|The question mark is there to indicate that not
everyone agrees about whether or not this should be done. But
before we get into that, let me explain what "normalize"
"Normalize" means that the sound level of the file(s)
are increased or decreased to a pre-determined point. The result
is that all your MP3s will have about the same sound level which
means you won't have to be constantly be adjusting the volume
control of whatever player you use to listen to them.
That sounds good, right? So why wouldn't you want to do this?
Well, suppose you have an album of several songs. Some of those
songs are purposefully softer than others in the same album
to give an effect. If you make them all the same volume, that
effect will be lost.
There are two ways you can normalize a file. The first way is
for a program to read the file and to find the sample with the
greatest volume (the "peak"). It then raises everything
by the maximum amount it can without clipping
the file. The other way is for it to determine a median point.
There are also two times when you can normalize:
1. When you are making the wave (anytime before you encode it).
2. After you have encoded the wave to MP3.
The first way used to be about the only way possible. The problem
with it is that it is irreversible...screw up and the only way
you can fix it is to rip/record the wave again. Most rippers
and wave editors will let you normalize the wave. If you do
it this way, remember that your goal is to have them all at
a similar volume. I'd suggest that you not try to get
them at maximum volume...you can always turn up the volume a
bit you know...maybe shoot for the low 90s so there is a margin
Doing it to the MP3 is somewhat less precise...you'll still
have a bit of volume variation...but it is reversible. It is
what I would suggest you do.
MP3 Normalizing Programs
The most flexible is MP3Gain.
Another good one, MP3Trim,
will only do peak normalization but it has the added benefit
of letting you trim off parts of the file....very handy if you
download a file from a live performance and don't really want
to listen to 45 seconds of applause. The free version will do
files of up to seven minutes in length, one at a time. The Pro
version lets you do any length in batches (drag & drop the
files to the interface).
|Alternatives to Normalization
If you use Winamp, there are numerous plug-ins that will maintain
a level volume from file to file as you play them (some also
include sound enhancements to increase the stereo effect). They
do so by "compressing"...raising the volume of the
quiet parts and lowering that of the high parts. This sort of
compression is non-permanent, only happens when you play the
song with the plug-in active. You can save the output, though,
using Winamp's built in DiskWriter.
A couple that I have used and like are RockSteady
& Wider (increases stereo too). Still another is TomSteady.
Even if you normalize your files, it is worth using one of these
to further tweak the volume.
The stereo enhancement is well worthwhile too...it generally
makes the sound much better even on PC speakers. I particularly
Wave Surround for Winamp...it's the best ten bucks you'll
ever spend. I generally use it and Compressor & Wider at
the same time. To do so, you need a "DSP stacker"
to let you use two such plug-ins at the same time. I use MuchFX.