Use Volume Leveling in WMP 12 to Solve Loudness Problems

Normalize your music library so all songs play at the same volume

To minimize differences in loudness between the songs in your music collection, Windows Media Player 12 offers a volume leveling option. This is another term for normalization and is similar to the Sound Check feature in iTunes.

Rather than directly (and permanently) changing audio data, the WMP volume leveling feature measures the differences between songs and calculates a standard volume level. This is a non-destructive process that ensures each song you play is normalized in relation to other songs. The information is then stored in each song's metadata (much like ReplayGain) to keep the levels for all future listening.

Audio files must be in the WMA or MP3 audio format to use volume leveling in WMP 12.

How to Automatically Normalize Your Music Library in WMP 12

If you want to eliminate or minimize major volume changes between songs in your Windows Media library, launch the WMP 12 application and follow these steps.

  1. From the menu tab, select View > Now Playing.

    Alternatively, use the CTRL+M keyboard shortcut to display the WMP main menu tab or press CTRL+3 to launch the Now Playing view mode.

    Selecting Now Playing in Windows Media Player 12.
  2. Right-click anywhere on the Now Playing screen and select Enhancements > Crossfading and auto volume leveling. The Advanced Options menu displays above the Now Playing screen.

    Selecting Crossfading and Auto Leveling options in Windows Media Player 12.
  3. Select Turn on Auto Volume Leveling.

    Selecting Turn on Auto Volume Leveling in Windows Media Player 12.
  4. Select the X icon in the upper-right corner of the window to close the Settings screen.

    Selecting the X to close Crossfading and auto volume leveling settings in Windows Media Player 12.

Points to Remember About WMP 12's Auto-Leveling Feature

For the songs in your library that don't have a volume leveling value stored in their metadata, you need to play them all the way through one time. WMP 12 only adds a normalization value after analyzing the file during playback.

This is a slow process compared to the Sound Check feature in iTunes, which automatically scans all files in one go. If you had a large library before turning on volume leveling, set WMP to automatically level the volumes of new songs added to your library.

How to Automatically Add Volume Leveling When Adding New Songs

To ensure all new files added to your WMP 12 library have volume leveling applied automatically, follow these steps:

  1. From the main menu tab, select Organize > Options.

    Selecting Options in Windows Media Player 12.
  2. Select Library, then select Add volume leveling information values for new files.

    Selecting Add volume leveling information values for new files in Windows Media Player 12.
  3. Select Apply > OK to save the setting.

    Selecting Apply and OK to complete settings.

Instead of slowly playing through all the songs in your library to normalize them, consider deleting the entire library and then re-uploading it. By turning on volume leveling for new files and then re-importing your music files, you can save time. Make sure you don't accidentally delete the source files for the library.

Why Does the Loudness Between Songs Vary So Much?

There's a chance that the audio files on your computer or external storage device are not all from the same place. Many media libraries are created from:

  • Purchased and downloaded songs from online music services.
  • Ripped songs from audio CDs.
  • Downloaded songs from legal file-sharing sites.
  • Recorded live performances.
  • Analog sources like vinyl records or cassette tapes.

The problem with creating a library from multiple sources is that loudness, sound quality, and other factors can vary. Often the difference is so stark that you must constantly adjust the volume while listening. This is not an ideal way to listen to music, so enabling volume leveling is often worth the effort.

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