Contrasting dynamics are important in music, but it is not always good to have too much contrast when, for example, you are listening to music and reading a book at the same time. Is there a process, especially one implemented with software, that can reduce the volume contrast, making music louder when it is too quiet, and quieter when it is too loud?

I know there is a special word to describe that, but I am not very familiar with sound processing software.

I have a hard time enjoying Mahler's or even Beethoven's symphonies because the volume contrast is sometimes so extravagant that my bad stereo cannot handle it. It also hurt my ears a lot. It also distracts me quite a bit when I am doing something else while listening to music.

  • 3
    Have a look at the compressor in Audacity.
    – user48353
    Apr 13, 2019 at 11:11
  • 1
    Why was this closed when questions about identifying guitars from photos are allowed? Not asking for specific software recommendations. Obviously they need only a one word answer: compressor. Jul 1, 2022 at 13:16
  • @MichaelCurtis because it was asking for a software recommendation (and the title still is). Instrument identification in general is also borderline on the site.
    – Dom
    Jul 1, 2022 at 16:37
  • The wording in the guidelines says "specific software" Jul 1, 2022 at 17:14
  • Technically it's asking if there is such software, and the answer is "yes". But the real reason of course is that 5 regulars didn't like the question and the closing reason is just an excuse. Of course it doesn't help that a new user posted an useful answer to old question...
    – ojs
    Jul 1, 2022 at 19:42

4 Answers 4


'Normalising' shifts the entire dynamic range to put the loudest point at a defined level. This can result in either increasing or decreasing the overall level. But it doesn't change the dynamic contrast. It's like simply setting the volume knob in a different position.

'Compressing' is rather different. It's 'Normalising with ears'. Rather than setting the volume and leaving it, compression turns down just the loud bits. It DOES do what you're asking for, it evens out the dynamics.

In real life, compressers are more complicated than that. There can be settings for attack and release, amount of compression, 'make-up gain' and more. Plenty of information available online if you're interested.

Yes, there's lots of compression software available. There may be a simple version provided by your soundcard control panel or operating system. This seems to be part of Windows 10, and will affect anything you play through your computer.

If you want to apply compression to your non-computer based stereo, you might have to look for a hardware box. And, on a simple system, it may not be easy to find a way to connect it. Sorry.

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There is a device that is used in recording studios that is called a compressor. Radio stations also use compressors to reduce the dynamic range of music so they push the loudest most stable single over the air.

You may be able to find a software version, though I am not sure how you will use that with your stereo. If you are listening on an iPod or iPhone for example they sometimes have a setting that is designed to save you ears called Volume Limit. That may help. Other phones or MP3 players may have something similar.

  • 1
    Spotify has "volume normalisation", too
    – Aric
    Apr 13, 2019 at 12:17

As others have said this process is called "compression" but that term is also now ambiguous as, with digital sources, it can mean using an algorithm to reduce the size of the data. You may have heard of "lossless" and "lossy" compression. This is an interesting and useful process but not what you want here.

The sense of compression you want is "compressing the dynamic range" and it predates digital music. Prior to the digital era, you would need some hardware device. Today, you can use software.

As replete says in a comment look at the Compressor in Audacity. Here is the help page for it.

Audacity is an audio editing program and it is great value for the price (£0).

How, you might use it depends on how you listen to music. If you use an iPod or some other device to play digital files then it might be as simple as opening the file in Audacity, running the Compressor tool, and saving it again. If you use CDs then you might need to rip the CD, process the file in Audacity, save it, and burn it back to a CD.

I have used Audacity but not yet this tool. Generally, I would avoid compression (in this sense) like the plague and I would certainly never use it at home but that's just my preferences: I prefer to either to music properly or not at all; not background music while I do something else. However, I have been tempted to create compressed versions for the car. I drive a convertible and even with the roof up, the noise level is quite high: either the quiet bits are drowned or the loud bits are deafening. (Okay, sometimes I listen to music while doing something else.)

  • It's commendable that you want to avoid compression; it has in fact been overused in particular in the 2000s. However, compression does have musically legitimate uses. In particular, it actually allows musicians to play/sing more dynamically than would be possible without compressor, without either the loud notes drowning out other parts or the soft notes getting lost in the mix. (Unfortunately, the Audacity compressor plugin was completely abysmal though, the last time I checked.) Apr 14, 2019 at 21:37
  • If it is used in the production of the track then it could be considered as part of the work and I might accept it (or not even know that it was there). However, I still would not consider adding more at home. However, the genre that I listen to most and care about most is classical. My ideal is that I can close my eyes and imagine that I am in front of a live performance. Maybe a utopian one with comfy seats and no one coughing or whispering. I still might consider it for the car but it's a shame that the Audacity compressor is poor.
    – badjohn
    Apr 14, 2019 at 22:05
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    Anyway, if the OP wants to try this then I am not telling him not to. In fact, I am attempting to tell him how he might try.
    – badjohn
    Apr 14, 2019 at 22:06

Hi I found a solution to this.

On windows its called "loudness equalization". I dont know what its called on Audacity.

I was playing a computer game that had jump scares. Very loud bangs and the rest of the game was quiet meaning you had to turn the sound up a lot. This made it so the loud noises were very intense.

Basically the 'loudness equalization' setting in windows makes it so what comes out of the speaker has less extremes of loudness and quietness. Its a feature for listening to sound and getting more uniform volume throughout. It ISNT a feature for editing the sound file to make it more uniform volume.

I have put a demo of it here

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