Recently I cleaned up our household's iTunes library. I merged two, more or less, similar libraries, cleaned out duplicates, assigned cover art, checked the tags and I used a little tool called iVolume to level out the volume of my entire library. Now I am able to listen to random tracks without constantly adjusting the volume just because the individual levels of the tracks are way off.
iVolume is a very easy application to use. You just launch it, it loads your iTunes library, you tell it how it should level the audio and it goes to work. Unfortunately, it is not as easy as it seems. When iVolume works, it is brilliant. I really enjoy my music more then before. But when it doesn't work as expected it gets a whole lot more complicated. I ran into the "No iTunNORM Tag" problem, to which the developer has even dedicated an extra page.
Basically, iTunes adds an extra tag to your music files when you have Sound Check enabled in the iTunes preferences. This iTunNORM tag is similar to the Replay Gain tag other MP3 players use. These tags tell the player how loud a track should be played back. iVolume checks each song individually for its volume levels and then adjusts this iTunNORM tag, so iTunes (and iPods) play all your iTunes tracks at a common volume level. iVolume is only able to modify the tag, not able to create it in the first place, which is the crux of the problem. Long story short, when you have sound files without the iTunNORM tag, you end up with exporting and importing your music library. Something not for the faint of heart. I even had to do it several times, because for some reason iTunes didn't create the tag as expected on all songs. Bummer.
Another thing to be aware of is, that DRM protected songs (those bought from the iTunes Music Store for example) won't work with iVolume. This is hardly the software's fault though and a general problem with DRM protected music. Luckily, Apple has announced DRM free music during this month's Keynote. For a small fee per song, you are able to upgrade your current purchases to DRM free music as well. This cleans a major roadblock out if iVolume's way and makes it even more useful.
When you run into the iTunNORM tag problem, using iVolume turns into a bit of a hassle. Otherwise, it is very straightforward to use. In the end, you end up with better (or at least more uniform) sound. It was a hassle, but it was worth it for me.
It is a very simple piece of software to use, but when it comes
to the pesky iTunNORM tag, it is a bit too simplistic. Why is the
program able to change the tag, but not able to create it?
iVolume by Manfred Schwind sells for €23.95 and is available for Mac and Windows.
Developed by Manfred Schwind
- creates really nice, leveled sound
- very easy to use
- cannot create iTunNORM tag
- without the above feature it gets complicated to use