On all the computers (running Windows) that I've used, it only requires 10% volume to get a "loud enough" level on my headphone, but if I use the speaker I usually set it to >50%.

On my smartphone (Android), I need to set the ringtone to maximum volume, but with a headphone (or is it earphone or headset? What the...) I need to reduce to 2/3 of maximum level or I think I will be deaf.

So, with the default settings on computers and smartphones, if I just used the speaker to watch videos, and later plugged in the headphone (or whatever) but forgot to re-configure the volume level, and then you go watch videos again... you should be able to imagine what's going to happen.

This doesn't seem to be a good user experience and can possibly harm the user. Why wouldn't the operating system make the maximum audio level for headphones to "safe level", or by default have separated volume control for speaker and headphone?

  • 1
    The problem with any attempt to do this is that the computer can't know what the safe level is, as it depends on information that is unavailable to it.
    – Dan D.
    Feb 23, 2013 at 9:15
  • But there is no reason why you couldn't have separate volume setting for each output channel.
    – Dan D.
    Feb 23, 2013 at 9:20

2 Answers 2


There is a technical issue here because depending on the type of headphones it may require more or less power for it to work. This means that for some headphones you might need 10% for others 50%.

This leaves the realm of UX but basically audio power from the phone is measured in amps. The card is able to provide a set number of amps to the headphones. The max number of amps it can provide usually maps to 100% volume on the phone. What happens if you cap that number to a safer value is that some headphones will require more amps for them to reach the volume you desire (i.e: the volume is at 100% and you ask for more).

  • It's interesting how many users have several headphones and switch between them, but I believe it's a rare situation. Feb 23, 2013 at 12:54

Some operating systems has that feature build in.

For example, Mac OS X has the separate volume settings for every output (headphones jack, usb or internal speakers), so plugging in headphones will restore a volume level associated with this output.

iOS, for example, has an ability to limit max volume so you will never harm your ears.

  • You seem to have written "input" where you meant "output".
    – Dan D.
    Feb 23, 2013 at 13:36
  • On my laptop Ubuntu also remembers the volume when I plug back my headphones in the headphones jack. Feb 23, 2013 at 15:54

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