Burn music to USB
March 22, 2016 4:26 AM   Subscribe

What program should I use to burn my mp3 music files onto a USB drive and equalize them? If I simply copy the files off my computer, the volume is variable from one song to another, so I need to have the ability to equalize. I used to have Nero, but it doesn't function on my newer Windows 7 computer.

I don't need a program for playback on my computer, but for making a USB drive equalized for shuffle playback on my stereo.
posted by mightshould to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
MP3Gain is the one I used to use - it's been around a long time, so I'm not sure it's the latest and greatest thing, but it does what you're asking.
posted by pipeski at 4:47 AM on March 22, 2016

MP3 files are just files saved on a filesystem -- there's no "burning" them required. Just copy them to the usb drive, and it's up to the stereo to understand the filesystem. Depending on the quality of that system is whether you can have complicated organization folder trees. Dump all the MP3s at the root level and you'll be fine until you hit tens of thousands of MP3.

Equalizing is the more complicated part -- I see pipeski has offered software -- but you need a program like MP3Gain to load each file, equalize it, then save a fixed copy someplace else. You can probably do it in one step: have the equalizing software save to the USB drive as the "done" folder.
posted by AzraelBrown at 4:50 AM on March 22, 2016

You'll also need to figure out whether your stereo can read the normalization metadata (tags). Tools like MP3Gain normally use tags to indicate to the player what volume adjustment should be made, without changing any of the audio data. This is usually preferred, but if your player can't read the tags you're out of luck. If so, some implementations offer the ability to change the audio data itself as well (the downside being that the original, un-normalized files are usually unrecoverable).
posted by AndrewInDC at 5:04 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

The best way to do it is with software normalization if your stereo will support it, so if you want to play an album that's meant to be heard together, you can turn it off and hear it normally. If your stereo can't do that, you can do batch permanent normalization using Audacity, though if you're not starting from uncompressed audio, you will loose some quality because after the audio changes, it will need to be compressed a second time.
posted by Candleman at 6:14 AM on March 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

As an FYI, the term for what you're describing is normalization, not equalization. Normalization is adjusting digital loudness by making everything across the board, while equalization is adjusting specific frequencies (such as making the bass louder or softer).
posted by Candleman at 6:18 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh my, this sounds way more complicated than I thought, but everyone is sharing such worthwhile information.... I'll have much to research. Yikes.
posted by mightshould at 9:14 AM on March 22, 2016

If your stereo does not have the ability to do the soft adjustments but has an auxiliary input, it may be simpler to just use something that can do the normalization to feed into the input than to try to process and re-encode all of your music. I believe Google's music app shamefully still does not support it, but there's plenty of apps that do, so a $40 generic tablet with a MicroSD card might be a good solution.
posted by Candleman at 9:49 AM on March 22, 2016

There's a mechanism to do this -- ReplayGain. Your stereo might even actually support it, but it's probably not enabled by default.
posted by neckro23 at 9:50 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Start researching here.
Most of the article is very technical and not worth reading, but the intro and metadata sections are what you need to know.

Ideally your stereo would use the ReplayGain tags but I think it's unlikely it will, so you'll probably need to create new loudness-normalised mp3s specifically for it. foobar2000 works for both cases (only tagging the existing files or making new ones with RG applied).

Also, be careful with normalisation, many times the term is used to refer to peak normalisation, which would probably be useless for your case. You need something that does loudness normalisation.
posted by Bangaioh at 10:13 AM on March 22, 2016

I use Goldwave ($45) to do this - from the Help on the Match Volume effect:

"When creating a CD, for example, you may notice that each song is recorded at a different volume level. This means you have to adjust the CD Player volume from one song to the next. By using Match Volume, you can adjust the volume levels of each song so they all have the same average level, eliminating the need to adjust the volume for each song later."

You can use batch processing to do this on a bunch of files, and to also then save them out back to mp3 (don't overwrite your originals though!).
posted by 7 Minutes of Madness at 11:15 AM on March 22, 2016

Well, you can normalize mp3s when burning them to a disc using most cd-writing software, so you could maybe create an image file of an audio cd from your mp3 files, then write that image file directly to your usb drive with dd? Your usb drive would appear as an audio cd when you plug it into a computer.
posted by mammal at 3:07 PM on March 22, 2016

Regarding Bangoiah's comment, I will not that there is not a definitive best form of normalization. I prefer peak normalization, because it does not alter the source material at all. Loudness normalization can or can cause clipping.
posted by Candleman at 8:10 PM on March 22, 2016

I prefer peak normalization, because it does not alter the source material at all.

Loudness normalisation != compression, it also doesn't alter the source material, it only makes each track louder or quieter so they all sound equally loud, as if it were turning the volume knob for the listener.

Loudness normalization can or can cause clipping.

It can cause clipping during playback in some cases but that's already accounted for in the ReplayGain spec and can be easily prevented.

Additionally, the sort of material that might trigger such cases (extremely dynamic recordings with large peaks but very quiet otherwise) is precisely where peak normalising would fail at making them sound as loud as a typical hyper-compressed modern track.
posted by Bangaioh at 11:11 AM on March 23, 2016

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