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3 Ways to Normalize Sound Volume on Your PC

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If you’re constantly adjusting your computer’s volume while you watch videos or play music, there’s a better way. You can set a consistent volume level, either Windows-wide or in a specific program like VLC or your music player.

Many applications have “volume normalization” or “loudness equalization” features built-in, including Windows itself. These features are often somewhat hidden and off the beaten path, so you won’t find them unless you go looking for them.

Windows Loudness Equalization

Windows includes a build-in Loudness Equalization feature, although some sound drivers may not support it. The loudness equalizer keeps sound output from all applications on your computer within a consistent volume range.

To enable the loudness equalizer, right-click the speaker icon in your system tray and select Playback devices.

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Select the sound device you want to enable the equalizer for – for example, your speakers or headphones – and click the Properties button.

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Click over to the Enhancements tab and enable the Loudness Equalization check box in the list. If you don’t see the Enhancements tab, your sound hardware isn’t supported.

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If an application is currently playing sound, you may have to restart playback for the changes to take effect.

VLC Volume Normalization

If your sound card doesn’t support the loudness equalizer or you’re using another platform, such as Linux, you can look for an application with a built-in volume normalization feature. This is also useful if you only want to even out the volume levels in a specific application – say, between different video files in a media player.

The popular VLC media player includes a built-in volume normalization audio filter. To enable it, click the Tools menu in VLC and select Preferences.

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Click the All option under Show settings to view all VLC’s settings.

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Open the Filters pane under Audio and enable the Volume normalizer filter.

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You can tweak the volume level from the Volume normalizer pane, located under Filters. Click the Save button to save your settings after you’re done.

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You may have to restart VLC for your changes to take effect.

ReplayGain for Music

If you’ve got a local music collection on your computer, you can use ReplayGain to even out the volume levels of your music files. ReplayGain analyzes the volume levels of your music files and sets them all to a consistent volume.

There are a few ways to do this. You can modify the music files themselves with a utility like MP3Gain. This ensures that the music files will play at about the same volume level everywhere, even on hardware devices and software music players without support for ReplayGain.

If you use the awesome Foobar2000 music player – or another music player that supports ReplayGain – you don’t have to modify the files themselves. Foobar2000 can scan your music files and determine their relative volumes. Instead of modifying the sound data, Foobar2000 adds a small bit of metadata to the files. When you play back a file with this metadata, Foobar2000 automatically adjusts its playback volume – think of it as your music player automatically adjusting its internal volume slider.

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How do you even out volume levels on your PC? Leave a comment and let us know if you’ve got another useful tip!

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 06/4/12

Comments (19)

  1. deanmitc

    Can you please tell me how to recover the speaker icon in the system tray. I am not sure how I managed to lose it and I have been unable to recover it. Running 32-bit Win Vista Ultimate.

    Thank you.

    Dean Mitchell

  2. Khara H.

    @Dean Mitchell: Go to Control Panel > Device Manager and verify that the sound controller is enabled. Or, try restarting the computer and then going into the system icons (Right click taskbar> Properties>Notification Area>System Icons and click volume. This seems to be a common problem for Windows Vista users; folks think it’s because the cache is full for the icon memory.

    Microsoft also has a “fix it” tool for Windows Vista that might help you: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/945011

  3. Thomas Stackhouse

    USE VOLUME 2

  4. slomem

    @ Dean If vista has the icon notification applet it may have been removed there. Left click on the system tray icon, select customize. Then look for the volume control area. Once you find the volume use the drop down menu and select show icon. Hope this helps Good Luck.

  5. Ray

    Right click taskbar – properties – then CUSTOMIZE under notification area – then find your volume control and set accordingly.

  6. spike

    @deanmitc: I don’t have Vista, but have XP and 7, so the steps should be similar. Go to Control Panel, Sounds, or Sounds and Audio Devices, and there should be an option to display volume icon in taskbar. If it’s not checked there, it won’t display, even if you select to show it (instead of hide it) via the customize notifications dialog.

  7. deanmitc

    Great comments from all, and thank you very much. In my version of Vista will allow for customization by right clicking the tray area but not the taskbar. I did right click the tray area and try customization (newly-learned process thanks to Slomem). Found a whole bunch of missing icons but there was no speaker icon available. My question seems to be solved thanks to all but I’m still missing an icon that is not where it is supposed to be.

  8. deanmitc

    Note to Kahara H. – I have tried all of the solutions you suggested in the order you suggested them and nothing worked. There was a strange occurrence however. When I went into the system icons (Right click taskbar> Properties>Notification Area>System Icons) and tried to click Volume I was unable to do it because that line was grayed out and could not be selected. The box was unchecked which explains why the sound icon does not appear – but why is the box unchecked and unavailable for change?

  9. sVen

    @deanmitc

    I use Vista home prem….
    Try:
    right-click your ‘start menu orb or icon’
    left-click ‘properties’
    left-click ‘notification area’ tab

    Where it says ‘hide inactive icons’, un-check the box.
    A little lower, where it says:
    ‘clock’
    ‘volume’
    ‘network’
    ‘power’ ,
    make sure those four boxes are checked.

    That should do it. Now mix and match, to show whatever works for you.

  10. sVen

    @deanmitc

    We must have been typing at the same time.
    My guess as to why it’s grayed out is that a malware program changed it. Even if the malware is gone, the effect may remain.
    I’d recommend using a scanner.

  11. grizzle

    Nice article, I thought i’d be the first to comment on it instead of offer advice to the fartknocker Wanting support. Winamp offers reasonabley good gain options. Never tried the windows One or knew it existed so might give it a try

  12. mmg1818

    i use SoundMax

    now i see for what is Loudness Equalization, i need this Loudness Equalization

    Thanks.

  13. Braco

    The article is really helpful …
    My daughter has a problem to find a place in Vista where it can regulate the internet connection … always shoots her veza.Ja I have never used Vista … I see that here there are plenty of Vista users … so I ask for assistance.
    Sorry I’m off topic …

  14. Johnny Megabyte

    what about basic EQ for audio from your browser ?
    Would be helpful is Windows itself or Internet Explorer (or Chrome) could EQ the audio, coming from Youtube, let’s say.
    Any solutions, or suggestions ?

  15. keith

    If anyone knows of a Windows level setting for this in XP (using a third party program) I’d love to hear it! My HTPC runs XP and it’s frustrating to watch a movie on Netflix when people are whispering one second and blowing up buildings the next…especially when the wife is asleep one room over.

  16. Rain_Man

    I simply dont have Loudness Equalization check box in the list.

    I have already installed new sound drivers, but I dont have that option in the list?

    Any ideas why is that? And how to get it?

  17. Dragon Girl

    Thank you, thank you!! I spend 75% if my time at the computer listening to music. While reading How to Geek of course… Don’t tell my boss. :)

  18. Chris Hoffman

    @keith

    Not sure about XP, sorry! You can definitely do this in desktop media players like VLC above, but Netflix uses Silverlight and is a tougher cookie to crack.

    @Rain_Man

    Sorry, your sound hardware may just not support it — even with newer drivers.

  19. Kumar

    Hi,

    I am using Windows 7 on an HP m6-1045dx laptop…the audio device is from IDT. I do not see the enhancements tab. Windows 7 is automatically forcing sound normalization over any audio I play, whether it is mp3 files, listening to online radio streams or watching DVDs. It is the most annoying thing and the dynamic sound range is always moving. I am unable to enjoy any music I listen to.

    Since I do not see the Enhancements tab in the sound driver properties, is there a way I can turn off sound normalization in the windows registry??

    Any help in this matter is greatly appreciated. If there is no way to fix this, I unfortunately have to return this laptop and exchange it for another one in which I have control over sound normalization.

    Thank you.

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