Fix the volume of any USB headphone on Windows

Some USB headsets tend to be way too loud on Windows 10. Fixing this is pretty simple thanks to a handy little utility called Equalizer APO.

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Some USB headsets tend to be way too loud on Windows 10. I guess the reason for this are outdated drivers or some kind of incompatibility.

In my case, I had a USB headphone that was already too loud on volume 2 of 100! Since I had to suffer from an acoustic shock a few years ago, I decided to take measures to prevent this. Once a super-intelligent macOS box “fogot” my volume and I got a blast (macOS tries to remember the configured volume for each output device – but as usual: things can go badly wrong if you rely on computer intelligence. Thanks Apple.)

Fixing this is simple thanks to a handy little utility called Equalizer APO. It’s even free.

Run the installer, and select the audio device(s) you want to equalize.
To enable the equalizer initially, you must reboot.

After you reboot run the provided Configuration Editor and set the Preamp to: –16 dB (or any other value to match your preference).
(You can modify the settings also manually with your text editor atC:\Program Files\EqualizerAPO\config\config.txt)

This app can be a life saver. But be warned: On some rare days Equalizer APO may fail to start-up or a bad update, or what-so-ever, may prevent the equalizer from running and may still get a boom in your ear.
So, if you have a USB headset that is just unbearable loud when it’s not equalized, do your ears a favor and just ditch them or the will bite you.. one day.

Update: I have learned the hard way that Equalizer APO comes with another caveat:
It interferes with other audio driver / plug-ins / extensions. E.g. a etool to route or capture the sound of you PC may not work anymore.
And, as mentioned in the comments, the equalizer can only handle a limited number of channels and ditches the extra channels (like 7.1). :/

Most useful YouTube-DL commands (for audio extraction and conversion, M4A/MP4)

If you are a lover of offline video and audio extraction, you probably know youtube-dl.

Since WEBM gains popularity on YT you have to go new ways, if you are an old-timer like me, who likes to stick with MP4/M4A. But I am not the only one, as the discussions show.

Here are some of my old and new favorites

Audio only / Extracting audio

Extract audio from a YouTube video and convert it to mp3 or m4a (requires ffmpeg installed and in PATH):

youtube-dl URL --extract-audio --audio-format mp3 | m4a

You might want to specific download location:

youtube-dl --output /path/to/your/dir 

But this does not work so well on windows (you often get a wired file name) and in combination with advanced commands. An OUTPUT TEMPLATE can help out.

Extract/convert & download to another location wit that preserves the title of the video:

youtube-dl URL --output "d:\dl\%(title)s.%(ext)s" --extract-audio --audio-format aac

Alternatively, if you don’t want to extract, you could also just download the audio, preferred m4a:

youtube-dl URL -f bestaudio[ext=m4a]/mp4 --output "D:\DL\%(title)s.%(ext)s" 

But: Some audio players do not support DASH audio. For m4a, I had to demux it to make it a ‘regular’ m4a using ffmpeg.

ffmpeg -I input.m4a -vn -c:a copy output.m4a 

(The downside of this method is that you have to do an extra step that makes good use of your drive and CPU.)

Or: Download just mp4 audio and extract/convert it afterwards:

youtube-dl URL -f bestaudio[ext=m4a]/mp4 --extract-audio --audio-format m4a --output "D:\DL\%(title)s.%(ext)s"

(The downside of this method is that you have to download more data).

Best Best video and audio in MP4 & M4A/AAC

youtube-dl URL -f 'bestvideo[ext=mp4]+bestaudio[ext=m4a]/mp4

This filter will give you the best MP4/AAC audio and MP4 video.
According to my own experience the difference to the best WEBM video is rather small (~5-8%). But your millage may vary.

The best audio is most of the time already AAC/M4A. So, don’t worry about that.

That’s it.