Utterly Baffled by Volume Issues

I have tried all of the suggestions regarding getting a decent volume of sound for my podcast. My input levels are great - just under 0 at my loudest points - it sounds strong in my headphones. When played back on my speakers, it is low and weak. It is low compared to my music intros as well. I have tried normalizing before exporting. I have tried amplifying before exporting. I have tried normalizing then amplifying before exporting. (The results of all of these sound exactly the same in my speakers). The only way I seem to be able to get any increase in volume is to increase the volume in the dB slider, which, because I am already near 0 or normalized, always results in distortion. How can my music be so much louder than my voice in my speakers, but have a smaller waveform? And why, when I increase dB with the sliders, is the change not reflected in the waveform? Also, why does the waveform look so different if I export to mp3 and then load the mp3 to look at it? Is the waveform of the mp3 the actual waveform after amplification and/or normalization?

Utterly Baffled

Where to start…

If you do a straight integration of live music and live microphone into a plain show, They will, almost without exception sound just about the same and create the same waveforms. Neither one will be particularly loud.

If you integrate a live microphone with professionally produced and orchestrated music it’s a different story. Somebody at some studio spent thousands of dollars to make the music as loud as humanly possible without substantially changing the blue waveform (there are actually changes if you know where to look).

All the tools you mentioned so far change the simple volume of the microphone without changing the density or loudness of the sound. I would use Effect > Amplify rather than any of the sliders. The sliders are promissory notes, not actual changes. Effect > Normalize has the same volume problem. All are simple volume changes without affecting the loudness (a fine point I know).

Audacity 1.3.5 has a tool called Effect > Leveler. It’s a brute force loudness compression tool that may help with your job. You can also juggle with Effect > Compressor and do even more damage. The compressor is pretty simple so you may need several passes to get that robust AM radio sound.

Export As WAV often to get way points in case you mess something up. Audacity Projects tend to be brittle and you don’t want to get three hours into complex production and have your project crash with no WAV backups.


Thanks Koz. I’ll give the compressor a try and see what happens. It sounds like that might help. Is there a way to view the ‘promissory notes’ changes to the waveform before exporting?



But not as much as leveler. You can have Audacity 1.3 installed on your machine at the same time as 1.2, but you may not use them both at once.

<<<Is there a way to view the ‘promissory notes’ changes to the waveform before exporting?>>>

No. That’s why I don’t like using them. You have to keep in your head what you did. The “real” effects tools affect the waveform and let you see what’s up.

Slider changes are reflected in the bouncing lights sound meters and the monitor output sound. So if you’re listening on headphones, a slider pan left will be completely obvious.


Try using the effect on a couple of short sections and use the “Undo” (Ctrl+Z) to undo the effect. When you have found settings that seem right, apply the effect to the whole track (you can still use “Undo” if it’s not quite right).