Using Audacity to equalize tracks prior to burning

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Using Audacity to equalize tracks prior to burning

Permanent link to this post Posted by rlprlp » Sat Nov 24, 2007 2:44 pm

Can Audacity be used to equalize the volumes of various music tracks before they are burned to a CD? I have two programs on my computer that can be used to burn CDs: WMP 10, and Sonic DigitalMedia Plus v7. (Two notes: The Sonic program came free, pre-installed, on my computer when I purchased it, and I have tried WMP 11, and did not care for it, so I reverted back to 10.)

Both of these programs have features that are supposed to equalize track volumes while burning, but neither one gives satisfactory results. My best guess is that it is because these are "variety" CDs that I am burning, and there is just too much difference in the volume levels between newer CDs, and CDs that are 10 or more years old. The newer songs continue to come out noticeably louder than the "classic" songs.

I tried to make a test CD using the gain control on Audacity. I either raised or lowered the gain on one song at a time, until the meter looked very similar on all songs. Then I saved each song that way, as a WAV file, and burned them all to a CD. It didn't work. I am pretty new to Audacity, and I don't know how to work with more than one track at a time, so again, I did this one song at a time, exported the song, and then moved on to the next. I simply used my own memory to match the levels of all the songs.

Thank you to all who take the time to reply.
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Re: Using Audacity to equalize tracks prior to burning

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Sat Nov 24, 2007 4:01 pm

The older CDs were recorded with the Red Book -17 dB standard sound level. The New! and Improved! CDs are recorded as loud as possible without distorting. Sometimes with distorting.

Select one song and Effect, Normalize. I use -3 and push everything to that.

You can't batch process this as far as I know. You have to do it one song at a time and then Export. Don't save.

"Normalize" changes the gain of a whole performance until the highest peak reaches some predetermined value. That's why you can't normalize two songs at the same time. It will take the loudest one and normalize that, but won't change the relationship between the two songs.

One poster on here recently was being driven slowly mad by not knowing that the burner he was using had built-in normalize. And it was different from the one he picked in Audacity. "How come no matter what I do....?"

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Re: Using Audacity to equalize tracks prior to burning

Permanent link to this post Posted by rlprlp » Mon Nov 26, 2007 1:27 pm

Thank you for the advice, but I'm afraid that it didn't work. I'm assuming that I must still be doing something wrong, so I will try to explain with as much detail as I can.

The first thing that I did was convert my music files from Windows Media Audio files to Wave Sound files, so that I could work with them in Audacity at all. I am not familiar with all of the rules of this forum, so at this time, I will not name the program that I used to do the conversions. Trying to maintain best quality, I chose the 48000 sampling frequency, the highest one available in the program.

I then altered one song at a time using Audacity in the following way: Loaded one song using Project > Import Audio. Selected the song by clicking in the gray box under "Mute", "Solo", and the sliders. Selected Effect > Normalize. "Remove any DC offset..." and "Normalize maximum amplitude..." were both checked by default, so I left them that way. Normalized the track. Finally, saved the altered track with File > Export as WAV.... Once the folder that I saved the WAVs to had enough songs to burn a CD, I did so. Being under the impression that I normalized the songs myself, I unchecked the normalize option in the burning program.

I really didn't notice any difference. The newer music still plays noticeably louder on my home stereo system than the "classic" music.

I doubt that it matters, but the reason that I am trying to accomplish this task is as follows: I played guitar in a band in the late 80s and early 90s. Now, I only play for my own personal enjoyment. I like to play along with CDs. When I play along to these "variety" CDs that I make, even though I never change my guitar amplifier volume, one song will be so loud that I can barely hear my own playing, then the next song will be so quiet, I can barely hear the drums of the song to be able to keep time. It really takes away from the enjoyment by having to keep adjusting the volume of my stereo system, and then start each song over, in order to play along.

Thank you again.
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Re: Using Audacity to equalize tracks prior to burning

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Tue Nov 27, 2007 1:40 am

I don't think you did what you think you did. I don't seem to find half the buttons you pushed. What version of Audacity to you have?

Help, About Audacity...

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Re: Using Audacity to equalize tracks prior to burning

Permanent link to this post Posted by rlprlp » Tue Nov 27, 2007 1:50 am

Thank you for the reply. The version of Audacity that I have is 1.2.6. I reread my last post, and double-checked. It is indeed accurate. The description that I gave in the last post is exactly what I did.

Rather than attempt to explain it all again in even greater detail, as that would make a lengthy post, please feel free to ask me any questions about any parts that I may have done a poor job explaining, and that you do not understand.
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Re: Using Audacity to equalize tracks prior to burning

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Tue Nov 27, 2007 2:01 am

Thank you. Now I gotta read it again to ask intelligent questions.
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Re: Using Audacity to equalize tracks prior to burning

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Tue Nov 27, 2007 2:42 am

First, you know you can get the timeline to read in dB under the black down arrow on the left.

You can make the timeline really tall by grabbing the bottom with the mouse and pull down.

Download the Piano Trill from here. It's 6 seconds so we don't have to sit through three minutes to experiment.

http://www.kozco.com/tech/soundtests.html

File > Open and put that file on the time line, not Project > Import Audio. Effect, Amplify and reduce it -24. The blue waveform should all but vanish, although you can still hear it. Export that as a new WAV.

Fresh Audacity. Load the same file. This time normalize to -3 or maximum. You should see the blue waveform expand slightly. Export that as a different WAV file.

Pull both the -24 file and the normalized file into your authoring program (with normalize off) and burn a CD. The -24 file should sound beyond half volume compared to the normalized one. If you almost can't tell the difference, then the burner is "helping" you whether it admits to it or not.

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Re: Using Audacity to equalize tracks prior to burning

Permanent link to this post Posted by rlprlp » Tue Nov 27, 2007 3:35 am

Checking the forum one last time for the night, then I'm logging off. I will try your instructions when I get a chance, and then post back. Thank you.
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Re: Using Audacity to equalize tracks prior to burning

Permanent link to this post Posted by tmdb » Tue Nov 27, 2007 5:17 am

I want to do the same sort of thing, but I don't want to normalise the tracks to the same maximum level; I want to normalise them to the same average volume, and I don't want to change the relative balance between stereo channels while I'm doing it (i.e., if one channel on a track is quieter than the other, I'd like it to still be quieter by the same proportion after I normalise). Any way to do that?
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Re: Using Audacity to equalize tracks prior to burning

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Tue Nov 27, 2007 6:26 am

<<<I want to normalise them to the same average volume>>>
<<<change the relative balance between stereo channels >>>
<<<Any way to do that?>>>

Yes. By hand, using the gain tools. The hard part is not using the tools, it's metering. You need a top quality sound system and real ANSI C16.5 VU meters. The sound system there is to mix to and catch the errors and the old style VU meters are there to set the average sound level when your ears get tired about the second or third hour in.

The other way to do it is the same way AM radio stations do. You apply the non-linear volume compression and limiter tools that Audacity doesn't have.

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