Volume Control Too Sensitive

My latest issue:

As some of you may be aware I have a Bryston BP-26 preamp connected to a pair of Classe CAM-200 monoblock amps.

My issue is that I have very little range on my volume knob. If looked at as a clockface, I can only go from 6 to 7 using XLR cables, and 6 to 8 using RCA cables.

Not only is this lack of range annoying using the remote control, but I question if the sound is compromised by the fact that I’m just using such a small portion of the volume knob.

Any thoughts on this?


You can put 10 or 20 db fixed in-line attenuators between your pre-amp and amp. Roth manufactures them - minimal, if an sonic down side.

You can put 10 or 20 db fixed in-line attenuators between your pre-amp and amp. Roth manufactures them - minimal, if an sonic down side.

This will do the trick or you can have the pre-amp manufacturer lower the gain but it's the same thing. 

Save some money get Harrison Labs Attenuators from Parts Express. I used them when I had a volume problem w/a Audio Research preamp. Excellent product. They’re about 1/3 of the price as the Rothwell's and just as good.

I have a pair of Rothwell In-Line -10 db Attenuators that I previously used between a pre-amp and an amp for that exact issue. Not being used. Just sayin'...

adding attenuation beyond a volume control (attenuator) so you can attenuate less before the added attenuator. 

are you all nuts?

I would add volume controls to my mono blocks. that solves several things

1. find a level on the amps that works with a level on the preamps that makes you and your remote happy.

2, now you can use any line level signal straight into the amps. 

3. any balance issue can be solved by adjusting the amps individually.


Same contradiction, however at least a useful location for them rather than just a cut behind for a prior lift.

Super annoying. Had this issue with several units including a Hafler Dh-101, a Belles preamp, and a Plinius. The units used in my current systems that do not have this issue are Coda 07X, Schiit Freya+ and a Heathkit AP-1800. 

Instead of using a band aid approach, why not replace either the amps or the preamp with something suitable to whatever is left?

15v of output on the Bryston (30 in balanced mode) and 29 db of gain in the Classe amps obviously is not a good match. You could probably get by with a passive or zero gain preamp that would make things sound much better.



If your mono blocks have gain adjust

ent you can dial that back to day 50% 

I had to do the same thing with Parasound A21+
Good luck Willy -T

I just looked at your amps, not drilling a hole and adding an alps volume control to those beauties.

I still would prefer to gain something while solving the issue, but it would have to be a separate box in front of the amps.

My McIntosh mc2250 had individual L/R volume controls; I added volume control within the case of my antique Fisher 80az mono blocks. Playing straight into those amps was always a treat. Just had VAS fix some Dynaco Mono blocks for my friend, plenty of room inside, adding volume control would have been a good idea now that you make me think of it.

correction: the fisher 80az had level controls, I added an on/off switch to them, they expected to be powered via the control center.



I am really sorry to hear about your problem. I happily have not experienced this kind of issue… well, on a device that did not have a high range / low range switch. I have been following the thread expecting someone to chime in, “Yes, this is because the Bryson…. Xcxddcvfgyml 10volts…. While the Classe…. Shhtcverjkkk… I am sure someone will. This has to be a known incompatibility. These are two well know brands.

What to do? Sell the Bryson… I assume the problem must a lack of adaptability of the preamp, that is it’s function. I would never add additional equipment or deal with the symptoms. Verify the problem is the preamp and get a better one. I have been in this pursuit for 50 years an don’t remember having this problem. But then my memory isn’t what it used to be.

OP, FWIW read ghdprentice's post to rvpiano's thread about music v audio. It is excellent and mirrors my life experience.

I agree with his advise re your Bryston. You need something in your system which you must buy on faith knowing that it can last a long time. The only component that can serve you so well is a pre-amp. I had a SOTA ARC pre-amp which I used for over 30 years and it took me thru many speakers and amps. I never regretted its purchase (and when I finally sold it I got more than I paid for it!)

If I were in your place, I would for the purpose of limiting my expenditures get the Roth 20db fixed attenuators ($60 +/-) which would allow me to hear exactly what the Brystons contribution to your sound was when operated in it's more optimum range. If that would work (and I don't think it will really solve your underlying issues) you will be happy, for a while at least). IMHO this is the only reasonable solution to your volume control issue I don't like stacking volume controls of any sort including variable attenuators, except perhaps the Placette which is somewhat costly.)




adding attenuation beyond a volume control (attenuator) so you can attenuate less before the added attenuator. are you all nuts?

The Bryston puts out 15 volts, that's a lot. Attenuating the signal (pad down) is an acceptable method to knock down the output signal. Much cleaner and simpler that adding a variable attenuator (volume control). No impact to the sonic qualities and it will lower the noise floor. This is exactly the reason attenuators are made.  


IF you wanted to solve it, and IF you also liked the option of straight to the mono-blocks, how might you solve it?

My understanding is that these values are normal, 15v-30v max output is rather on the low side. Some preamps do 50v max. in single ended. Mine does max 56v. in balanced and never experienced such a narrow volume range.

So 15v-30v max is not a lot.

Please check sensitivity and total gain of both pre and power


Please check sensitivity and total gain of both pre and power

High sensitivity speakers?

My McIntosh mx110z tube tuner/preamp output is only 3 volts.

With high efficiency horns, I am using 12 o'clock on the preamp, and typically 12 o'clock on the 45wpc cayin amp. then up/dn on the cayin via remote.

I cannot believe 15-30v is normal. I agree 15 volts is a LOT for a preamp.

In the old days amps expected a 1 volt input. Preamps were added to boost small signals up to 1 volt for the existing amps.

You have an impedance mismatch between the amp and preamp.  Just add in a pair of Rothwell attenuators … 20 ohm might be best in your case.  Low cost and no sonic downside.  If you hate them (you won’t) you are out $30

@elliottbnewcombjr , please read carefully, i wrote max. that comes from product specification not made it up. Rated output is 1v single ended and 2v in balanced mode. Comparing apples to apples.

I suspect that he is using a clock dial to describe his volume control position with 6 being the bottom of his dial. This would be max attenuation. I assume that 12 o'clock would be the optimum position (many manufacturers recommend something between 10 and 2 o'clock). I used Rothwell 10db in my stuff which had max attenuation between 9 and 10 to increase the range of usable control to 11 to 2 o'clock. So there, you have it, a WAG! I would not normally recommend a 20db reduction, but the OP's description of his VC position suggested to me he needed a lot to get up to 12.

If he wants to drill this down he should contact Bryston and see if he can identify what position on their VC dial would represent the optimum position for best sound quality, and if he can contact them (or some one who is knowledgeable about their product) how much reduction should be used. 

Science at it's best! :-)


his are monoblocks. even easier, smaller single channel device. I would definitely look for room inside, drill a hole, add a high quality volume control to each amp.

I've added on/off switches to a few things, but if thinking about resale .... 

I somehow doubt OP will mess with his amps, so an external box with a high quality single channel volume control would do it. ALPS seem to be liked by many makers.


There is no reason balanced is NEEDED in a home system.

IF you change to unbalanced RCA's, your preamp's max output (15v) is HALF of what balanced is (30v). Both seem too high. That may change the preamp's volume control's range enough for you without taking any other action.

I like locking connectors, balanced gives you that, the best reason to use them in a home system. I changed all my unbalanced interconnects to Locking RCA connectors. 


I tried a pair of attenuators for my amp just in case some kid wanted to hear how it sounds with the volume turned up full.

Unfortunately the attenuators seemed to be either badly made or I wasn't able to use enough force to get the RCAs in.

In the end I slackened the grub screw on the volume knob and either use the remote or just manually turn the spindle (after I've slid the volume pot off - better not say 'knob' again).

I suspect that a lot of modern amps are voiced that way to sound more powerful and impressive with just a small turn of the dial. Quite a few CD players have high gain too etc.

The cursed loudness wars seem to have drafted in some equipment manufacturers too.

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+1 for inline attenuators. I used 12db attenuators between my SP8 and VT100. I chose inline attenuators over having the preamp modified for lower gain, which ARC will do as they are aware of the issue. The attenuators cost about $25 to 50 each, and if they work, you're all set. Good first step.

Good luck and have fun!

lot of misinformation here

You have an impedance mismatch between the amp and preamp.

this has nothing to do with input/output impedance matching

The Bryston puts out 15 volts, that’s a lot. Attenuating the signal (pad down) is an acceptable method to knock down the output signal.

15v of output on the Bryston (30 in balanced mode) and 29 db of gain in the Classe amps obviously is not a good match.

Maximum output level of the preamp is not the issue, the issue is gain

Get a better pre amp

This has nothing to do with how good a preamp is, whatever that means


It is called a system for a reason and your system has the same problem that many do. You have way too much gain if you can barely turn it up. Looking at the Bryston manual it says it is internally configured for either 16.5 or 22.5 dB so you could make sure you are on the lower setting. That may help but it won’t solve the problem as you will still have around 50 dB from pre + amp.

as others have suggested, you need less overall gain by either inserting attenuators or getting a different preamp that doesn’t have so much gain. I suggest a passive, which is basically what the suggested attenuators are , just that they aren’t variable. A power amp with lower gain is also a possibility but mid 20’s is pretty much standard so not a lot of options there.

I agree with the idea that it is rather silly to add +20 dB or so with a preamp and then take it away with a fixed -20 dB attenuator. Get a preamp that integrates into your system








I have/had the same problem with Allnic 8000DHT pre and Pass XA60.8 amps.  I was able to change out a set of the DHT tubes for lower gain tubes. 

Interestingly I recently added a pair of Akiko Corelli's for noise and can increase the volume a few more degrees before it sounds loud (and I hear a lot more micro details).

The Allnic has a constant impedance volume control so it is supposed to be good without having to get past 12 o'clock- although I would like to use more of the attenuator range.

I believe my problem is the input sensitivity of the Pass is  too low at 1 volt to full output.  I am looking to replace the Pass with an amps that don't reach full output until closer closer to 2 volts.

The Allnic is way to good to replace.

I have had the same volume issue with an Audible Illusions Modulus 3A. The problem - as several others have already noted - is simply too much gain (the M3A puts out 28 db). I was not aware that this was something I needed to consider when I bought the preamp quite some time ago.

I’m currently waiting for a semi-custom preamp from SMc Audio which will be set at unity gain (0 db). This should allow me to use the full range of the volume control with finer increments throughout that range.

Perhaps attenuation will work well for you. If you do decide to change preamps just make sure to pay careful attention to gain within the general environment of your system.

Good luck! 






Total opposite, my preamps don’t even have signal til 45db


  the McCormack LD-2 and Sanders “preamp” have 1/2db attenuators, I press play, and turn up volume, no volume until the vol knob is above 45-50+ db on knob. 

 It’s nice, as when the Scotch is poured, and I’m in the mood, the vol is slow to increase, I love this!


 B and K pro10 and Onkyo p-308 volumes are more sensitive, and get louder much faster with vol knob!

 All preamps sound different, the Onkyo adding some deep tones to music, while others are more revealing, then Sanders  is quite revealing, allowing the recording to come through as it is on the cd/lp. 


Make sure Preamp is set internally to the lower setting. Use RCA’s instead of balanced, also check if you can change input sensitivity on the power amps. 

I recently purchased a well-reviewed & very powerful headphone amplifier that I have running off my DAC, which outputs 3.0 volts single-ended (50% higher than the nominal 2.0 volts output standard that gave me no gain issues).

Well, between that hot DAC output & the lack of any gain stages on this new amp, I found myself in claasic too-much-gain territory--ie, using the amp's volume pot at the extreme counterclockwise rotation with almost no real-world volume adjustment possible before the volume on headphones became intolerably loud.

So I got a pair of the 10 dB in-line RCA attenuators by Rothwell. These work exactly as described, and are quite transparent sonically: I listened before and after installation (w/approximately matched volumes) and couldn't hear any difference. 

So I recommend these attenuators.

Note that if this were for a huge, expensive 2-channel system in the living room, I might escalate to a pricey passive volume controller known to be uber-transparent. 

I really am enjoying all of these wise ass comments your giving me. I guess it gives you a hardon to insult those with questions. Such brilliant comments such as 'buy a better preamp' FYI, the Bryston BP-26 was rated high by the Absolute Sound magazine. I know magazines have their own agenda, but there is a point where after doing research, you go based on what information you gather.

The input sensitivity of your Class’e amps are 1 volt. That is on the low side. Like I originally suggested all you need to do is add an attenuator. It is no big deal to do that. I use the Schiit SYS to solve the problem that I had with my high gain preamp!

Here are the specs for the Class’e!


Power output: 200 watts into 8Ω (mono)

Frequency response: 20Hz to 20kHz

Total harmonic distortion: 0.004%

Gain: 29.02 dB

Input sensitivity: 1V

Signal to noise ratio: 135dB

Speaker load impedance: 4Ω (minimum)

Dimensions: 11.5 x 16 x 9.5 inches

Weight: 48lbs

OP, FWIW,  While you seem happy to be critical of a few who think your Bryston might be one of the sources of your problems (and I think you have more than just one) I don’t see you thanking those who spent time looking into your problems and provided you with good recommendations. And think. No one sent you a bill for their services! A free education.

Next time you should consider hiring a consultant. :-(

+1 newbee

@onehorsepony, regarding your post above, did you listen to the combination of pre and power before you purchased it? If so, was the mismatch between the two components not obvious at that point?

Not being presumptive on the specifics here, but as a general observation, I've come across numerous instances where people put together systems based on positive reviews of individual components and came away dissatisfied because of lack of synergy or downright incompatibilities.


My comment to "get a better pre amp" was based off experience with the brand. Always found it dry and sterile. You’re to the point of adding various electronics to it for compatibility sake, I personally wouldn’t go that path to accommodate that piece, but that.s just me. What ever you do I hope it works for you.And  BTW, you come off as the one with a hard on....

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Consider yourself lucky.  I found adding an attenuator between the preamp and amp improved my overall system (it worked better here than in between the DAC and preamp).  I was able to find just the right gain between the preamp and amp where the overall soundstage and detail was at its best without sacrificing dynamics and midrange presence - There is a sweet spot if you take the time to listen and dial it in.  I leave this volume fixed for the most part and using a passive attenuator with a remote control from my listening position.  I use a balanced attenuator made with Japanese relays and Dale foil resistors - it works well.  You can contact me for more information if your interested.