Distortion on Playback


I’ve been noticing with my CI1 interface, that turning the volume to the max always results in distortion as if the signal was clipping. Of course it’s not, since connecting my headphones directly to my computer and turning the volume to the max sounds fine. I’ve even tried with different headphones and adapters. Is this common or is there anywhere that is best to search for the problem?


Are you saying that your headphones distort on the CI1 and not on the computers soundcard?

If so the distortion could be from a couple on places, the CI1 output (analog) may be distorting or the headphones.

I take it the distortion depends on the level being sent to the card, for instance if Cubase or whatever you use to deliver content to the CI1 level is turned down but the CI1 level is still up full, the distortion reduces/stops then when you start to turn the applications output back up the CI1s output starts to distort, then it could well be the output of the CI1.

Thanks Split!

My computer’s soundcard never distorts no matter how high the volume. I loaded an audio file into Cubase (no clipping) and played it through my CI with the Phones knob turned to the max, and the distortion was present. Indeed as you predicted, lowering the fader dramatically on the master bus stopped the distortion.

My interface/adapter/headphone connection seems to be as solid as possible, but I can’t really rule anything out at this point. Any ideas?

Ruling out the headphones being driven into distortion by too high a level? then it sounds like the headphone amp may well be distorting. Either by bad design or the USB bus is under powering the CI1, I see it requires 500ma, are you using any other USB powered devices? If so try unplugging them and see if that helps, and try swapping USB socket.

Okay. Sorry it’s taken me so long, I’ve been doing some tests.

With my Samson HP10 headphones, the distortion is audible. (I also remember this happening on my Sony MDR1’s.)

With my Sony iPod dock, the distortion is audible.

Switching USB ports-no changes.

Tried adjusting the driver buffer size/latency (Tools for CI1 driver)-no changes.

Same when using ASIO4ALL.

Again, no clipping. Should I get the unit checked out?

Could it just be that everything is alright with headphone and interface?

Becaus if u use my internal soundcard max volume of headphones is not as loud as on the output of my rme (need to activate -10db) and still my head gets blown aways if i turn up full.

Greetz Bassbase

Thanx 4 the reply! I’m not sure yet, that’s what I’m trying to figure out.
You are correct about the interface output being louder than that of my internal soundcard. If you take your RME and turn the volume knob to max, do you notice distortion? I’m just wanting to see if this is an issue with the interface or am I exceeding some kind of volume limitation.

PS: I also forgot to mention that this happens in both Wavelab and Cubase.

I have the AKG K240 Studio Headphones and even if i am not at max output of my rme but going to 0db in cubase with lots of bass i have on the headphone cracklesound but on the monitors still no clips. ( in my case i have only distortion on my headphones if bassfrequencys are too loud ( especially if i design nice trancekicks )

Greetz Bassbase


Well what’s funny is that the output of Cubase isn’t overloading, but the bass frequencies could most definitely be a culprit.

That’s almost impossible to test, becuase if you filter the bass frequencies out of an audio part, you also diminish the average volume of the part as well. Turning down faders and preview levels in Cubase always help, but you know it’s a distraction when recording to have your monitoring distorted ever time you get a good bang.


I would check witch frequencys my headphones can bring and then make a simple kick bassline (KbbbKbbb) and push this one with compressor and maximizer to 0db and check if your headphone crackels and then i would put eqs on both tracks and play along with notches and move them from low frquency up o find the frequenz witch makes your headphones clip.
And in my case it helps if i need to mix on my headphones that i reduce the kicktrack ca -3db.

Greetz Bassbase

I tested a kick drum track and it seems that the clipping is worse on tracks with a greater average loudness but not as strong of peaks. Check it out.

The kick drum track I imported has a peak of 0db (after normalization.) The average volume is about -13 db.

A professional piano track I imported has a peak of about -2 on the left channel and -1 on the right. However its average volume is about -10 db. Here’s what is peculiar:

So when I filter the kick drum track with StudioEQ (don’t have anything as fancy as FabFilter), the distortion is inaudible when I cut 40-100Hz.

On the other hand, the piano track distortion does not disappear filtering any certain frequency range. It basically needs a low pass filter on the whole spectrum, but nothing else will really treat it. If you had to choose, between 200-1000Hz is the best cut.

Please let me know if there is something I can do better. I don’t know if I’ve done well on this test!


You have to ascertain if the headphones are distorting or the headphone amp is distorting?
So far from what your reporting is seems like it’s the headphones that are not able to handle the lower frequencies and start to break up. Any set of headphones will distort given enough level! I would actually start to worry slightly about the effect on your hearing if this is the case, as monitoring at too high a level for any length of time is hazardous!

When listening to a personal music system with stock earphones at a maximum volume, the sound generated can reach a level of over 100 dBA, loud enough to begin causing permanent damage after just 15 minutes per day!


So how to test the headphones amp go with a small jack to stereochinch to the personal music system?
Full power of the headphone amp should than not distort even on low volume of the personal music system right?

Greetz Bassbase

Well what’s weird is that the same things happen on my MDR1’s and Sony Speakers. Even with the speaker volume down, and the Phones knob up, the output is still distorted on the speakers. I doubt it’s the fault of the frequency response on the HP10’s.

Hmm don’t know Hp10 and MDR1 and witch Sony speakers.
Could you post links of them?

greetz Bassbase

Again we get back to the conclusion that the headphone amp is distorting at full whack, probably due to low power supply rails, it’s USB powered after all.

Indeed. I suspect the amp as well.

Here: http://www.samsontech.com/samson/products/headphones/hp-series/hp10/

My MDR1’s are like 15 yrs old, so there aren’t any links I can find. But my speakers are Sony RDP-X50iP’s.

Also, the interface is plugged directly into the computer. Still not as good as a powered hub, I know. :neutral_face:

Do you need to use full volume a lot? just how loud is it before it distorts, you really need to watch how loud you monitor, particularly with headphones. I have known several people in the studio world that now live with permanent hearing damage due to overzealous application of the volume control!!!

Haha! Thanx for your concern. It is pretty loud, but not as loud as you would expect. Maximum volume is normally a bit much even for me (one who normally keeps iPod volume on max), but many times necessary when auditioning or monitoring piano or pieces with strong attacks/low average volume. The distortion is also a little before max, depending on the average volume of the audio file.

Considering the volume that most decent speakers can tolerate, I’m surprised that this level is tripping up my headphones/speakers/interface.

EDIT: I just did a test where I put my condenser microphone in between the headphones where my head should be, with the Phones knob on max. I recorded the output of a song whose average volume was -2. The mic received no gain from the interface, and the peak was at -37!!

The volume during recording was fairly loud, you could hear well without the headphones on.