Adjusting Volume and Equalizer On Old Music

I have some music from the 70’s and 80’s that I would like to put on my mp3 player. The problem is they are at a much lower volume than all of my newer stuff. Some of them are also lacking in the low frequency range. When I load them into Audacity, I can see that the overall level is way lower than it should be but there are a few spurious peaks that keep me from just using “amplify” without clipping. I have tried the “compressor” effect but the peaks are not changed at all. Using “hard limiter” seems to work OK but is that the correct way? What is the best way to raise the volume of the tracks without hearing any clipping? Also, if I increase the bass should it be before or after the volume increase?


A better (free) compressor (plugin) for Audacity …

I have a version of that installed but I’m not sure it’s the newest. The file size on mine is 17kB.

Use Audacity 1.3.13 - the effects that you need are much better in 1.3.13 than in the old 1.2.6 version.
Use “Amplify” on the track first (with default settings).
Then Apply the compressor and select “Make up gain” and “Based on Peaks”.
The other settings will depend on the type of music and your personal taste, so experiment, There’s some info about the compressor here:

There’s some suggested setting for producing extreme loudness in this topic:
You will probably want less effect than described here.

I would generally apply the compressor effect (just once),
then amplify by a negative amount (probably about -6 dB, to leave some headroom for Equalizing)
then the Equalizer (if required),
then Amplify the result to 0 dB,
Then apply a little more compression of the fast lookahead limiter if I needed to raise the overall level a little more.
Finally I’d amplify to a level of -1 dB before exporting.

If you are trying to make the music the same volume as other music on your player, you are best off using ReplayGain. Modern music has loudness techniques applied to it that are hard to replicate while still maintaining general sound quality unless you are a mastering engineer or something.

If it is an iPod (non-shuffle), turn on “Sound Check”.

Otherwise, you should search for compatibly with ReplayGain in whatever music managing software you use. Scan all files with it, and enable it wherever there is an option in your software or on your player.

If you really want to make it as loud as your other music, use a VST maximizer. It is a simple way to make music louder, and you will be able to find one easily.

Sound Check on the ipod didn’t work but I’m using a Sandisk Sansa for now. The VST maximizer might do the trick. Are these plugins for Audacity?

SoundCheck and ReplayGain work differently than Audacity. Unlike Audacity, most of these tools don’t change the actual audio data. They add a “tag” that tells the player to adjust the volume during playback. The player has to read the tag and adjust the volume during playback. (There are some variations such as MP3Gain and WAVgain that do change the actual audio data, and these work on any player.)

Mostly, these tools try to match the volume of your files by reducing the volume of the loud files, since you can’t increase your quiet-sounding files without clipping the peaks.* So, in order for these tools to match volumes, you have to apply them to all of your files.

Various VST effects may, or may not, work with Audacity. The programmers that develop VSTs may not bother testing & debugging them for Audacity (especially the expensive high-end VSTs).


  • Compression is a non-linear process and it can increase the overall-average volume without clipping the peaks.

I tried to bet the VST plugin "Boost’ to work but it wouldn’t show in my effects. As for equalizing a little, does anyone know of a good free tone control plugin. I just want bass and treble controls.

You have to tick this box I’ve coloured yellow in Audacity preferences when you add a VST effect to the plug-in folder, then close Audacity, if all is well the effect should then appear on the effects list when Audacity is restarted, (the list of installed VST effects should flash before your eyes when you restart Audacity).
Tick the yellow box then close Audacity, then open Audacity, VST should then be on the effects list.png

Steve made one of those, but it doesn’t have a “preview” :
you have to try it on a few seconds of the track to find out what it effect it’s having.
BasicTone control plug-in by Steve.png