How to average the volume

I’ve been using Audacity 3.0.0 on Windows 10 for a few weeks to record an audiobook. I do a lot of starting and stopping, and for various reasons I can see on the waveform that the average volume of one section is different than other sections at times.

At the end of recording a chapter of the book I want to average the volume of the whole chapter. I’ve tried Normalize and Loudness Normalization, but the results I get are not useful, either sound is not really averaged, or it is averaged and the sound is distorted and has artifacts. I’m recording for ACX (Audiobooks) and am trying to provide the most professional quality possible in my home-based setup. I do everything I can to make the recording just right straight from the microphone and do a minimum of editing.

I can usually meet ACX specs by only having to apply Limiter to reduced the waveform peaks, but it would be nice if I can average out the volume without getting any artifacts. I try carefully to keep my mouth the same distance from the mic and to speak with the same volume, but it is just impossible to keep the volume the same over multiple recording sessions.

Maybe the Normalize, or Loudness Normalization filters are the right tools and I’m just not using them properly. Any ideas are appreciated.

but it is just impossible to keep the volume the same over multiple recording sessions.

Loudness Normalization on each file/session should work. If you are pushing the levels in to clipping (distortion) choose a lower loudness standard. You’ll have to boost the levels later during mastering but It’s OK if they are temporarily low.

Regular Normalization won’t cause clipping (distortion) but Loudness Normalization isn’t watching the peaks so it can push your peaks into (potential*) clipping.

When you get to the mastering, Loudness Normalizing to -20dB RMS will almost always push your peaks into (potential) clipping but the next step (Limiting) pushes-down the peaks.

*Audacity itself won’t clip but if your peaks go over 0dB you can clip your DAC, or your exported file can be clipped if you don’t take care of it before exporting.

Thanks for the quick reply. I’ll give the Loudness Normalization another try and experiment with the parameters.