is your system. It’s much better to release the brake and let ‘er run.
The optimum solution is to match the sensitivity of your amp to your preamp so you’re volume control is mostly up at normal to loud listening levels.
Finally, someone’s egging you on to “step on the gas!”