Normalising Lossless Files/Apple Lossless?
May 12, 2008 at 8:58 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 17

wicker_man

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I was wondering, is it possible to normalise lossless files?

If so, what software can be used (I use a Mac) to do this?

I rip my CDs to Apple Lossless (via iTunes), but can convert to other lossless formats to normalise, then convert back to ALAC for my iTunes library.

At the moment, I store my lossless albums on an external hard drive, and convert a copy to 320kbps MP3 for my main iTunes library to transfer to my iPod and mobile phones. All of my MP3s are normalised (using MacMP3Gain) so they all sound the same level.

However, recently I was experimenting with different bit rates and lossless encoding and was considering using the ALAC albums in my library along with MP3 music that I have previously ripped and do not have the CD or a lossless copy. But, since the Lossless tracks are much louder than the normalised MP3s, it is a bit of a pain having to adjust the volume, especially on my iPod using canalphones and the track is louder.

At the moment, I do not have 'good' enough equipment to tell the difference between MP3 and lossless (main setup is MacBook Pro using integrated audio headphone output to a Panasonic SC-PM17 mini system aux input, portable setup is a 160GB iPod Classic with JVC Marshmallows). However, hopefully this summer (depending on getting a job), I want to replace my Panasonic system with an amp + bookshelf speakers and possibly get a cheap USB DAC (or utilise the optical output in MBP), and get some better canalphones/headphones + portable amp for my iPod.

Thanks for any advice.
 
May 13, 2008 at 6:57 PM Post #2 of 17

devotee101

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Surely one of the points of lossless audio is retaining the dynamics as much as the overall quality? Doesn't normalisation contradict some of the point of going lossless?
 
May 13, 2008 at 8:56 PM Post #3 of 17

royalcrown

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Normalizing won't reduce the dynamic range of music. Normalizing is simply taking the peak of a file, and then raising it to just below distortion, and then raising everything else proportionally. By doing so, the track is louder overall, but has the same fidelity and same dynamics.

That being said, I think the OP is asking for a replaygain-type solution for lossless files, which is a slightly different beast (replaygain will also preserve dynamic range). Unfortunately, I don't know of any programs that could do that for you. If you can't tell the difference between mp3 and lossless, I would just keep mp3's, especially if (as you seem to suggest) replaygain is a big deal for you. Honestly, I would wait till you get your new equipment, and even then 320kbps is better than a lot of people think in terms of sound quality; I would use foobar's abx feature once you get your new gear to see if lossless would really make a difference to you.
 
May 15, 2008 at 4:10 PM Post #4 of 17

gregorio

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Normalising digital audio is usually a bad idea. You generally do not want any peaks above about -3dB, otherwise there is a chance your DAC will clip.

Also, having the same peak levels for all of your tracks is not going to make them all sound the same volume. A track with a lot of compression is still going to sound louder than a track without lots of compression, even if the both have the same peak level.

Much better not to normalise and just turn your amp up and down as required.
 
May 18, 2008 at 11:13 PM Post #5 of 17

royalcrown

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gregorio, replaygain (which is what the OP uses) is not peak normalization, which is why I said it's a 'slightly different beast.' Replaygain uses RMS normalization, and at the default 89db mark there's usually tons of headroom before the file will clip. I think the OP is referencing a method to make all of the files sound equal in terms of loudness, rather than trying to maximize the volume of said files.
 
May 30, 2008 at 2:55 PM Post #6 of 17

gregorio

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Royalcrown - AFAIK, Normalisation is by definition peak normalisation, any thing else is just adjusting the gain or compression/limiting.
 
May 31, 2008 at 8:06 PM Post #8 of 17

spyderx

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I think we're talking about the same thing here...basically matching playback volumes....

So, iTunes has the capability built-in. It does NOT modify the files (as far as I know). What it does is evaluate the files, and then sets a tag with a + or - dB value based on the "loudness" of the file. If you turn ON this feature for playback, it basically attenuates the playback of the files to this dB value so that all files play with the same loudness.

You ARE using the iTunes digital volume control in this case, and possibly a dB boost if the files are "quiet".

This feature is called "Sound Check" in the iTunes Preferences --> Playback tab.
 
Jun 1, 2008 at 3:25 PM Post #9 of 17

wicker_man

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Thanks for the responses.

I think at the moment, I will stick to 320kbps MP3 and keeping an Apple Lossless backup of my CDs until I upgrade my equipment, and see if I can notice the difference between MP3 and ALAC.

MacMP3Gain apparently uses ReplayGain algorithms to adjust music to a target 89dB gain value, and changes the file's volume without recompressing.

Royalcrawn, Foobar appears to be Windows only unfortunately. I don't think iTunes or iPods read replaygain information?

I have tried Soundcheck in iTunes but I have found that it doesn't really work well.

I'll have a look into iVolume.
 
Jun 1, 2008 at 6:09 PM Post #10 of 17

Oliver :)

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Quote:

Originally Posted by wicker_man /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I have tried Soundcheck in iTunes but I have found that it doesn't really work well.

I'll have a look into iVolume.



Do so. I have not tested the new 3.0 yet, but I'll have a look to see whether it is worth for me to upgrade from 2.x. It is a very handy app for OS X and gives great results—much better than the "quick & dirty" approach built into iTunes that used to "mush" things up in my experience—at a decent price. Perfectly integrated into iTunes too, well configurable. There used to be a limited free demo, I guess that should still be there with the 3.0.
 
Jun 1, 2008 at 9:01 PM Post #11 of 17

wicker_man

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I've downloaded iVolume 3.01, the free version has a popup every few minutes during processing.

Would it be OK to run it on my whole iTunes MP3 library? I have previously used MacMP3Gain at 89dB using the radio mode (each track individually processed) on my MP3s, would the MacMP3Gain values be used or does iVolume analyse the volume level itself and adjust it to a standard level?

Also, if I used the Combine Album mode, would it work properly seeing as I used the radio mode on MacMP3Gain?
 
Jun 1, 2008 at 9:06 PM Post #12 of 17

bowraboy

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Oliver :) /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Do so. I have not tested the new 3.0 yet, but I'll have a look to see whether it is worth for me to upgrade from 2.x. It is a very handy app for OS X and gives great results—much better than the "quick & dirty" approach built into iTunes that used to "mush" things up in my experience—at a decent price. Perfectly integrated into iTunes too, well configurable. There used to be a limited free demo, I guess that should still be there with the 3.0.


The new version is completely different. Very fast with a few more options. I had to re-encode all my tracks but it didn't take long.
 
Jun 1, 2008 at 9:40 PM Post #13 of 17

royalcrown

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Late to the thread, but my apologies, I didn't read the original post close enough to tell that you were running a macbook. As far as replaygain implementation on the Mac, I have also heard that iVolume is the best solution as far as that goes. As for your question, I think that iVolume would most likely leave the tags intact, as it is an implementation of the replaygain algorithm, though I don't have firsthand experience to verify this.



Quote:

Originally Posted by gregorio /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Royalcrown - AFAIK, Normalisation is by definition peak normalisation, any thing else is just adjusting the gain or compression/limiting.


According to wikipedia page on normalization (audio):

"Audio normalization is the process of increasing (or decreasing) the amplitude of an audio signal"

and then, from the wiki page on replaygain:

"(Replay Gain itself is an elaboration on RMS normalization.)"

In short, adjusting the gain is a form of normalization. But I'm getting way off topic here.
 
Jun 2, 2008 at 9:22 AM Post #15 of 17

carlosgp

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The new iVolume is fast and works very well, but it has some usability issues that need to be solved. For example, the program checks all the files every time you press the "start" button, searching if they are leveled already. If you have a big collection, this is a pain in the ass. As a workaround, you can create a "ignore" list for the leveled files, but you need to add them manually to the said list.
 

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