What happens if you disable absolute volume?

What is Absolute Volume?

Absolute volume refers to the maximum decibel level that audio can reach on a device. It is a feature implemented on many smartphones, tablets, and other devices to prevent sounds from getting too loud and potentially damaging users’ hearing (ScienceDirect, 2022).

With absolute volume enabled, the device sets an upper limit on volume, usually around 85-95 decibels depending on the manufacturer. No matter how high the volume setting is raised, audio cannot exceed this preset absolute maximum. This prevents unintentionally loud music, videos, or other media from blasting at dangerous levels through headphones or speakers (ScienceDirect, 2022).

The purpose of absolute volume is to protect hearing health. Exposure to sounds above 85 decibels for extended periods can cause permanent hearing loss over time. By capping volume levels, absolute volume aims to let users listen comfortably without putting their hearing at risk. It is an important accessibility feature, especially for those who may listen at high volumes regularly (ConcreteConstruction.net, 2022).

Consequences of Disabling Absolute Volume

Disabling absolute volume on Android can lead to some undesirable consequences with regards to sound volume control and quality. The main issues that arise are:

Without absolute volume enabled, the system volume will not automatically adjust[1] based on the connected Bluetooth device’s capabilities. Absolute volume normalizes the volume across different headphones and speakers so there is a consistent perceived loudness.[2] With it disabled, sounds may end up being uncomfortably loud or very quiet depending on the headphones.

This inconsistent and unpredictable volume can make it challenging to properly hear dialogue versus loud sound effects in games, movies or videos. Users may find themselves constantly needing to manually adjust volume depending on what audio is playing.[3]

From a hearing health perspective, disabling absolute volume increases the risks of exposing your ears to unsafe decibel levels that can lead to gradual hearing damage over time.[2] It removes the safeguards that absolute volume provides against excessively loud volumes.

In summary, the inability to properly control and normalize volume levels means disabling absolute volume results in a worse user experience, inconvenience and potential hearing risks.

Loudness Normalization

Loudness normalization is an alternative to absolute volume that aims to normalize the loudness of audio across different content. Streaming services like Spotify and YouTube use loudness normalization to even out the volume between songs and videos. This prevents the need to constantly adjust your device’s volume when switching between content with different loudness levels.

Loudness normalization works by analyzing the audio and adjusting the gain to hit a specific loudness target, usually around -14 LUFS. The audio levels are essentially turned up or down automatically behind the scenes so that the perceived loudness is normalized. This is done in a smart way that aims to preserve the artistic intent and dynamics of the original audio as much as possible.

The main advantage of loudness normalization over absolute volume is that it provides a more consistent listening volume across all content. You don’t have to worry about manually adjusting the volume frequently. It also reduces the risk of damaging your hearing from sudden volume spikes.

However, some argue that loudness normalization negatively impacts audio quality and dynamics. Since the gain is adjusted automatically, it can sometimes result in tracks sounding less punchy or impactful. Some also prefer having manual control over the volume rather than having it normalized automatically. Overall, loudness normalization is a useful alternative to absolute volume for providing a more consistent listening experience.

Manually Adjusting Volume

One consequence of disabling absolute volume is having to manually adjust the volume whenever switching between audio sources. With absolute volume disabled, the volume level is relative to each device rather than standardized across devices. This means you’ll need to change the volume setting frequently when going from one audio source to another to maintain a comfortable listening level.

Having to manually adjust volume each time you switch devices can be inconvenient compared to absolute volume’s seamless audio experience. It takes extra effort to get the volume “just right” every time you connect a new device. This can be disruptive if you regularly alternate between headphones, speakers, car audio systems, etc.

There’s also a risk of accidentally blasting your ears with uncomfortably loud noises if you forget to turn down the volume after switching devices. For example, headphone volume that was set loud could blast at full force through speakers when disabled absolute volume carries over that high setting. This could potentially impact hearing health over time with continual loud exposures.

Impacts on Hearing Health

Disabling absolute volume can increase the risk of hearing damage from loud noises. Absolute volume limits the maximum volume output on headphones to protect hearing. Without this limit, volumes can reach dangerous decibel levels that lead to noise-induced hearing loss over time (1).

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, noise above 85 dB can cause gradual hearing loss. Loud volumes above 120 dB can cause immediate harm to hearing (2). With absolute volume disabled, headphones can exceed safe volume limits and damage hearing abilities.

In addition, disabling absolute volume can make it difficult to hear soft sounds. Absolute volume applies loudness normalization to balance the volume across all audio. This makes both loud and soft sounds audible. Without normalization, soft sounds may get drowned out while loud sounds blast loudly (3). Those with hearing impairments especially rely on normalization to amplify soft sounds. Overall, disabling absolute volume negatively impacts hearing health and audio clarity.

(1) https://screenrant.com/android-absolute-bluetooth-volume-explained-disable/
(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK390300/
(3) https://www.reddit.com/r/GooglePixel/comments/1536887/disable_absolute_volume/

Tips for Managing Volume

When absolute volume is disabled, it’s important to be mindful of your hearing health and manage sound volumes carefully. Here are some tips:

Use compressors and limiters – Compressor and limiter audio effects can help control sudden volume spikes that may damage hearing. Enable these effects in audio software or devices.

Adjust volumes of individual sources – Mix and balance the volumes of different audio sources like music, videos, games, and voice calls. Turn down louder sources and raise quieter ones for a more even listening level.

Use hearing protection – Wear noise-isolating or noise-cancelling headphones to block out excessive ambient sounds. Earplugs are another option when headphones aren’t possible. But don’t raise volumes to compensate for blocked sound.

Take breaks from loud audio – Give your ears occasional rest from high volume exposure to prevent fatigue or damage.

Get your hearing tested – If concerned about potential hearing loss, consult an audiologist and get a professional hearing evaluation.

With some care and restraint, it’s possible to manage sound levels wisely when absolute volume is disabled on a device. Protect your hearing health while still enjoying your audio.

Who Might Disable Absolute Volume

There are certain groups who may find it beneficial to disable absolute volume for specific use cases:

Audio engineers and music producers may want more precise control over volume levels when mixing tracks or mastering audio. The loudness normalization of absolute volume could interfere with getting exactly the sound they want. By disabling it, they can manage volume more granularly.

Musicians performing live may also opt to disable absolute volume so their instrument volumes or mic levels are not impacted by automatic adjustments. This gives them a consistent monitoring experience regardless of the Bluetooth device’s default settings.

Game designers and movie sound mixers working with highly calibrated audio may disable absolute volume as well. They craft specific volume curves and levels for desired dramatic impact which could be altered by loudness normalization. Having raw volume control ensures audio plays back exactly as intended.

When Absolute Volume Can Be Useful

Absolute Volume can be useful in certain situations where the volume levels fluctuate significantly. For example:

Watching movies with varying volumes – Movie soundtracks often have quiet dialogue interspersed with loud action sequences or dramatic musical swells. Absolute Volume helps normalize these volume differences so you don’t have to constantly adjust the volume.

Gaming with explosions and dialogue – Similar to movies, many video games have quiet voiced dialogue mixed with noisy sound effects like explosions. Absolute Volume makes the overall gaming audio experience smoother by minimizing the need to change volume settings.

Listening to inconsistent music volumes – Music playlists or albums can have a mix of loud, high-energy songs and soft, quiet ballads. Absolute Volume evens out the volume across tracks so you can listen seamlessly without huge volume jumps.

Alternatives to Disabling Absolute Volume

Instead of disabling absolute volume, there are other options users can try to manage loudness levels without compromising audio quality or consistency across devices:

Use compressors and limiters. Compressor and limiter audio effects, available in many music players and system equalizers, can reduce the dynamic range of audio. This evens out the loud and quiet parts while maintaining overall volume. Limiters specifically prevent peaks over a set threshold.

Adjust system volume as needed. Rather than disabling absolute volume system-wide, users can manually adjust the volume on a per-app or per-device basis to suit their preferences and situation. Turning down system volume avoids completely overriding app volume levels.


Absolute volume is an automatic volume leveling feature that aims to normalize loudness across audio content. Disabling absolute volume gives you manual control over volume levels, but can lead to damaging spikes in loudness.

The main pros of disabling absolute volume are the ability to customize volume levels to your preference and avoid compression artifacts. However, potential cons include increased hearing fatigue and damage from sudden loud sounds. Playback at high volumes over time can negatively impact hearing health.

Instead of fully disabling absolute volume, consider alternatives like manually adjusting volume as needed, using third-party apps to customize compression, or enabling absolute volume but increasing the maximum level. Focus on maintaining safer volume levels rather than disabling protections entirely.

In summary, carefully weigh the risks and benefits before disabling absolute volume. While you gain more control, you also lose built-in hearing safeguards. Look for balanced solutions to manage volume levels without sacrificing hearing health.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *