How to Normalize Audio

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Why and when you need to normalize audio files

Edited by Ben Jacklin
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The Audio Normalization effect has been around since the beginning of digital audio, but opinions in the music society are still contradictory. One team claims that normalizing your audio can degrade it; the other group says sound normalization can be a handy tool. But why and when would you need to normalize your audio?

First of all, to get the maximum volume for a quiet audio file without changing the dynamic range (for example, tweak the audio in a movie with a low sound level). Another purpose is matching volumes in a series of audio tracks recorded at different volumes (often the problem with podcasts episodes).

There’s a myth about audio normalization that beginners bring up when they come across this topic. Some of them claim that normalization can degrade/change dramatically the way the audio sounds. In fact, this used to be the problem about three decades ago, due to the processing algorithms. Today this is no longer an issue.

Of course, the Normalize effect should be used wisely. There are situations where it’s best to abstain from using it simply because there are better ways to get the same result. Sometimes you can edit an MP3’s volume using automation, clip gain, or a plug-in.

What does Normalize do?

But what does it mean to normalize audio? Precisely what does Normalize do? In fact, there exist two kinds of normalization. The first is Loudness Normalization (more accurately, LUFS, Loudness Units relative to Full Scale), and the second is Peak Normalization.

LUFS are used to measure the loudness over the entire length of an audio track (average value). So Loudness Normalization simply refers to the process of attaining an average value. Loudness Normalization helps ensure that the average volume of your audio is the same from track to track.

Here are the loudness normalization levels that music producers usually stick to.

  • ATSC A85 (US TV), NPRSS & PRX: -24 LUFS

  • EU R128 broadcast: -23 LUFS

  • YouTube and Spotify: -14 LUFS

-14 LUFS is also the standard normalization level for many other streaming platforms.

Peak Normalization, on the other hand, is the process of making sure that the loudest parts of an audio track don’t exceed a specific dB value. Applying the Peak Normalization effect increases the dB level across an entire audio track by a constant amount. Because the same amount of gain is applied throughout the whole audio track, the signal-to-noise ratio and relative dynamics rest unchanged. Using the Normalize option is really no different from turning up the volume control.

Below, we’ll describe how to handle the two best MP3 normalizers, Movavi Video Editor and Audacity. The first allows you to edit the sound in a movie and not just a stand-alone audio track, and the latter offers a large number of effects. It’s up to you which one to use.

How to use the Movavi audio normalizer

Movavi Video Editor is a great program to create your own movies, but it also offers audio-editing tools, including the Normalize option. So if you’re looking for an MP3 volume leveler, this may be the one!

Here’s what you can do with your audio track using Movavi Video Editor.

  • Normalize the audio

  • Record your own voice-over

  • Adjust the volume of the music track

  • Add the fade in/fade out effects

  • Reverse the audio

  • Adjust the playback speed

  • Edit the audio (copy, paste, cut, delete)

As you can see, the program offers many audio-editing options that might come in handy. You can use it to edit audio in a video or an audio track alone.

Step 1. Install the Movavi audio normalizer

Download the Movavi volume-leveling software and launch the installation file on your computer. Movavi Video Editor runs on Windows 7/8/10 and Mac OS X 10.10 or higher. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the installation process. When this is done, launch the program.

Step 2. Import your music files

Click Add Files and select the video or audio to normalize (almost any format will do). The file will appear in the Media Bin. Drag the added item onto the Timeline.

Step 3. Normalize audio files

Double-click the video or audio on the Timeline to open the Clip Properties window. Check the Normalize box on the General tab. Doing this will normalize the volume in the whole audio track.

Step 4. Export your file

Click the Export button. In the window that appears, select the appropriate option. To export a video, make sure the Save Video File tab is selected. To export a music track, go to the Save Audio File tab. Choose the best format for your file: videos can be saved in MP4, MOV, AVI, MKV; audio files in MP3, FLAC, WAV, OGG. Finally, specify the title, destination folder, and quality, then click Start.

This is how to use the Movavi volume normalizer. With Movavi Video Editor, you can do much more than just normalize MP3 volume level: cut and crop videos, apply special effects and filters, insert animated transitions and titles, overlay and edit background music, and much more!

Read on to learn how to normalize audio in Audacity, another excellent program to make an MP3 louder (the program only supports popular audio formats such as MP3, WAV, and AIFF).

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*The free version of Movavi Video Editor may have the following restrictions depending on the build: watermark on exported clips, 60-second video or 1/2 audio length limit, and/or some advanced features unavailable when exporting videos.

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How to normalize in Audacity

Audacity is an open-source program that anyone can download and use. Please note that Audacity only allows users to edit audio files. To enable the program to modify videos containing audio, make sure that additional FFmpeg libraries are installed. Otherwise, you’ll need to convert your files beforehand or look for another option to process your files. But if you just want to tweak an audio track, Audacity is a great choice.

Here’s what you can do with Audacity.

  • Record live audio with a mic/mixer

  • Use VST plug-ins or write your own plug-in

  • Choose from a huge number of effects, including Normalize

  • Edit the audio (copy, paste, cut, delete)

  • Process 16-bit, 24-bit, and 32-bit files

Want to know how to lower volume in Audacity (or, vice versa, make the music louder)? Here we describe how to normalize volume in Audacity on a Windows 10 PC. The process may be slightly different on Mac and Linux computers.

Step 1. Install the program on your computer

Download and install Audacity on your computer. The program is compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Download Audacity for free from the developer’s website

Step 2. Import your file

Click File and choose the Open option. In the window that appears, select the audio file you want to edit (you can add multiple files, too).

Step 3. Apply the Normalize effect

When the audio track appears on the Timeline, use the Ctrl + A combination to select the entire track. Then open the Effects menu and choose the Normalize option. In the new window that appears, a few options will be given.

The first option is to Remove DC offset (center on 0.0 vertically). This might look complicated, but it isn’t. The DC offset can distort the audio, so it’s essential to make sure that the waveform is on the 0.0 line. Just check this box to avoid offset before you edit the track (the DC offset can block some other editing options, so it’s best to do it before you apply any of the effects).

The second option given by Audacity is to Normalize peak amplitude to any value you like (as you’ve already adjusted the DC offset, you can proceed to normalize the amplitude between peaks). -1.0 dB is optimal because going beyond this value may distort your audio and make it hard to listen to. Moreover, this value leaves some room for other effects you might want to apply. To normalize lower amplitudes, enter a lower value, for example, -2.0 dB.

Another option is to Normalize stereo channels independently. This one would come in handy if you recorded two audio tracks separately, each with a different volume. To mix them properly with a uniform volume, check this box. This will normalize the channels independently and adjust the amplitude separately for each channel.

When everything is set, click OK.

Step 4. Export your file

To save your normalized audio track, click File, choose the Export option, and select the desired format (MP3, WAV, or OGG). In the window that appears, specify the destination folder, bitrate mode, variable speed, and channel mode. Click Save.

This is how to use Audacity to balance audio. Not only can you normalize in Audacity, but also apply other effects such as amplification, distortion, fade in/out, and much more.

Now that you’ve learned two ways to normalize audio tracks, you can choose the one that suits your purpose best. The main difference is that Movavi Video Editor allows you to normalize not just the audio but the audio in a video, too. In contrast, Audacity can only process audio files but, on the bright side, it offers a much larger variety of effects and is really more pro-oriented.

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*The free version of Movavi Video Editor may have the following restrictions depending on the build: watermark on exported clips, 60-second video or 1/2 audio length limit, and/or some advanced features unavailable when exporting videos.

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