tl;dr: How can I manipulate an existing MP3 recording have a consistent volume level?


I have a few 60-90 minute long MP3s that I would like to listen to through my headphones but the audio volume ranges sporadically from almost inaudible lows to painful highs. I've tried listening by using winamp (default settings), WMP (ditto) and my android phone's MP3 player. They all have the same problem, and they are just not listenable in their present form.

It's a set of recordings from a stand-up-comedy club and so most of the time it is one person speaking quietly followed by a round of laughter which can be extremely loud.

A friend of mine suggested using Audacity's normalize, levels and equalize filters but I was not able to fix the issue (I'm not familiar with audio manipulation). I want to bring up the low levels and bring down the highs so I can listen without having to constantly mess with the volume dial.

I am not too bothered by poor sound quality as this is only for my own use, I'd be happy with a bit of noise as long as the volume wasn't an issue.

I've got about 50 such MP3s that suffer from this issue to a greater or lesser extent, each one I'm happy to deal with individually by hand if need be, but if it can be scripted then that would be great too.

  • 1
    This is the definition of compression. A compressor reduces the volume of its input when it is over a certain threshold. Try audacity's compressor instead.
    – Linuxios
    Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 19:54

1 Answer 1


Try leveling, a much used compression technique.

  • set compressor speed to the fastest setting

  • lower threshold to the lowest setting

  • play with the ratio between 1...2(2is kinda extreme 1.2-1.3 is recommended)

At last if you want more volume try a limiter!

  • I used the "compressor" filter in Audacity with the settings as you suggested (as far as I understood the available sliders) followed by a heavy "equalize" with -70dB threshold (? shrug) and a noise reduction. I've lost a lot of the treble but the result is certainly very much improved. I only wish these guys had recorded it properly in the first place! Thanks for the help :).
    – Wossname
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 16:49
  • no problem , you can use the makeup-gain setting on your compressor if you feel the result is not very loud.Always keep your ratio low ! If you feel the tonal balance of the initial signal is messed up , use an EQ and bring it back :)
    – frcake
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 16:53
  • I just cranked the bass/treble dial all the way over and now it sounds actually pretty decent!
    – Wossname
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 16:56
  • haha , happy to help :)
    – frcake
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 16:57

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