Listening Levels on iPod - A Guide to Using SoundCheck

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jhollington said:
However, this does raise an interesting point. If the files themselves aren't being updated, then if you were to copy the files FROM your iPod using iPodUtil or a similar utility, you wouldn't necessary get the most up-to-date tag information, unless the utility in question reads the iPod database and re-writes the tags while it's transferring the songs from the iPod.
Some quick testing revealed that for most tag modifications the songs are in fact retransferred to the iPod (although for just one or two tracks it happens so fast you don't even notice it sometimes).
 
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filrkaye said:
I did turn the sound check feature on on the ipod.
Strange. Since you're importing from CD, the SoundCheck processing should be done at import time.

If you look at the properties of a track in iTunes, and select the Summary tab, do you see a Volume field? (it should be below the "Last Played" field).

This is where any volume adjustments done by Sound Check are normally shown.
 

aquatika

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I opened one of these files in Helium2 which is how I maintained my MP3 database before being introduced to iTunes. Now, when I browse the ID3 tag info, there is a parameter (in the MP3 and not in the iTunes database) called iTunNorm.
Interesting, iTunNorm is the Soundcheck info field.
All my MP3's were ripped with Exact Audio Copy and Lame, I imported them into iTunes (as you did) and let it scan the files for Soundcheck purposes.

None of my MP3's have had the iTunNorm field added to the tags (I checked in Foobar), but Soundcheck still works both on the iPod and on the PC.
Weird, just when you think you have got to the bottom of it iTunes throws you another loop.
This Soundcheck is a complicated process by the looks of it, the trouble is that no-one really knows much about it or about iTunes interaction with the iPod via the database, as Apple like to keep tight lipped as far as I see.
That's why I've been trying to play around with it and see what it is doing but there seems to be no rhyme nor reason to it's adjustments.

filrkaye,

I don't know what is happening with yours, if you imported your CD's using iTunes and then transferred those files to your iPod then it should just be a case of enabling Soundcheck on your iPod for it to work. Bear in mind that Soundcheck is not perfect and some music does still show volume differences.
Do you hear any difference at all when listening to the iPod and you enable/ disable Soundcheck ??
 

filrkaye

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I do notice a volume change when I disable the soundcheck on the ipod. What I cannot figure out is that I have Dave Matthews or U2 discs that I have transferred to the ipod and some of the discs there is a sound difference between some of them ..some are more softer than others so I have to increase teh volume on those songs.
 

contrara111

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Does anyone notice that with sound check enabled, you have sort of a reverse sound volume effect? Say with it enabled, a song that's very loud and heavy on the bass (such as "Slither" by Velvet Revolver) will actually not sound as loud as compared with say, an older song or a song not that heavy on the bass (such as "Murder By The Numbers" by The Police). This is what's going on with me. With sound check off it's the other way around of what I just described. Can anyone justify this?
 

TheMiz

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Wow I have my sound check ( marked on ) on in both my iTunes and iPod and I nave never seen any "Determine Song Volume"
 

Anointed

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Would having Sound Check enabled correct any distortion that sometimes comes when using different iPod EQ settings?
 

asnamara

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Sound Check

What is the Sound Check option on the iPod, couldnt find any docs on it from apple.
And does it have anything to do with iTunes volume adjustments?

Thanks, Cheers,
asnamara
 

aquatika

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Would having Sound Check enabled correct any distortion that sometimes comes when using different iPod EQ settings?
I doubt it, for that you would be better to use MP3Gain.

What is the Sound Check option on the iPod, couldnt find any docs on it from apple.
Soundcheck is Apples way of making all your music (iPod or iTunes) roughly the same volume using precalculated values. It does this automatically when enabled.
iTunes volume adjustments are different in that it is applied manually by the user and only works on the music that has been adjusted ie it does not give blanket coverage of all music unless it is applied to all.
 

flatso

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if you manually adjust the volume in the Get Info options screen does that increase the volume on the ipod the next time you like up?
 

aquatika

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if you manually adjust the volume in the Get Info options screen does that increase the volume on the ipod the next time you like up?
Yes, the volume adjustment will be transfered to the iPod.
 

cab1024

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I've heard that the higher the bit rate the louder the volume is.
So if you use VBR to rip you'd have very variable bit rates and very variable volume.

But, it may not be true that the higher the bit rate the louder the volume is.
 

EcHo2k

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Hi everyone, i'm new to this forum, i found this thread trying to understand what this "sound check" thing of iTunes was actually doing to my mp3s.

Well, i understand that it only adds some kind of tag that teach a compatible player on how to maximize the volume to make mp3s play as the same level, what i'm still not understanding is the way it works.

let me explain.

i'm a musician and i'm quite used to normalization and compression of audio tracks, so it would be interesting to know if the information in the tag refers to an RMS normalization (similar to a compression) or a peak normalization. From my listening tests it seams that the first method is actually used on the ipod (i don't know in itunes since i rarely listen to music using my laptop), i can say that because when you play some tunes from "system of a down" like "aerials" with "sound check" turned on on the ipod the heavy drum hits ar "soft" while in the parts with less drum is the bass that gets a volume boost, so it seems that the ipod (i have a mini) is actually not only compressing the music, but overcompressing that! that's bad because the right compression was already applied in the mastering pard of the record prduction, so the ipod should only do a peak normalization so that each peak is as the same level.

what do you think about this?

sorry for the long post and for my english, but i'm a lazy italian :)
 

punk_r0x

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EcHo2k, you seem to have answered the question I was wondering about "sound check." I wanted to level the volumes on my ipod, since I listen at work at a reasonably quiet volume, and it's annoying when I have to keep turning the speakers up and down to maintain that volume. So I was thinking about using the sound check option, but what I didn't want to happen was for quieter/louder sections of songs to get compressed so it's all the same volume. I was hoping sound check was just a normalization, not a compression, but your tests seem to indicate otherwise! That's no good. :(
 

EcHo2k

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i don't know what kind of compression sound check applies, but if you listen with care you'll see that loud "bumps" like big snares or heavy drum kick become "soft" while in the middle range of the spectrum the sound is pretty much the same.

Try to listen to linkin park for example, with soundcheck on you the sound is not to different because the rarely have big "punch", if you listen to system of down for example you'll have different result.

the funny thing is that if you put on a techno song like one from "infected mushrooms" you'll find that those big kicks are not quiet as the one in the songs from "system of a down" so, i don't know how it works, but there is a certain amount of compression applied with sound check.

If you are on OSX i suggest you a little utility called normalize that you can install using fink, with that you can do a peak normalization of your mp3, unfortunately it doesn't work with aac so you cannot normalize the songs downloaded from music store unless you convert them in mp3.
 

Wally King

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I've attempted to use the "get info" option in iTunes to manually adjust the volume levels of individual tracks for two reasons. One, I'm dissatisfied with the way Sound Check makes the automatic adjustments, and two, I don't want the dynamics of a track compressed.

While making the adjustments on iTunes works fine, the volume adjustments are NOT transferred to my iPod. Attempts find the solution by sending questions to the iPod help desk have gone nowhere. In fact, I've been told by the Pod people that my only option is to use the "Sound Check" setting on the iPod, and that the manual adjustments I make on iTunes will not be copied to the iPod.

I'd like to think there's a way around this. Has anyone out there found a solution?
 

slicky

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If your library is made up of MP3s then there's this (much better) option. Manually adjusting the volume on every single track, even if it were a good solution, would be a huge beat down with a library of any size. I'd rather practice self-dentistry than tackle that project on my library.

~slicky
 
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Luc

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Wow, I can't believe that dynamic compression is what sound check does. That would be so wrong!
 

EcHo2k

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I don't think it's dynamic compressoin, what soundcheck does is to bring the RMS values of your mp3 to the same level.
Of course if you have mp3 of very different kind, let's say a techno/dance song and a rock one (where you have higher RMS values) the dance song will play louder but you will loose the hig peaks in the low range (below 150hz i think).
It's a bad thing, but it's not compression, it sound like that anyway :D
 
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