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How do I normalize an album?
sancco
post Jul 17 2013, 07:05
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Not as easy as you think! Greetings esteemed audio enthusiasts. I require your help!

I don't want to just normalize a bunch of tracks to 0dB - I want to permanently amplify an entire album by the same amount, so the highest peak of that album is 0db, yet ambient filler tracks and such are amplified to the same level so it all melds together smoothly.

Anyone know a simple and easy way to do this?

Mucho gracias! tongue.gif
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hlloyge
post Jul 17 2013, 08:05
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Simplest for me is to rip the whole album as one wav file + cue files, apply normalization and/or compression as preferred, and afterwards do with it whatever you want.
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mjb2006
post Jul 17 2013, 09:04
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Are these files lossy (MP3/AAC) or lossless (WAV/FLAC/whatever)? If lossless, you can modify the volume of the files with negligible risk.

Some audio editors offer batch normalization. If you're limited to adjusting volume in one file at a time, you can put them all in one file, normalize, and split it back up again, as was suggested.

Or, for example, in foobar2000, you could ReplayGain-scan the tracks as an album, and make a note of the album peak value, but cancel so it doesn't write the ReplayGain tags. The peak will be a floating-point value probably between 0 and 1. To convert that value to dB FS, multiply its natural log ("ln" button on calculator) by 20. Invert the sign (so if you got -0.123 dB, pretend it's +0.123 dB), and apply that gain to all the files in your favorite audio editor. Run the ReplayGain scan again and the album peak should now be 1.0, aka 0 dB.
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2Bdecided
post Jul 17 2013, 09:27
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QUOTE (hlloyge @ Jul 17 2013, 08:05) *
Simplest for me is to rip the whole album as one wav file + cue files, apply normalization and/or compression as preferred, and afterwards do with it whatever you want.
That is the easiest.

As mjb2006 said, if you have the tracks ripped already, find the highest peak across all of them and apply the required gain to make this 0dBFS to all of them.


The vast majority of CDs already peak so near to 0dB FS that there's no point changing them - you will not hear a difference - you're just wasting your time. Very old or oddball CDs that don't peak near 0dB FS can be raised, but the number of CDs where this causes a significant increase in loudness must be tiny. Even when peak normalised, really old CDs will still sound much quieter than most modern CDs, due to lack of compression.

What I'm trying to say is: why bother?

The only time I do anything like this is for music I've recorded myself, where I aim to have one sample across the entire disc peaking at -0.1dBFS. Obviously for home recordings levels, compression, EQ etc must be fixed for individual tracks and across the disc - setting the disc peak is just the last stage. For commercial content, I don't see the point.

Of course for proper loudness matching, there's ReplayGain wink.gif . In a situation where I was creating many compilation discs at home, and they all had to be loudness matched because they would be swapped and mixed in regular and DJ CD players, I didn't use peak normalisation at all: I just used ReplayGain for the whole lot with no post adjustment. The peaks on some tracks and on some discs were way down, but it didn't matter. They weren't going to be played against commercial releases, and loudness was consistent across the whole lot.

Cheers,
David.

This post has been edited by 2Bdecided: Jul 17 2013, 09:31
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mjb2006
post Jul 17 2013, 10:41
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And dare we mention inter-sample overs? 0 dB is probably too loud if the goal is to avoid clipping. Not that occasional clipping would be audible.
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sancco
post Jul 17 2013, 10:49
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Hmm I thought maybe there might be a batch converter that could do it. I'm having a look at the waveforms now, and it appears there are instances where the levels do in fact get up to 0dB, but for the majority of the time it's sitting between -6dB and -3dB. I guess I better just leave it, though this seems like pretty poor normalisation for a MFSL CD. Makes it a bit annoying when it shuffles to and from on the iPod, I have to turn it up and then get blasted by the next song if I forget to turn it down. It's Counting Crows "Recovering The Satellites" MFSL btw. I might just hard limit it, I'm not sure atm.

Thanks for all the help everyone. +rep

Especially 2Bdecided, your post is incredibly easy to read and very informative. Keep on postin'!

Thanks
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greynol
post Jul 17 2013, 15:12
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You want loumdness equalization, not peak normalization. They are not the same thing.

You want to use ReplayGain or R128 in album gain mode. Ignore what you've been told about peak levels.

I recommend using foobar2000 to accomplish this. You'll either want to use it as your player and have it manage playback level from tags or you'll want to use it to scale albums prior to encoding to the destination format of your choice.


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DVDdoug
post Jul 17 2013, 19:22
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QUOTE
I don't want to just normalize a bunch of tracks to 0dB - I want to permanently amplify an entire album by the same amount, so the highest peak of that album is 0db, yet ambient filler tracks and such are amplified to the same level so it all melds together smoothly.
QUOTE
Makes it a bit annoying when it shuffles to and from on the iPod, I have to turn it up and then get blasted by the next song if I forget to turn it down.
As you have just discovered, you can't do both!


QUOTE
Makes it a bit annoying when it shuffles to and from on the iPod...
Try enabling Soundcheck on iTunes and your iPod. But, I think this will volume-match song-by-song, so it can muck-up the original relative loudness on an album, and I'm not sure if it works through the dock connector. So, MP3gain (or a variation if you are not using MP3s) may be the best solution.


QUOTE
...this seems like pretty poor normalisation for a MFSL CD.
Actually, I'd expect MFSL to retain the full "original" dynamic range, rather than adding compressing/limiting.

This post has been edited by DVDdoug: Jul 17 2013, 19:36
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TomasPin
post Jul 17 2013, 19:25
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QUOTE (greynol @ Jul 17 2013, 11:12) *
You'll either want to use it as your player and have it manage playback level from tags or you'll want to use it to scale albums prior to encoding to the destination format of your choice.

Or in the case of MP3, after they're encoded, you can scan them and then apply the respective gain to each track or each album.


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greynol
post Jul 17 2013, 19:41
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I used to use Mp3Gain, but prescaling was much faster amongst other reasons.


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TomasPin
post Jul 17 2013, 19:49
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QUOTE (greynol @ Jul 17 2013, 15:41) *
I used to use Mp3Gain, but prescaling was much faster amongst other reasons.

True, the most important of those reasons IMO to be able to normalize music in any format foobar2000 can encode to.

This post has been edited by TomasPin: Jul 17 2013, 19:50


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greynol
post Jul 17 2013, 20:04
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There are lots of solutions. I actually use something different from what I recommended.


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