Compression of MP3s to achieve "that radio station sound"

Sorry if there is an existing tip or trick out there…I could not find one…does anyone have canned settings, compression or otherwise, to boost MP3 levels to sound like a radio station would? My streaming internet radio sation just does not have the kick that broadcast stations do.


Audacity 1.3 has equalizer presets for “AM Radio.” I don’t know that I exactly agree with the curve because it’s not a transmitter curve, It’s a receiver curve assuming you’re listening on a transistor radio. AM radio transmission actually does much better than that, but there it is.

The rest of the punch comes from compressors. Here you may have an uphill battle because broadcasters have very vicious, expensive compressors to keep the show as loud as possible without seeming to do so. Ever hear an announcer reach behind himself to pick up a paper and the character of his voice changes, but not the volume? That’s the rack of compressors at the transmitter. The other example is if you buy or download Car Talk from NPR. The download or the CD comes from the sound mixer, not off-air, so that when Ray leans into the microphone, it’s enough to scare the cat and knock the milk jug over. When you listen off-air and especially in the car, everything is evened out.

I say it’s an uphill battle because all the Audacities I’ve seen have very simple, one-curve compressors. Audacity 1.3 has a few extra handles on the performance, but it’s still a simple compressor. I don’t think you can get there with those tools.

But audacity does accept plugins…

Oh, wait. Here’s one. In 1.3, there is a “leveler” plugin. Select a little of your speech and copy/paste it on the timeline so there are two of them there. Select the second one and Apply the leveller at Heaviest with the noise around -50 or so. Then Normalize to -1. See if that doesn’t help. Play from the plain one right into the compressed one.



That may do it for you. Heaviest is too much. Somewhere between Heavy and Heavier should simulate that “Robust AM Sound.”


There’s also a plug-in called “Fast look ahead limiter” that can help create loud recordings.
It “clips” the tops of loud peaks, but gently so that it does not sound distorted, and the track can then be “Amplified” or “Normalized” to a higher level.

The “fast lookahead limiter” included with the LADSPA effects pack:

Professional radio stations use much more fancy effects, but this and the “leveler” effect should do a reasonably good job.