Howto: Adjusting C-Media USB Audio Volume in Windows 7

The Plugable UD-160-A Universal Docking Station and the Plubable DC-125 Zero Client Docking Station provide 2 channel USB audio via a CM-6300 chip. The CM-6300 is a “driverless” solution in that it complies with the USB audio class standard, and uses Microsoft’s own drivers provided in Windows 7. That also means that the software options for controlling the device are all in the hands of Windows 7 itself.

The UD-160-A and other powered CM-6300 devices can be configured in hardware to deliver high power audio output, so it’s great even with unpowered speakers. But for headsets and self-powered speakers, the defaults may be too loud.

For those cases and others, here are some details and tips for adjusting the volume in Windows 7 with USB audio.

First off, it helps to bring up some music in Windows Media player so you can hear the affect of your settings changes. Most Windows 7 installs will have some sample music to play in Libraries->Music->Sample Music

Then, go to where the settings are collected — in the “Sound” settings from the Windows 7 Control Panel.

This will bring up the list of available audio devices, one of which should be your USB audio device. By default, Windows 7 makes a new USB audio device the default — even if it doesn’t have any speakers attached! So this is also the place where, if you’re not actually using your USB or docking station audio, you can select a different audio output (e.g. your laptop’s built-in audio) and click “Set Default” to make it the default for new default sound output and/or for communications (messenger/skype/voip). Windows will persist this setting.

For adjusting the USB audio level, right click on the USB audio device to bring up the context menu and select “Properties”.

The main volume for the device is in the “Levels” tab. When this audio device is the default device, this level is the same as the Windows master audio volume controls (the one you adjust from the sound icon in the Windows system tray) — adjusting one will adjust the other. The default in Windows is a max volume of “100”.

For the high-power audio of the Plugable dock, combined with powered speakers, “100” is often too loud, and you may find that even setting the level to “1” is still too loud.

The solution is the “Custom” tab which has an optional “Loudness” checkbox (provided by the Microsoft USB audio class drivers). Windows 7 sets this on by default, but in most cases it should be unchecked. Then, go back to your levels tab and re-adjust the volume to the right and comfortable level.

For most speaker combinations, you should no longer be having to peg the volume down at “1”.

And once you have master volume at a comfortable level – you also have another means of control. Each application has its own volume, which acts in combination with the Windows master settings. So if system sounds or media playback are still to loud or not the right relative volume, look within the particular application for its own sound slider (and most applications will persist this setting).

We hope this helps for anyone experiencing audio which is too loud or too quiet with any Plugable or other USB audio devices on Win 7. Please feel free to comment with any questions or other suggestions.

[Update March 2, 2011]

If you’re on Windows, and the above steps don’t help enough, there is a Windows driver solution to bump the volume down further.

This driver replaces Windows’ default USB audio driver, it’s compatible with the CM6300 in the Plugable Universal Dock. Most functionality doesn’t apply to the CM6300, but the fine grained control over volume is better and helpful.

Here’s where you can download the lower-volume CM6300 driver. Please let us know in the comments if you have any problems or feedback. Thanks!

8 comments on “Howto: Adjusting C-Media USB Audio Volume in Windows 7”

  1. DDavis

    First off, let me say that I think the Plugable USB 2.0 Universal Docking Station is solid product, that provides excellent video with multiple monitors connected via USB. Video performance is very good, even with (2) 20″ monitors connected to my laptop. Note I am using the Plugable USB 2.0 to VGA/DVI/HDMI Adapter, in addition to the Universal Docking Station in order to do this.

    Regarding the audio with the Docking Station: the settings described within this section only helps marginally to lower the exceptionally loud volume with the Plugable USB 2.0 Universal Docking Station, Windows 7 and powered speakers. The volume with powered speakers is still way to loud, even at 1 or 2 volume level. As a result, if you forget to turn the volume way down, after returning to the office and reconnecting to the Docking Station, be prepared for a loud blast with any audio source.

    While I very much appreciate that Plugable complies with the USB audio class standard, and uses Microsoft’s own drivers provided with Windows 7 — I’d very much prefer a solution that allows me to control the volume settings within the Plugable USB 2.0 Universal Docking Station, thus avoiding all of the volume problems all together. Should a driver solution prove too problematic, a small (POT) volume control on the Universal Docking Station would be perfect!

    Thanks Plugable, for an otherwise excellent universal product that is very reliable, and yields solid video and USB performance — far better that any of your competitors!

  2. Bernie Thompson

    Hi Don,

    Thank you! This is great feedback. And very important to know that with some powered speakers, it’s just too loud at any software volume setting, even with these tips.

    We make hardware improvements where we can with each production run – usually very small and incremental – but we will definitely be looking for something we can do here to better compromise between the volume settings for unpowered and powered speaker cases.

    Thanks for taking the time on this – it does help us improve the product, and we really appreciate it!

    Thank you!

  3. Steve

    Is there anything equivalent for the Mac?

    I just got the plugable dock and it’s obviously a well-built product and I must say that I *love* the video out: I’m running dual 1920×1080 monitors on a MacBookPro and it’s a wonderful, wonderful experience.

    That being said, the audio is insanely loud. I have to turn the audio level down to about 1% (which takes some fiddling) before I don’t blow out my headphones.

    • Bernie Thompson

      Hi Steve,

      Thanks for asking about the Mac! Yes, on the Mac there is a trick — via the command line you can get an extra decimal point of precision on the sound volume. Run the command

      osascript -e “set volume output volume .5”

      Should get you below a volume that’s possible with the UI, and hopefully to a volume that’s good for your headset. Via this method, you can go as low as 0.1. (0.01 rounds to zero). Thanks for asking the question and if you find any better tricks on the Mac, please let us know!

  4. Roy

    My speakers’ properties has all tabs but the Custom tab. The volume is on 1/100 and my ears are under constant attack. Driver is up to date, according to Windows.

    Is there anything I can do?

    • Bernie Thompson

      Hi Roy – sorry the volume is still presenting problems. We do have a further step.

      We’ve added a March 2, 2011 update at the bottom of the post with a link to a driver which will get the volume down further. Thanks for trying that out and letting us know if that gets you to where the ears are happy with your setup. Thanks!

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