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I've tried some experimentation with Adobe Premiere Pro and Audacity to make a file appear louder when played on a speaker. My source is an MP3 file of 320 kbps.

However, I can only "gain" approximately 12 to 15 dB of volume. Anything more, and there's no change in loudness. I may use a compressor or a LoudMax effect any number of time, the compressor works fine the first time, but can't go much higher afterwards.

I've tried some other options such as MP3Gain, or some online solutions. But nothing seems to be able to get past a gain or 12 to 15 dB.

Is there a way to augment the amplitude of an MP3 file any other way?

2 Answers 2

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This is a hard limit of the gain stage, whether you do it in processing with mp3s or in hardware.

The reason your compressor works well the first time, especially if you have set it quite high, is that it will increase the peak volume to the highest it can with no clipping. When you try to use it again, it has nowhere to go.

Many audio tools will call the maximum level 0dB. Trying to go to positive dB levels will then start to clip or distort your audio.

While you way try to push the volume higher, all you are doing is clipping the peaks off your waveform, which generally sounds bad in the digital world.

The only real world fix is to turn the volume up on the output or power amp, which will make all files played through your device louder.

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  • Hi, interesting! Is there another file format that would allow me to achieve that better?
    – talhos137
    Commented Apr 6 at 9:12
  • @talhos137 - no, this isn't anything to do with the file format. It's to do with the fact that you cannot turn the volume above maximum.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Apr 6 at 10:45
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If you want to make it sound louder, and the file's maximum volume is already at 0 dB, you can compress the sound. This can increase the average volume without changing the maximum volume.

Audacity manual for compression

For example, when you set the threshold to -20 dB, and the ratio to 2:1, any sound louder than -20 dB gets compressed by 2:1: instead of being 10 dB above the threshold, the sound is now 10/2 is 5 dB above the threshold, so your peak which was at 0 dB will now be at -10 dB. Then you can do another 'set gain' step to get the peaks back to 0 dB, which will amplify the track by 10 dB.

It takes time to set up this compression correctly: there are no universal values. If you compress by too much, the music will sound horrible.

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  • What is "volume" as a parameter of a file?
    – n00dles
    Commented Apr 5 at 14:29
  • the amplitude of the waveform.
    – Hobbes
    Commented Apr 5 at 14:35
  • So why did you say "volume" lol. Sorry, I have a gripe with that word, it has no objective unit. I suppose it's ok to use outside a system when measurement is subjective. Anyway, +1 for the concise compressor ratio explanation.
    – n00dles
    Commented Apr 5 at 14:40
  • Hi, actually, I'm looking at augmenting the amplitude of the waveform itself. Because compressor can only work one time. It's not the same as upping the volume.
    – talhos137
    Commented Apr 6 at 9:12
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    As Rory said, your first application of the Amplify effect in Audacity creates a file where the loudest peak is already at 0 db, the maximum possible amplitude. The only way to make the file sound louder is by reducing the difference between that peak and the average level of the file, and you use compression to do this. 0 dB is the loudest possible sound in the file. If that's not loud enough, you have to use the volume control on the amplifier instead.
    – Hobbes
    Commented Apr 6 at 9:32

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