This may sound like a silly question, but how could one go about making sure all their tracks are the same volume level?

when mixing each song, I make sure the instruments are all balanced, then I make sure the maximum master volume output is no more than -1dB; finally I add a limiter like PSP Vintage Warmer or Classic Master Limiter and set it to a decent level to get a bit of bite on the overall mix.

when doing multiple tracks for an album I import all the final WAVs into Ableton and make sure everything sounds alright, then add a Master Limiter set to 0dB.

Usually sounds good to me smile

When you put everything in Ableton, do you export the tracks independently?

yeah, saves chopping them up later smile

Thanks man!

you can 'normalize' in audacity, right?  i've got a super old version on my computer...  you can in it at least.   i'd assume the newer versions as well, probably with more parameters.

You can. What does that do though? Haha, I've never used it.

Frostbyte wrote:

You can. What does that do though? Haha, I've never used it.

Normalize just amplifies the sound until the highest peak hits 0dB (or whatever level you set it for).  If you already have peaks that high in your recording it won't do anything at all.

So it's kind of like a compressor?

The best thing you can do is just adjust all the track volumes by ear.  That's what you're actually going for... for all the tracks to be perceived by a human ear as having the same volume.  That is not the same thing as having identical peak heights in a waveform.

Frostbyte wrote:

So it's kind of like a compressor?

Well, a compressor actually changes the relationship of the peaks in the waveform.  Normalize does not, it just raises everything together equally.  It's just a "volume knob" really.

Last edited by egr (June 28, 2011 7:11 pm)

Oh okay. That's cool. And going through them myself does make sense. I'll do that too. Thanks egr!

egr wrote:

The best thing you can do is just adjust all the track volumes by ear.  That's what you're actually going for... for all the tracks to be perceived by a human ear as having the same volume.  That is not the same thing as having identical peak heights in a waveform.

Thank you! Someone finally mentioned psycho-acoustics. Higher pitched sounds usually sound louder than lower pitched sounds, even if your VU meter says they're the same. In my experience certain timbres also seem to sound louder, even at much lower volumes. They seem to cut through the mix. Masking is another weird phenomenon you'll experience in mixing. Cymbals and other sizzley, white-noisey sounds can tend to mask certain lower pitched instruments and frequencies if they're up too loud in the mix.

An easy thing to do if you have a bunch of finished, mixed down tracks (say for an EP or something) is to import all the tracks into your DAW in one project/file/whatever so you can listen to them all side-by-side and even out the volume between them by ear.

egr wrote:
Frostbyte wrote:

You can. What does that do though? Haha, I've never used it.

Normalize just amplifies the sound until the highest peak hits 0dB (or whatever level you set it for).  If you already have peaks that high in your recording it won't do anything at all.

It takes the highest peak and raises the volume of the track.
The highest peak becomes 0dB

and kids thats why we record everything at super low volumes...when almost all peaks are over 0db it sounds like garbage