DAC volume maximum and headphone minnimum or...?

In order to use headphones I’m using a RNHP Precision Headphone Amplifier running from the RCA outs on my DAC (Bartok), and it works very well. However what should I do about the volume level on the DAC? I mean set volume level on the DAC high and then correspondingly low on the RNHP or the other way around or…? At the moment I aim to set the DAC at about -20dB volume which means and 11 o’clock on the volume dial for the RNHP. So is it better to hit the RNHP with a stronger input signal so it has to amplify less or the other way around?

Let your ears decide

Something Ive learned from headphones is that its very easy to discern differences and gain personal preferences regarding cabling, setup etc. whatever…
Very easy to pickup sibilance, echoes and PRaT, that kind of stuff from the source all the way to the ears imho
So just go with whatever sounds best to you

Dac would give maximum headroom att 100% one might presume, full bitdepth. No guarantee it will be ones preference though…

Yes I need to do some experiments but I was hoping to reduce experimentation time :wink:

I don’t have the RN specs to hand but set the output to 0.6v and volume to max on the Bartok and use the RN for volume control (this Is assuming your using input B). Does that give you plenty of range on the volume control on the RN ?

Not helpful, I know, but wondering why you didn’t get the version of the Bartok with built-in headphone amp? It’s gathered some excellent reviews.


No idea if it applies with the bits of kit you mention, but the usual way of effecting volume control in a software situation (e.g. the volume control on a YouTube or iPlayer page) is simply by reducing the bit-depth. In that situation, it’s clearly best to have the software control at 100% to give you maximum bit-depth, then adjust the other control(s) to suit.


'cause it’s 2.5K extra and only using headphones for perhaps an hour a week doesn’t warrant the expense.

Thanks for the suggestions.
Some other factors to confuse the issue.
Since I’m using the Bartok direct to the power amp and because there are TWO power amps then I have to use an XLR Y cable. This reduces the signal to each amp so that means I have to set the output range (you can configure output signal strength on the Bartok) on the Bartok to it’s maximum in order to get a good range of volume out of the speakers. However this also means that the signal into the headphone amp is able to go quite high. If I was to go to 0db (maximum volume) on the Bartok then it would feed a very high signal into the headphone amp. So the compromise is to reduce the volume on the Bartok.

Interesting. I was using US prices where adding the headphone amp would appear to cost an extra $1500. I wonder why the headphone addition is so much more expensive in the UK the US. Especially as it’s a UK product.


In the UK 10K GBP without amp or 12.5K GBP with. Okay you can sometimes haggle a small discount but it’s still c. £2.5K difference between the two. If I was a 100% headphone user then fair enough but, if not, then that’s a pricey add on. Plus I’m thinking you really need to go mad on a set of cans if you’re spending that sort of money on the amp.

I’ve gone £450 for the RN headphone amp and then some middle-of-the-range Audeze closed 'phones for £650. tbh I would have liked to push the boat out a little on the 'phones but, in a rare dose of common sense when it comes to HiFi spending, I held back :wink:

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