song to song difference

Let’s say that I have 5 songs I want to put on 1 cd.
The volume levels from song to song differ so that when someone is listening to the CD they sometimes have to “turn the volume up” to hear the next song and sometimes have to “turn the volume down” so the following song isn’t blasting out the eardrums.
Could you tell me what I might try to help me in this situation?
Is that what the “Normalize” feature is for in N?

Thank you

Normalize will do that. Personally, I don’t care to use normalization because it tends to lead to what i have heard referred to as listener burnout…tired ears from listening to a constant volume level. Instead I add compression and the master limiter (both at preset, standard level) to the main mixer channel which seems to keep everything uniform.

As usual, I could be wrong but it works for me. I am sure others can offer you more help.


Actually “Normalize” isn’t really what you want as it doesn’t do what you think. This is one of the jobs that a Mastering Engineer would do. Compression and volume are what you need. I’ve got to go now; will explain later.

OK, false alarm. PC clock is fast. Got a few minutes more.

Normalisation will scan the wave file and look for the highest peak (loudest sample). It will then work out how much it can increase that sample until clipping would occur. Then every sample in the file will be increased by that amount.

So if you have one very high sample in a file where everything else is very quiet, you’ll still end up with everything just slightly less quiet when Normalised because that one high sample can’t go any louder.

Compression works by turning down that single loud peak so that all the other samples can be increased by a bigger amount. Thus the whole song is louder. Actually the relative dynamics of the song change when doing this and there are critisisms of those who “destroy” the song by compressing the heck out of it in the aim to be slightly louder than the competitor’s songs.

Also, perhaps more important is “apparent loudness”… how lead the song seems to appear to be.

A Mastering Engineer will line the songs up end to end and with compression and (in n-track speak) volume evolutions listen to then in context to make the flow smooth.

You could choose to normalise first before doing this but it’s just another extra step.



Right, Mark.

Cliff, you actually have it backwards. Too much compression causes ear fatigue.

Normalization is something that you really shouldn’t have to use very often if you’re recording and mixing properly.

For more information about the use of compression in mastering, see Mastering 101. That focuses more on the question, “Why are my mixes quieter than commercial mixes?”. However, compression is one of the tools that you have to master to answer your original question.

As Mark says, normalization looks for the highest peak and turns up the volume on the track so that this peak hits zero. If all your tunes have the same dynamics, then normalizing them all will make them all sound roughly the same volume, but that’s not really the right way to go about it. It also doesn’t work if there are “rogue peaks”, which is where several instruments happen to peak at the same time causing a really unusually high peak here or there. And there always are, but the height of these rogues can be unpredictable, causing normalization to not even out the volume between cuts.

The ideal is to get mastering done by someone else, ideally a pro or an experienced person. But if you must DIY (as many of us do even though it’s not ideal), here goes.

On your “final” mixdown for each song, mixdown to 32-bit format. This is a floating point format, which is what n-Track uses internally, so it’s the highest quality mixdown you can do in n-Track. Next, start a new song file for mixing your CD, and import the 32-bit mixdown of each tune. Solo each track to work on that track.

Apply compression individually on each track (i.e., using track plugins). Get each track to have the overall dynamics you want and limit peaks. For starters, I recommend PeakCompressor, which you can google to find. Later, you’ll want to use multi-band compression instead but it’s complicated and a very bad idea to try until you have a really good grasp of what compression does.

After focusing on each track individually, then start making comparisons between songs, and either adjust the track faders or else the compression settings on tracks until they fit together well. You can also drag tracks left and right to see how one sounds immediately following another.

Make sure there is absolutely no clipping in the playback meters when playing any cut.

When you’re done, for each track, solo it and mixdown to 16 bits, with dithering. Use those files to burn to CD if you’re using another program for CD burning. (I haven’t used n-Track for CD burning, so I’m not sure the best way in that case. But in any case mix down and save these masters for your archives.


Hey Mark: To fix your PC clock woes:

Go to http://oneguycoding.com and download Automachron. Put it in your Startup folder so it starts automatically. Configure it to use louie.udel.edu as the time server, and use a really high interval (at least an hour and as much as a day or more). Bingo, clock will now always be accurate to within a few tens of milliseconds.

I’ve used this program for almost 10 years now with never any problems. It uses the Network Time Protocol (NTP). Works for all Windows versions from Win 95 through XP, and maybe even the new one whose name I forget. (I believe I ran it on Windows 3.0 also.)

Win XP has some NTP suport, but I don’t know where to configure the time server. For folks at work at an NPT-enlightened company, NTP will be running in broadcast mode on the local networks and you don’t have to do anything, it just works.

Louie.udel.edu is a timeserver maintained by University of Delaware, where NTP was born. It’s a highly reliable server, and with only one packet exchange per hour or more (however you configure it), it’s incredibly low-overhead.


sorry i had it backwards. thanx for the explain.


Thank you very much. This information really helps. I will try these ideas and let you know how it works for me.