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iTunes Tune-up 8: Pump Up (or Down) the Volume

Ralph Graves is one of Crutchfield's blog editors, and part of the company's social media team. He writes about home audio/video gear, specializing in Apple-related and wireless technologies. Ralph holds a master's degree in music composition, and his works have been released on various labels. He's served as product manager for an independent classical and world music label, produced several recordings, and worked extensively in public broadcasting. Since 1984 he's hosted a weekly classical music program on WTJU, and is also active as a blogger and podcaster.

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I assembled my iTunes library of 4,000+ tunes from a variety of different sources. As a result, the volume levels varied greatly from track to track, making for a less-than-ideal listening experience.

iTunes provided a simple fix that works for most of these problems. Inside the "Preferences" menu, under "Playback," there's a Sound Check option. When selected, iTunes looked at each track to determine its volume level. It then adjusted the level of individual tracks either up or down so that all songs have the same volume level in relation to each other. And that took care of most of the unevenness - but not all.

When activated, Sound Check looks at the average volume level for the entire track. That means a song with one loud passage in an otherwise quiet track may have its volume boosted, as the average volume level may register below the norm. This was a real problem for many of my classical music selections, which often had several different volume levels throughout a single track.

For those tracks that sounded a little too loud (or soft) with Sound Check, I adjusted their volume manually. I highlighted the track and selected "Get Info." When the window opened, I clicked on the Options tab. That revealed the Volume Adjustment, which is done with a slider control. I usually made minor adjustments, closing the window to listen to the song, and opening it back up to make additional tweaks (if necessary).

I now enjoy long hours of listening without having to ride my iPod's volume controller. And that made the effort worthwhile, indeed.

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