dB range of a track

Hello fellow audacitiers :wave:

How can I check the dB range of a given track, in order to easily know the lowes, average and highest dB?

Thanks in advance.
Best regards

So you can easily select the whole track (Ctrl+A), then Effect > Amplify. Type a 0 in the first box, and Audacity will give you the existing dB peak , relative to full scale. The lowest dB is almost always 0. To get a feeling for the average, just zoom out all the way (Ctrl+F).

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Thanks @jademan

You reffer Amplification (dB) box “0”, and New Peak Amplitude also at “0”, with Allow Clipping unchecked, and then whatching reference values on the left of the track?

In fact, I must have been doing something wrong, because the only thing I can see of values at the left of the track is from -1 to 1, whatever it means.

In my opinion, once checking the highest/lowest dB is a crucial part of mastering stage, I think Audacity should provide this information easily, and in a user friendly format, without the need of workarounds.

The ACX Check Plug-in will give you most or all of what you want.

There are also a couple of 3rd-party plug-ins, YouLean and dpMeter, but I’m not sure if they work with the current version of Audacity. These give you LUFS loudness which is a better measure of loudness than RMS.

Those plug-ins can also give you LRA (loudness range). Some people use the Crest Factor which is the difference between peak and RMS to get the “dynamic range” (easy to calculate or there are 3rd-party plug-ins for that too) but waveform peaks correlate poorly with perceived peak loudness.

The minimum is usually the background noise or silence at the beginning or end so it’s not that useful, but ACX Check does give you the noise floor and ACX (audiobooks) has some requirements for that.

Audacity has pre-scanned your track (or selection) and it knows the current peak. Amplify will default to whatever gain or attenuation is needed for maximized/normalized 0dB peaks. New Peak Amplitude will always show 0.0dB and Amplification will default to whatever change is needed. For example, if it defaults to +3dB, your current peaks are -3dB. If both boxes show 0dB, your peaks are already 0dB.

You can cancel the Amplify effect if you just what to check. (If you run Amplify twice and accept the
defaults it will default to 0 and 0 the 2nd time and do nothing.)

The numbers on the left are “normalized” values where a value of 1 represents 100%, or 0dB. (The negative half of the waveform isn’t -100%… It’s just the negative half of the waveform at 100%.)

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@DVDdoug thanks!

This leads me to another question: why a track with peaks at 0dB still sounds low volume to me, compared to others? If I have to keep peaks at 0dB to avoid distortion, how can I make it sounds louder?

Short duration peaks won’t be perceived as loud compared to a more “dense” mix with lot’s of frequent-high peaks.

You can use dynamic compression or limiting . (Not to be confused with file compression like MP3.)

In general, dynamic compression makes the loud parts quieter and/or the quiet parts louder. In practice the loud parts are normally reduced, and then “make up gain” is used to bring-up the overall volume.

Limiting is “fast” compression. It “pushes down” the peaks, and again, make-up gain can be used to bring-up the overall loudness. The Audacity Limiter is very good… With the hard or soft-limit options it uses look-ahead, so unlike most limiters it doesn’t distort the waveform. (But if over-done it can still sound like distortion.) The Limiter has fewer settings to mess with (or to mess-up) and it’s probably better than the regular compressor for boosting loudness.

Virtually all commercial music uses some compression, except for a few classical or jazz recordings. And sometimes it’s over-done (Loudness War). If you make your own recordings they won’t be as “loud” unless you also use compression/limiting and you probably won’t get the same loudness with as little “damage” as a professional mastering engineer.

Of course, compression reduces musical dynamic contrast and that can make music boring. :wink:

I use ReplayGain or MP3Gain for “volume matching”. These make a single linear volume adjustment before the track starts so the dynamics are retained. But the standard-default target volume is set low-enough that the loud tracks are lowered in volume. There is a setting to prevent clipping so some quiet tracks don’t meet the target even after the change is applied… The default setting is a compromise that works with most music.

All of the popular streaming services use similar volume matching. Traditional broadcast radio compresses everything to make “everything loud”.

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