what’s the difference between volume and gain when it comes to sound ?

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It may sound a little bit dumb but yeah, when I turn up the volume of my computer the sound is stronger, louder, but the same happens if I turn up the gain, so what’s the difference?

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7 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

Where do you have a gain control on your computer?

Anonymous 0 Comments

Volume is how loud the output is, after processing.

Gain is how loud the input is, before processing.

Anonymous 0 Comments

“Volume” is for output, “Gain” is for input.

Not every input is equally loud. A plug-in microphone, a USB headset, a webcam, will all have slightly different levels, which means the input will vary.

One might be really loud, so your voice is blaring, and volume goes from 0%-120%. One might be really quiet, so you’re barely heard, and volume only goes from 0%-60%

In these situations, you use the gain to turn that particular input up or down until the level is where you need it to be, equal with other sounds, so that you have the full 0%-100% of the volume range.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Gain is the signal level into the amp circuit and volume is the output of the amp circuit. Gain doesn’t technically control the loudness.

Gain is usually at line level whereas volume is at speaker level.

For the average user, this distinction isn’t very useful or even meaningful, but in a production environment it matters that you have your signal gain set up well as it determines what happens with that signal going into the amp (or any other downstream components).

Anonymous 0 Comments

Gain is the amount of additional energy a signal receives (gains) in the preceding amplification stage.

Volume is the total energy that the system output signal produces, measured by the area (2D *volume*) bounded by its waveform.

Gain describes by how much a pre-amplifier amplifies the energy of an audio signal between its source (detected directly from the media, like a cassette tape, phonograph record, or a CD digital to analog converter. A very small voltage) and the preamplifier output, which usually feeds the final amplifier that drives the speakers. This is what sound mixing boards so. They accept inputs of various magnitude and allow the operator to normalize and mix the audio before amplifying it and sending it on.

Preamplifiers normalize source signals of varying magnitude so that the preamp output/final amp input levels are the same (which is why stereo receivers have component selectors. Each has a different pre-amp gain). In other words you want to feed the final amp with signals of similar level, lest you need to turn the volume knob every time you switch sources. So pre-amp gain may change to keep the volume steady.

As described above, volume describes the magnitude of the energy that the final output signal contains (or can contain). If you look at the signal on an oscilloscope, energy magnitude is found by calculating the area between the reference voltage (usually 0) and the wave scribed by the signal’s oscillating voltage (+/- some amouunt).

Anonymous 0 Comments

audio processes, whether analogue or digital, have a range where they are effective, and as the amplitude (or digital representation of it) begin to get inaccurate. distortion and clipping might be used deliberately sometimes but mostly we try to at least make it possible to avoid it!

so gain scales the input, and we adjust it to fit the input through the process as best we can, like directing a hose into a bucket. some systems won’t be powerful enough, or sensitive enough, or maybe oversensitive, but usually if equipment or software is connected up as intended the default gain will be centered and effective.

volume is used ambiguously. we just say volume instead of amplitude or perceived loudness, or any other scaling, we’re just saying ‘the amount of sound’. often a volume setting or the level meters it affects will have a ‘db’ value, meaning the effective level of decibels we may expect it to reach. but gain is specific and decibels would be meaningless as the output level cannot be measured at the input.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Gain is what goes in, volume is what comes out. Think of gain as the water main going into your house, and volume as the tap on your sink. If you close the valve from the water main too much, it doesn’t matter how much you open your tap, you’re not going to have much coming out of there, and what does come out is going to sputter because there’s air in the lines. But if you have too much water pressure coming in from the main, it could do damage to your plumbing.

Similarly, with gain, you need to make sure that gain is turned up sufficiently high as to get a good amount of signal to work with. If you have too little gain, then you’re going to have to crank the volume and you’re going to get a low quality result because it introduces noise. But if you turn your gain up too high, it’s going to clip (have more signal than your machine can handle) and sound like absolute crap.

I’m sure that someone with better understanding of amplification, gain staging, and signal to noise ratio will yell at me for this imperfect analogy, but hey, it’s ELI5.