How To Normalize Sound Volume of MP3 Files

Do you find yourself having to change the volume levels on your Sansa MP3 player everytime the song changes?

Are you turning the volume up to hear soft songs, then getting blasted by louder ones?

Luckily, there's a great little utility called MP3 Gain that does lossless volume analysis and adjustment, as well as allowing for the volume of entire albums to be processed. MP3 Gain has been around for a number of years, and it doesn't appear that it is being actively developed anymore - however, since MP3 technology hasn't changes all that much, it will still work just fine for most folks.

You can fix an entire library of music quickly and easily, as MP3 Gain offers batch processing options that allow you to process an entire folder at once.

If you collect music albums, you'll want to do those separately. The reason is that MP3Gain offers two modes: Radio and Album. Radio analysis and gain adjustment will adjust all songs to the same maximum decibel level. Album mode analyzes all of the songs in an album, essentially considering them to be one entire song, then adjusts them all to a maximum decibel level,maintaining their relative volume.

The nice thing about MP3Gain is that it does not decode and re-encode the mp3 to change its volume. You can change the volume as many times as you want, and the mp3 will sound just as good (or just as bad!) as it did before you started.

When you first start MP3 Gain you will be presented with this window.

Just click on Add File(s) and you can add one or as many files as you would like.

Once added, I suggest you change the "Target "Normal" Volume" from 89.0 to 91.0. However, you can play around with the level to decide what you like best.

After adding you files, you can run a Track Analysis on the songs to see what changes the program wants to make.

If you are ok with the changes, simply click on "Track Gain" The program will go through your songs and adjust them to all the same volume.

You should end up with something like this.

Once done you can exit out, replace the old MP3 files on you Sansa with the new ones you just fixed, and you should be good to go.

If you have any problems, MP3Gain stores "Analysis" and "Undo" information in special tags inside the mp3 file itself. These tags are in the APEv2 format. APEv2 tags are carefully designed to not interfere with other tag formats, such as the popular ID3v1 format.

Unfortunately, sometimes mp3 players do not strictly adhere to the ID3v1 standard when reading tags. As a result, when MP3Gain writes its APEv2 tags, these mp3 players might get confused and try to read the MP3Gain tags instead of the regular ID3v1 tags such as "Artist", "Title", etc. As a result, the player will show random garbage in these fields.

(To be fair, the mp3 players that have this problem are actually probably trying to compensate for data corruption that can occur in mp3s due to bad encoders, incomplete downloads, etc.)

If you use MP3Gain and discover that your mp3 player has this problem, then here's what you need to do:

  • Select "Options - Tags - Ignore (do not read or write tags)" from the MP3Gain menu. This will prevent MP3Gain from writing any more tags to your files.
  • To remove tags that MP3Gain has already written, simply load the affected mp3s into MP3Gain and do "Options - Tags - Remove Tags from files"

If you choose the "Options - Tags - Ignore" option, then you will not be able to automatically undo changes made by MP3Gain. You will still be able to undo any changes, but you will have to manually keep track of what changes you make to your files.

Special thanks to the SansaCommunity for contributing this article.


Always good to know there's another option out there. My tool of choice is foobar 2000 with ReplayGain. Yes, it's really called foobar 2000!

Good how-to's over at HydrogenAudio forums and wiki (


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