Need an even sound level on a podcast recording

I am using Audacity 2.0.3 on Windows 7. I edit a podcast for a friend of mine. The program that he uses to record creates two tracks one of just his voice and one for everyone else that is part of his Skype call. In the past he sent me a single mp3 file that had his track merged with the others. However, we noticed that his volume was consistently lower than everyone else on the podcast, so I asked him to send me the two tracks separately. However, I still have some of the older episodes to edit that were sent to me as a single file, so I have two scenarios.

Scenario 1: Single mp3 file
Is there any kind of filter that I can apply to the sound to try and make the audio sound more level, so that anyone soft becomes louder and anyone loud becomes softer?

Scenario 2: Two mp3 files.
I tried editing this already. I thought it would be a simple matter of amplifying my friend’s stand-alone track and then integrating it with the other tracks. However, when I tried to use the amplify function it said -0.3dB. If I tried to adjust this to a positive value the “ok” button grays out. I’m not sure why the amplify function won’t let me actually amplify the audio and would only let me reduce it.

So, does it help me at all to get his audio separated out as a separate track or should I just integrate the audio and treat it as scenario one? If there is some way to just make my friend louder with respect to everyone else when I have it as a separate track then let me know.

It’s very difficult to split the two halves of a bi-directional recording captured as one track and produce a balanced show. That’s why we strongly recommend Pamela or some other Skype recording software that can produce a split recording (me on the left, them on the right) at the beginning.

The first step is to produce a balanced show whether you have to bring a track volume up or down. Once you have a pleasant, volume balanced show — however you got there — you can use any of the compressors or processing tools to bump the whole thing up or down to wherever you want it.

Do Not Do Production In MP3. MP3 produces sound damage and as a practical matter, you can’t stop it. When you’re done processing and production in Audacity, you have to make a new MP3 which will double the compression sound damage and distortion. The producer should be sending you very high quality, uncompressed WAV files.

They’re big. If you have no good way to send those (Drop-Box??) you can mail them in 25MB segments.

There is no good way to rescue Scenario 1. You can try the compressor tool.

But don’t put a lot of money on making a well-balanced sounding show.


I think that I didn’t quite explain myself properly. My friend’s program does save each track separately.Originally he was combining them together to send them to me for editing. Now what he’s doing is converting each track separately to mp3 and sending them to me as separate files. Does this help at all? Is there some way to get the relative levels right when I combine them back into a single file?

If he is able to send me .wav files instead what should I do? Should I still use the Compressor tool?

Thank you for your help with this issue.

Originally he was combining them together to send them to me for editing.

Stop doing that.

Now what he’s doing is converting each track separately to mp3 and sending them to me as separate files.

Excellent start. Send WAV files instead. You may be shocked at the increase in file sizes when you do that. That will give you some idea of the quality that MP3 is throwing into the trash bin.

As I indicated, it’s usually worth serious effort to use WAV files through the editing process, but my email account will throw up trying to send any files over 25MB. DropBox® (or equivalent) may be the answer. The desperation method is to chop up the production at convenient places into 25 MB chunks and send those one after the other as email attachments.

I would Export the Show Master Edit as a WAV and park in in archival storage locked in a closet somewhere. I still have original production capture files from several years ago. You can always go back to a very high quality, uncompressed WAV and cut a different show or correct a mistake. That’s another thing you can’t do with MP3. At the very end of the process is when you create the MP3 (or whatever the client wants) as a “deliverable.”

MP3 is an end product. Full Stop.

The show that was sent to you as a combined channel MP3 may be a real problem. Whatever you do, the speaking-into-a-wine-glass, bubbly compression distortion is going to go up and that’s the good news. I would recommend Chris’s Compressor…

…but Chris produces his own “sound.” It will probably straighten out the show, OK, but it will never match all your other shows.

Can you get split WAV delivery for that show?