Why do my MP3 files sound better in Audacity than in vlc 3.0

Hi all,

I just installed Audacity (on Windows 10 64 bit) yesterday because I wanted to trim one of my MP3s. And so, in doing so, I discovered that the sound playback in Audacity pleased me far better than that same sound file as played by VLC. How is that possible? Isn’t playing sound just a matter of sending a wave pattern to the sound card that every sound player does the same? Thinking I was imagining shite I tried it on other files with the same result. In audacity the base sounds fuller, richer, crisper and more pleasing. The treble sounds more spacious.

I’m a complete newbie to this so my (probably stupid) question is: Is there an explanation for this? Is there a way I can make my VLC playback sound as good as Audacity?

Thanks in advance for an input!

You’re right. There shouldn’t be any difference (if you’re playing the exact-same file… See below).

First, make sure you’re listening at the same volume (and of course through the same headphones/speakers, etc.). It can often “sound better” if it’s a little louder and it’s easy to fool yourself.

Then, make sure you’re not using [u]EQ or any other effects[/u] in VLC. (Audacity doesn’t have real-time playback effects.)

because I wanted to trim one of my MP3s.

One more thing…

As you probably know, MP3 is lossy compression. When you load the file into Aucacity (or any “normal” audio editor) it gets decompressed. If you then re-export as MP3 you are going through another generation of lossy compression. You might not hear any difference but the “damage” does accumulate.

…If you re-open the edited MP3 in Audacity it should sound identical to the same edited MP3 played in VLC. (Of course VLC has to _de_compress it too, but the damage happens during compression.)

There is a program called [u]mp3DirectCut[/u] that can do limited editing without decompressing.

If you must re-compress MP3, try to minimize the number of times it’s compressed and use a high-quality (high-bitrate) setting.

I wanted to trim one of my MP3s.

“My MP3s?” Stereo? Where did the original come from?

If you have phase differences between Right and Left in the original; and Audacity was set to play back stereo; and VLC was trying to mix down to mono, you can have profound differences between the two even they both appear to be playing the same file.

While the work is in Audacity, temporarily mix down to mono.

Tracks > Mix > Mix Stereo down to Mono.

Do you suddenly have the odd VLC sound in Audacity?

Edit > UNDO.


Koz, thank you for your suggestion. It made me start looking at my VLC settings and I eventually discovered that I had enabled an audio filter (who knows when!!). I disabled it and now my mp3s sound the same, played by Audacity or VLC. YAY!

Sometimes the act of posting a question will change your mindset just enough to see solutions invisible while you were obsessing about the problem.