iTunes Sound Levels for Burning a CD
February 25, 2006 2:23 PM   Subscribe

I'm burning a CD of a playlist in iTunes and am having trouble getting the levels to match. Even though I use the iTunes "Sound Check" setting (which supposedly evens out levels), when I play my burned CD back, the levels are all over the place. Does anyone have any suggestions for a Mac OS X program that could help me out? Thanks!
posted by jmcnally to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
iTunes > Preferences > Advanced > Burning > Use Sound Check
posted by cillit bang at 2:46 PM on February 25, 2006

Sound Check does a very simple peak level normalization. You want something that uses ReplayGain. If they're MP3 files, MacMP3Gain seems like it'll do the job. iVolume looks like something that can integrate with iTunes.
posted by zsazsa at 2:55 PM on February 25, 2006

I use iVolume, and it works great.
posted by scallion at 2:58 PM on February 25, 2006

I was under the impression that the Sound Check option did not affect burned tracks, but I may be wrong. You may need to use a program that actually changes the original file.
posted by qwip at 4:13 PM on February 25, 2006

iTunes's sound check (whether for playback or burning) doesn't do what it claims to do with sufficient accuracy. Its levels are all over the place. The aforementioned iVolume says this is because iTunes's sampling it to coarse. Whatever the reason, the upshot is that, as you've found, it simply doesn't work.

Personally, I use iVolume to set the volume metadata for each track in a way that, well, works. According to the FAQ, these changes will be reflected in burnt CDs if you turn on sound check for burning in Advanced Preferences (as described by cillit bang above).
posted by caek at 4:21 PM on February 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

Is there anything like iVolume for Windows?
posted by fixedgear at 4:32 PM on February 25, 2006

fixedgear, Burrrn is a CD burning program for Windows that has built-in Replaygain (the algorithm iVolume uses). You can also pre-process your MP3s and (unprotected) AACs with MP3Gain, and play and use any software to burn.

Note that Replaygain has two modes - Album, aka Audiophile, and Track, aka Radio modes. Despite the differerence between the names, the quality is the same. Track mode normalizes every track you have individually, while Album mode normalizes album-by-album, keeping loudness levels between tracks on an album relative. Generally, when making mix CDs, you'll want Track mode.
posted by zsazsa at 4:53 PM on February 25, 2006

Thanks, zsazsa.
posted by fixedgear at 5:12 PM on February 25, 2006

the last time i did this, i did it manually with MacMP3Gain and then burned the new MP3 files to a CD with iTunes.

so now i'm wondering if i use iVolume to get better gain metadata and then burn an MP3 CD using iTunes, does it actually reencode the MP3s, boosting or cutting the volume with the gain data, or is it just putting the metadata in the file?

i ask because i doubt that the in-dash CD/MP3 player in my car would respect the gain metadata, based on the fact that the car's manual says it supports the "Romeo and Juliet" filesystem... clearly they meant "Joliet" but i take it as a sign they just don't have a clue what they are doing :)
posted by joeblough at 6:21 PM on February 25, 2006

Thanks everyone! I'll check out iVolume.
posted by jmcnally at 7:22 PM on February 25, 2006

My understanding of MP3Gain is that it neither reencodes nor adds metadata. Instead, it adjusts the amplitude of the mp3 file on a block-by-block basis.
posted by Ptrin at 7:35 PM on February 25, 2006

"iVolume does not re-encode your audio files."
posted by kirkaracha at 7:41 PM on February 25, 2006

dbPowerAmp normalizes volume as well as converts between file formats. It's for Windows and it's free.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:25 AM on February 26, 2006

Tried iVolume and it works great on MP3s I've ripped from CDs, but when a file has been downloaded from the iTunes Music Store, it shows up as "Protected" and iVolume can't adjust levels. What's up with that?
posted by jmcnally at 8:51 AM on February 27, 2006

jmcnally, because they're hobbled with DRM. Use jhymn and set free the music you paid for.
posted by zsazsa at 10:14 AM on February 27, 2006

okay thanks for the clarification. i guess boosting the gain on a block-by-block basis counts as "reencoding" from the standpoint of the car CD player. it wouldnt be able to play MP3s if it didnt grok the gain info in the block. on the other hand i'm sure its more than happy to turf any gain metadata.

posted by joeblough at 11:39 PM on March 9, 2006

[I had a "how does it work for you?" question about iVolume, but figured this thread was probably too old to get checked much, so I dropped scallion an email. I'm posting my question and his answer here for the benefit of future searchers.]

Q. "Scallion ... I wanted to ask you a question about iVolume if I may. I was running into the problem where I'd start iTunes playing then go into the shower or something and a song would come up that was way louder than the rest.

Just to clarify, if I use iVolume to "equalize" all of my songs in iTunes, it'll make them so that they'll all be about the same volume, yes?

Also, I assume the settings it sets are saved in the iTunes prefs, not on the actual MP3 files themselves right? (So, if I need to reinstall or my iTunes prefs get hosed or something, I'll need to re-iVolume-ize the songs)"

A: "Some of my songs are still louder than others, but this seems to be generally the case with music ripped from older CDs as opposed to newer ones (for me personally). Maybe it has something to do with CD technology, or the levels at which they were encoded by the manufacturer. I have some albums which are just invariably low leveled, and some that are way high.

I just ran iVolume on my library, and I found that on a cursory broad-stroke level, the songs all evened out a bit more effectively than they had with iTunes' Sound Check alone.

It doesn't do anything to the files themselves, no. It just changes the song adjustment settings in iTunes, for each individual song, you're correct.

Hope any of this helps. These might be questions best posed to the makers of iVolume. I'm in no way an expert with this stuff."

posted by blueberry at 6:14 PM on April 25, 2006

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