How to Normalize MP3 Files to Play at the Same Volume

No more reaching for the volume control every time the song changes

If you listen to MP3 files on your computer, iPod, or MP3/media player, there's a good chance you've had to adjust the volume between tracks because of varying degrees of loudness. If a track is too loud, clipping can occur, which distorts the sound. If a track is too quiet, you must raise the volume, losing audio detail. With audio normalization, however, all your MP3 files play at the same volume.

This tutorial demonstrates how to use a freeware program for the PC, called MP3Gain, to normalize your MP3 files without losing audio quality.

MP3Gain uses the lossless technique Replay Gain for volume normalization, using the ID3 metadata tag to adjust the loudness of a track during playback. Some normalizing programs resample each file, which can decrease sound quality.

The instructions in this MP3Gain tutorial should work with PCs running any version of Windows. For Mac users, there's a similar utility called ​MP3Gain Express for Mac.

Download and Configure MP3Gain

Most of the default settings in MP3Gain are optimal for the average user; the only recommended change is how the files are displayed on the screen. These instructions show how to configure MP3Gain to display just filenames. (The default display setting shows the directory path as well as the filename, which can make working with your MP3 files difficult.)

  1. Download and install MP3Gain.

  2. Select the Options tab at the top of the screen.

  3. Select the Filename Display menu item.

  4. Select Show File only. The files you choose will now be easy to read in the main display windows.

    Use the MP3Gain settings to customize how you view files.

Adding MP3 Files

To start normalizing a batch of files, add them to the MP3Gain file queue.

  1. Select the Add File(s) icon and use the file browser to navigate to where your MP3 files are located.

  2. Select files to add to the MP3Gain queue. Do this manually or use standard Windows keyboard shortcuts. (CTRL+A to select all files in a folder, CTRL+mouse button to queue single selections, etc.)

  3. Once you're happy with your choices, select the Open button to continue.

    Add the MP3 files that you would like to normalize.

To add a large list of MP3 files from multiple folders on your hard disk quickly, select Add Folder. This will save a lot of time navigating to each folder and highlighting all the MP3 files.

Analyzing the MP3 Files

There are two analysis modes in MP3Gain: one for single tracks and one for complete albums.

  • If you've queued up a selection of unrelated MP3 songs that aren't part of a complete album, select the Track Analysis button. Doing this will examine each MP3 file in the list and calculate the replay gain value based on the target volume setting (default is 89 dB).
  • If you're working on an album, hit the Down Arrow next to the Track Analysis icon and select Album Analysis mode. All the files now will be normalized based on the total album volume level. Select the Album Analysis button to begin this process.

After MP3Gain examines all the files in the queue, it displays volume levels and calculated gain, and highlights any files in red that are too loud and have clipping.

MP3Gain analyzes your music to determine if it can be normalized.

Normalizing Your Music Tracks

Now it's time to normalize the selected files. Just as in the previous step, there are two modes for applying the normalization.

  • For a selection of unrelated MP3 files, select Track Gain to correct all the files in the queue; this mode is based on the target volume in track mode.
  • If you've got an album to correct, select the Down Arrow next to the Track Gain icon and select Album Gain. This mode normalizes all the tracks in the album based on the target volume, but will maintain the volume differences between each track as they were in the original album. Select the Album Gain button to begin correcting all files.

After MP3Gain has finished, the list will show that all files have been normalized.

Normalize your MP3 files to even out the volume of the music.

Soundcheck

After the files have been normalized, it's time to do a soundcheck.

  1. Select the File menu tab.

  2. Choose Select All Files (or use the keyboard shortcut CTRL+A).

  3. Right-click anywhere on the highlighted files and choose PlayMP3 File from the pop-up menu to launch your default media player.

  4. Listen to your songs. If you're happy with the volume regularity, enjoy your music!

If you still need to tweak the sound levels of your songs, repeat the tutorial using a different target volume.