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burning mix CDs at an equal volume

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
i've been trying to make a few mix CDs for various people, but i'm constantly running into problems when trying to gte the volumes on all the tracks at the same volume. As i'm sure you all know, a lot of older CDs are mastered a lot quieter than brand new ones, so when i'm trying to mix up old rock with new the older stuff inevitably ends up sounding much less powerful (because it's about half the volume)

So, can anybody recommend me any good (free) burning programmes where they can automatically adjust the volumes of all of the separate tracks so they all have an equal volume. The "sound check" feature on iTunes is completely useless for such purposes

Also, do these volume adjustments have any effect on sound quality and dynamics due to any compression or anything? Because i certainly don't want that
post #2 of 15
I'm not sure of a burning program that will normalize volume, but I know that you can use MP3Gain to do exactly this:


It's free and it works very quickly, plus it can do batches. It's worked rather well for me.
post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 
thanks very much! I'll try it out..
post #4 of 15

I'm assuming from your post you are using iTunes. I'm hoping you're using a Mac, since the software I'm about to recommend is Mac only. There may be a PC software package that is similar though. EDIT: looks like appophylite posted a PC version.

Getting song tracks to sound equal volume can be tricky. Part of the reason is that the way software determines equalization is pretty much up to personal preference. If the software only set all the peak volume values of a set of tracks to the same level, you can imagine that a song with very minimal dynamics might sound wholly louder that one that had very wild dynamic range.

There are very good normalization options available that will ensure that songs sound very very close to the same volumes (radio stations use such hardware) but the fact is that you are normalizing the music, and thus altering it. Besides if you were to normalize your entire library of music, it would take probably months of computer time to do so with software normalization.

Ok, ok, so I haven't answered your question yet. I'm getting there! So you can see that if a piece of software is going to scan your music, and then raise or lower the virtual "volume knob" to compensate, how much that knob should be turned is up to personal preference. You can't simply go by the loudest or quietest sections of music. You need to look at the entire song, and come up with a compromise.

This is why the iTunes "Volume Check" option is mediocre. It's main goal is to be unobtrusive to the user, meaning FAST. It does a really quick, and I mean QUICK scan of the music, and then turns that virtual volume knob. It's not accurate by any means, but it's usually better than nothing, and as I said, it's quick.

So enter a piece of software called iVolume. Unfortunately, it is not free but I believe it has a demo period. This software does a much slower, and thorough look at the music (read: it takes much longer to process your music than iTunes would) and applies a different model of sound adjustment.

Note that iTunes would typically take 2-3 hours to scan and adjust my 40GB (3 days running time) of music with it's volume adjustment. iVolume took about 20 hours to do that same library. So it's about 10 times slower (on my dual processor machine), but it's much better IMO. The good news is that adjusting new music that comes into your library isn't hard, and since you're likely to only be doing a few CDs worth at a time, it only takes a few minutes if that.

I also like that iVolume changes the volume adjustment for each song, and archives iTunes' volume adjustment so that you can quickly go back to iTunes' adjustments if you like. Oh, a quick note here, leave the commenting option in iVolume on. I turned it off, thinking it was messy that it was tagging my ID3 comment fields with a date, but then I realized later why it was necessary. I'm not going to go into detail here, but just know it helps with song synchronization across multiple devices, and it's a good thing to leave it on. I found out the hard way, so I pass that tip on to you.

Anyhow, I hope this helps. I found this software to be the best non-normalization volume equalizer for iTunes.
post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 
i'm a PC user i'm afraid, so that isn't applicable to me

However, i don't think i really want to adjust the volume on all my music (like with the programme appophylite recommended), since i don't want it to effect the between-tracks-within-an-album differences in dynamics. I want albums i listen to on MP3 to be heard the way god intended

What i really want is a burner which will assess the volumes in a way similiar to the programme you describe, burn a CD, and leave all my MP3s the way they were before
post #6 of 15
You bring up a great point about the intra-album dynamic differences. It's one of the reasons that iVolume (sorry to hear you can't use it) has a per track or per album setting. The per album setting will find the best single volume adjustment for the entire album, so dynamics are preserved for each album.

Another really nice thing about volume knob adjustment rather than normalization is that you can always turn the iTunes "sound check" off, and be back at your original sound. This is one of the reasons I went ahead and adjusted on a per track basis rather than per album. Per track is better for when you are on shuffle for keeping the same volume, and I can always turn "sound check" off.
post #7 of 15
Too bad you can't use iVolume, because I use it exactly in the way you are describing.

Since iVolume utilizes the sound check feature of itunes, you can burn from itunes using these adjustments. So that would mean you could turn sound check on and burn a mix CD, then turn it off and have your MP3s back the way they were for casual listening. In practice I just leave the sound check on all the time because simply knowing I could defeat the adjustment is enough safety for me.

Again, I know you can't use iVolume, but there is probably a software package out for PC that does something similar to iTunes.

EDIT: I was browsing iVolume's website and noticed the algorithm that iVolume uses is based on something called ReplayGain. ReplayGain is apparently used in MP3Gain. I did a quick look at MP3Gain at it seems that it simply edits the ID3 Tag in each mp3 also. So you should in theory be able to use MP3Gain the same why I'm using iVolume. Turn sound check on in iTunes and burn, then turn it off and listen.
post #8 of 15
Thought at first you were working with CD files, but if you are working with mp3 then it probably doesn't matter that much anyway. For CD sound though, here's some more info.

Adjusting the volume nearly always degrades the sound to a certain degree, especially since most burning programs only use the 16-bits for the computations. If you work at higher bit depth then you need to dither the results back down to 16-bits
The older CDs had much more dynamic range, so the average level is much quieter, and without so much compression they don't sound as "powerful". The best thing to do imo is just to reduce the level of the highly compressed newer stuff to get down to the same average level as the old stuff, thus preserving the good sound of the old ones. There will still be a big difference, but the new stuff is already messed up so who cares if you lose a little more resolution by reducing the level. You will need to normalize by average level, but it's best to do it one song at a time since you will need to experiment some. Something like Audiograbber has a pretty good setup ...

post #9 of 15
You could try Burrrn. It's able to replaygain the files before burning them to Audio-CDs.
post #10 of 15
Ditto on MP3gain. Replaygain's also a useful feature for checking volume between various songs on an album.
post #11 of 15
Or.... you could just use foobar: select your mix CD and apply replaygain to your selection 'as an album'
then mix the lot down to wav and there's an option there to make the gain permanent in the wav, so when you burn to cd, it'll all have replaygain applied (permanently in the wav). Not great for sound quality I would imagine, but will do the trick.
post #12 of 15
If you use Nero to burn, somewhere in the burn process is a check box that says 'normalise audio files'.

Probably not great for SQ, I haven't noticed anything severe, but then again I mainly use it for mix cds I take into work. It's too much hassle to fiddle with the volume control while working and there's enough background noise there that any negative difference probably isn't noticeable anyway...
post #13 of 15
Originally Posted by Cheule View Post
Too bad you can't use iVolume, because I use it exactly in the way you are describing.
Just to add some value to this for Mac users searching the thread archive: I can second Cheule's commendation of iVolume. If you're on a Mac and using iTunes, it is absolutely essential. Very well integrated and easy to employ, very much worth the price ($15).
post #14 of 15

Hi I have  CD but the tracks don't have the same volume I would like to have all tracks at the same volume can you assist

post #15 of 15
Originally Posted by Effiles View Post

Hi I have  CD but the tracks don't have the same volume I would like to have all tracks at the same volume can you assist


Wow old thread!

What software do you use or have available to you? If we know what you are already working with, we might be able to help you better.
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