Minimizing volume changes in audiobooks

A LONG time ago I asked in here how to take the normal MP3 files for an audiobook, and reduce the amount of volume variation. It’s just spoken word, and I want it to NOT get so soft I can’t hear it, or so loud it’s painful. To add to the fun, I have hearing issues and wear hearing aids, so it’s even MORE important 'cause when the audio gets soft it just disappears.

Clarity is really important because my comprehension is compromised, but clear speech at a volume so low it’s nonexistent is worthless. And turning up the volume so the really quiet passages are audible to my assisted hearing makes the LOUD passages like an ice pick into the ear.

I got some replies, and played with some things, and it all got WAY too complicated. I wound up, in version 2.2.2, creating a chain that takes all the files in an audiobook and does some normalization, then exports the MP3 files. It doesn’t work very well.

Recently, I decided to try again. I put 3.3.3 on the PC, and I downloaded and MAY have installed the current chriss dynamic compressor, but even after listening to a really long audio, looking for the 60 seconds I needed in the 43 minutes, I never got it to work in audacity. I DID get it to run one time standalone, but it just crashed when I tried it on a file. There’s a Readme, but it’s an md file, and nothing on the PC appears to open it.

I tried the plugin manager in 3.3.3, but have no idea HOW I’d actually get the is in the folder in the zip file to be a plugin.

Back to 2.2.2 where I could use chains, and have it run against all the files in the book. I did compression at the defaults, then amplify to set the peak to -2db. This makes the volume of the audiobook only somewhat softer than the radio so I don’t have to turn the volume up a huge amount to listen to the audiobook. Which otherwise is a problem when I turn the book off and go back to the radio, which is then so loud the entire car vibrates and we’re back to the ice pick in the ear.
But, when Audacity does the export to MP3 it SAYS it’s doing it at 2Kbps, where previously it was doing at 128 kbps… And takes over a minute to export a file… I have no idea if this is a problem or not. I had my wife listen to the output and she thought it sounded OK, and less sibilant(?) and “scratchy” than a lot of the TV audio. So, I’m not sure if what I’m doing is correct or not.

Anyhow, after all that, I’m looking for a simple, idiot-proof way of taking an audiobook, and reducing the amount of volume change that happens. AND increasing the volume of the “flattened” speech so I don’t have to drastically increase the volume to listen to the audiobook, then get blown out of my seat when I switch back to the radio.

If chriss dynamic compressor is a better approach can somebody tell me how to get it into Audacity and what settings would be best for my situation?

I’d PREFER not to reduce the quality of the playback than necessary, but it has to be simple and something I can apply to all the files in the audio book (which is easy in 2.2.2 and I have no idea how in 3.3.3.)

So is there a simple, ordinary-non-audio-expert-person way, in Audacity, for me to do this?

A well produced audiobook should not have that problem. If you have that problem from a commercial audiobook that you purchased (with money), then you should complain to the seller.

Maybe you have some free audiobooks that have not been produced to a high standard. The production quality of free audiobooks varies a lot - some are just as good, or better than many commercial audiobooks, while some others are terrible.

If the books that you have problems with are generally OK, but some chapters are louder than others, then it should be possible to fix very easily. Just apply “Loudness Normalization” to each chapter individually, and normalize to -23 LUFS (and export the processed tracks with no other processing.

If the books vary in volume within a single chapter, then it’s a much bigger problem, and it may be best to look for a better version of the book.

There are free plugins which will give you radio-level volume via
multi-band compression, (with make-up gain), e.g.
ToneBooster’s broadcast plugin v3 .
Its controls are small & fiddly, but you can ignore them and just use its presets, (e.g. “loud”, “Smooth”).

Thanks for the replies…

It may just be me because of my hearing, but the volume of every fiction, mystery, particularly anything with multiple readers (something non-technical), I’ve bought online or gotten with the ebook from Amazon, or borrowed from the library in the last several (maybe 10) years, has random, intermittent passages that are extremely soft. AND random things that are quite loud - speaking, shouting, screaming, gunshots, or whatever.

And they’re all MUCH softer overall than the normal or satellite radio in the car. Which means even if I don’t do anything else, I need to increase the volume to a level to somewhere near the volume of the car radio.

I’ll see if I can find and try one of the normalization plugins, but the one in audacity hasn’t worked, which may just mean I’m not using it correctly - though there’s not much to set other than the “Normalize maximum amplitude to” some value. I normally use -3 or -2 db.

I"ll look at the recommended plugin.

I just went out and tried to find the Tonebooster’s broadcast plugin. I didn’t find that, but I looked at ToneBoosters and found a whole bunch of things, none of which say anything about “broadcast”. I downloaded SOMETHING from there and installed it, and there are a whole bunch of things in there, like TB_Barricade and TB GonioMeter, and so on, but I have NO idea which one is the “broadcast” plugin.

Either I’m missing something simple or this is not intuitive to the uninformed observer. The reference I found said “you’ll need the manual”, which also didn’t fill me with confidence. A search for TB_Broadcast found a lot of things for TV broadcast, but no plugin.

And if I DO find this plugin, HOW do I get it into Audacity? Or does it not go into Audacity?

ToneBoosters “Broadcast” v3 is one of their legacy (i.e. old) plugins
which they have made available for free.
They come packaged in a zip file via either of these 2 links (PC or Mac).

I wrote that.
You don’t need the manual to select one of its presets, e,g, “Loud”.

Installing & using Realtime plugins in Audacity is a nightmare even for tech-savvy people.

Thanks for the information.

Eventually, I found a pointer that sent me down an interminable list of releases to the archived stuff, found Download THAT one, installed it, and there’s another bunch of stuff in there. Unfortunately NONE of it looks like TB_Broadcast.

Installing & using Realtime plugins in Audacity is a nightmare even for tech-savvy people.

I definitely don’t need anything that’ll be another nightmare 'cause I’m definitely not “tech-savvy people”.

In light of not finding anything more reasonable to solve what I hoped would be a simple problem, I guess I’ll use 2.2.2, set up a chain that does compression at the defaults, Amplify it to -2db, export the mp3 for each chapter, and live with that.

Once installed TB_broadcast V3 is in a folder called “Free” …

C:\Program Files\Common Files\VST2\ToneBoosters\Free

TB_broadcast V3 is a 64-bit VST2 plugin: it will only work on 64-bit Versions of Audacity.

Older versions of Audacity are 32-bit, and can only use 32-bit plugins.
Fortunately there is a 32-bit version of TB “Broadcast processor”: it’s another zip file … Jeroen Breebaart | Free VST plugins

You really couldn’t make Chris’s Compressor work?

You are the poster child for Chris’s Compressor. Chris Capel wrote his compressor so he could listen to wide volume range opera in his noisy car. It can do scene by scene compression and volume management and boosting.

I’m arranging the installer.

I change the first value, Compression Ratio, from the default value of 0.500 to the stiffer 0.770.

If the volume boosting/squashing isn’t enough, you can apply the compressor more than once

There is one problem I know of. Chris doesn’t like the ends of the show. So attach ten seconds of “something” to both ends and then cut it off when you’re finished.

As we go.


IIRC Chris’s Compressor is a single-band compressor.
That means it’s going to increase sibilance if there is make-up gain.
Whereas the multi-band compressors can avoid that,
32-bit broadcast plugin

and you can adjust them in real-time, (as the audio is playing).

Thanks for the replies.

I’ll have to play around with some of these and see if I can get them to work.

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