I listened again (using the same speakers) and now in headphones, and I feel the same. The speakers are JPW monitors worth £80 about 10 years ago. I don’t regard them as complete crap - they seem to suit the smallish room I listen in.
I can hear the distortion in Leveler more clearly if I compare it with Compressor. If I compare Leveler with your leveler’s attempt (third part of the original clip), that sounds so “un-natural” to me that it totally outweighs the distortion in Leveler.
Also in that third part, I can hear what I regard as “boominess” which is very close to “distortion” (mostly in the voice that was originally too quiet). That “boominess” sets a sort of sympathetic ringing going in my ears which is not very pleasant. The “boominess” is not there if I just take a section of the voice that was originally too quiet and amplify it to 0 dB.
Your new attempt largely fixes the changes of dynamics and emphasis within each voice (not completely at high leveling). Even at low leveling I don’t think it’s quite as smooth as it could be for the first 1.5 seconds “What does he need distraction”. My general impression is otherwise slightly less favourable, in that the “boominess” is more oppressive unless I set it to 10%. In the first version I found 20% the optimum setting, but in the new version 20% clearly gives a louder (peak and rms) result than before.
Otherwise the new version seems similar - at high settings I sense that the loudness of the voices has been “inverted” so that the softer voice is now louder. Maybe it is a legitimate effect but I don’t expect to hear that at 50% (default) setting and I doubt many current Leveler users will expect it.
OK but the difference is - whatever descriptions are given for it - empirically, noobs can mainly ignore the threshold in Leveler if there is little noise. I’ve just seen the old description you found for its Noise Threshold, but because of the distortion problem and the implementation, that setting seems to make little real difference to the audible result. This actually helps noobs.
You say the threshold in your new effect needs to be set “a little below the level of the quieter voice”. This is what I would prefer to avoid in a “simple” compressor if possible. User has to look at the vertical scale (linear) and figure out how that relates to dB. Also is this peak or rms level of the quieter voice?
My tests so far of your leveler did not change the threshold. It looks as if the quietest phrase of the quiet voice in the original is about -12 dB, so I tried -13 dB threshold at 10% leveling. That did not improve it for me or seem to make much visible difference to the waves. Then I tried - 5 dB and -4 dB at 10% which got rid of the “boominess” and give reasonable leveling (I would have liked a bit more leveling). But, both those settings are a long way from the defaults.
If I want a quite heavy leveling that sounds to me something like released Leveler without the distortion - Ratio 8:1. Threshold -35 dB. Other sliders unchanged from default. Make-up gain and “Peaks” unchecked. Then Normalize to -2 dB. Note that this reduces the stereo separation quite a lot - more than released Leveler or yours. But I think some people may think that helps “leveling” in some sense.
If I want Compressor to do a lighter leveling something more like your leveler at -5 dB (retaining stereo separation) then I would set Threshold closer to its default -12 dB and perhaps not use Normalize. I like both those Compressor settings in their different ways, except that the heavier setting exposes that “unwanted fade in” problem at the start that Compressor has.
Also I tried your demo clip in the Levelator which some users regard highly https://archive.org/details/conversationsnetwork_org-levelator - you can get the sources. There are no settings whatsoever. They say this combines elements of a compressor, normalizer and limiter. And they say a leveler’s purpose:
is not specifically to reduce the dynamic range of a signal like in a compressor or limiter (though that is often what happens), but to simply have an audio signal stay at roughly the same volume for an extended period of time.
Here is the Levelator’s result on your demo clip: http://gaclrecords.org.uk/bugs/levelator-speech-output.flac . I like this too, and it retains separation. I think it lacks a little “body” in what was originally the louder voice and has a little of the “inverted loudness” feeling I get in yours. I marginally prefer yours at -5 dB threshold.
I saw your latest comment in Crew thread about this. I’ve got to go, but yes - I really don’t think Leveler was intended by Lynn as a “steamroller - flattener” effect such as the 100% setting in your effect makes. It was intended as a simple compressor for speech (as I said all along).
But given our current compressor is zanier than it was in Lynn’s day, I see lots of value in the new effect being a simple general purpose compressor for speech and music. I think it would be a missed opportunity not to try - clearly noobs try to use Leveler for music, unaware of its history.
If possible I would still like it to be an expander too. I think expansion/compression on the same control would be something noobs could get a grasp of, though less important that a simple general purpose compressor.