How to Enable and Use Sound Check in iTunes

Save your hearing with Sound Check

Some songs in your iTunes library may be quieter than others. Modern recordings tend to be louder than songs recorded in the 1960s, for example, due to normal technological differences. Apple built a tool into iTunes called Sound Check that automatically adjusts the songs in your iTunes library to play at the same volume.

The information in this article applies to Macs and PCs with iTunes 12 or iTunes 11 and to iOS devices with iOS 12, 11, or 10, as indicated.

How Sound Check Works in iTunes

Every digital music file includes ID3 tags that contain metadata attached to each song and provide additional information about it. These tags contain things such as the name of the song and artist, album art, star ratings, and certain audio data.

The most important ID3 tag for the Sound Check feature is called normalization information. It controls the volume at which the song plays. This is a variable setting that allows the song to play quieter or louder than its default volume.

Sound Check works by scanning the playback volume of all the songs in your iTunes library and determining the average playback volume of the songs. iTunes then automatically adjusts the normalization information ID3 tag for each song to adjust the volume to closely match the average of all the songs. Then, all songs play at close to the same volume.

How to Enable Sound Check in iTunes

Here's how to turn on Sound Check in iTunes on a computer: 

  1. Launch iTunes on your Mac or PC.

  2. Open the Preferences window. On a Mac, click the iTunes menu, then click Preferences. On Windows, go to the Edit menu and select Preferences.

    Preferences in iTunes on a Mac
  3. In the window that appears, select the Playback tab.

    Playback heading in iTunes preferences
  4. Select the Sound Check check box.

    Sound Check option in iTunes preferences
  5. Click OK to enable Sound Check.

    OK button in iTunes settings

How to Use Sound Check With iPhone and iPod touch

If you use a mobile device like the iPhone or iPod touch to listen to music, Sound Check works on iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, although you don't set it up through iTunes.

  1. Open the Settings app on your iOS device.

  2. In the Settings screen, tap Music.

  3. Scroll to the Playback section and move the Sound Check toggle switch to the On/green position.

    Sound Check option in iOS

Sound Check-Compatible File Types

Not every digital music file is compatible with Sound Check. iTunes can play some file types that can't be controlled by Sound Check, which could lead to confusion. However, the most common music file types are compatible, so you can use the feature with your music.

Sound Check works with the following digital music file types:

  • AAC (the default format for the iTunes Store and Apple Music)
  • AIFF
  • MP3
  • WAV

As long as your songs are in these file types, Sound Check works with songs ripped from a CD, bought from online music stores, or streamed via Apple Music.

Does Sound Check Change My Music Files?

Sound Check doesn't change the volume of your audio files. Every song has a default volume—the volume at which the song was recorded and released. iTunes doesn't change that. Instead, the normalization information ID3 tag acts like a filter applied to the volume. The filter controls the volume temporarily during playback, but it doesn't change the underlying file.

When you turn off Sound Check, your music returns to its original volume, with no permanent changes.

Other Ways to Adjust Music Playback in iTunes 

Sound Check isn't the only way to adjust the playback of music in iTunes. You can adjust how all songs sound with the iTunes Equalizer or adjust individual songs by editing the ID3 tags.

The Equalizer adjusts how songs sound when played by boosting the bass or changing the treble. This feature is best used by people who understand audio, but the tool offers some presets. These are designed to make specific genres of music—Hip Hop, Classical, and so on—sound better. To access the Equalizer, click the Window menu in the iTunes menu bar on a computer and then select Equalizer.

You can also adjust the volume levels of individual songs. Just as with Sound Check, this changes the ID3 tag for the song's volume, not the file. If you prefer only a few changes, rather than changing your entire library, try this:

  1. Locate the song you want to alter in your iTunes Music Library.

  2. Click the song title and then click the ... (three dots) icon next to it.

    More Info icon on a song in iTunes
  3. Click Song Info in the drop-down menu.

    Song Info in iTunes
  4. Click the Options tab in the window that opens.

    Options tab in song info in iTunes
  5. Move the volume adjust slider to make the song louder or quieter.

    Volume Adjust slider in iTunes
  6. Click OK to save your change.

    OK button in song info in iTunes