iVolume 3.5, by Manfred Schwind
Have you ever been frustrated with Apple's implementation of Sound Check? Do you find yourself reaching into your pockets to adjust the volume of your iPod, iPhone, or the volume dial on your car radio? Have you ever wished you could "re-master" your iTunes library. Well then, iVolume from Manfred Schwind at man.de friendly software is just for you. This little piece of software does one thing and one thing only - it adjusts the Sound Check value of your iTunes so that every song has the same perceived loudness. iVolume integrates seamlessly with iTunes, iPods, Apple TV, Front Row. Most major audio file formats are supported.
iVolume ensures that all your songs play at the same volume level. iVolume calculates the volume perceived by the human ear for each song of your iTunes music collection. Thereby iVolume gets the most out of the approved Replay Gain algorithm and adjusts your songs accordingly.
Download the software from mani.de, open the disk image and drag the software into your Applications folder. Then launch iVolume, enter your license number (or wait until it counts down for demo mode), and you are ready to go. iVolume changes the Sound Check value in iTunes, so make sure that the Sound Check feature is turned on the iTunes Preferences. To ensure proper syncing with your iPod or iPhone, make sure these devices also have Sound Check turned on.
iVolume will run in Demo mode indefinitely, but the more times you use it in Demo mode, the shorter the time iVolume spends processing your tracks, and the greater the wait time between opportunities. After about ten times, I found processing time is down to 2 seconds and the wait time is 20 seconds. Half way through processing my iTunes library, I broke down and bought a license.
iVolume uses a very simple one window interface, but with some very sophisticated features.
This capture from the author's website shows the four areas where the action takes place. It's used here to reference the 4 different areas.
To get started, you launch iVolume, which opens iTunes, and iVolume looks for new songs in your library (on your first run, this would include your entire library). After that, just push the start button, and iVolume does its thing. When the analysis and volume adjustments are completed, quit iVolume. It is that simple. Below is a screen capture of my latest use of iVolume. I had just purchased these songs from iTunes.
For volume adjustments, iVolume uses the "Replay Gain" standard to calculate a new Sound Check value. It then modifies the iTunNORM tag in iTunes. This is a volume adjustment to iTunes' Sound Check, which is why Sound Check must be turned on for these adjustments to take effect. Likewise, if you want to listen to a song in its original volume level, just turn off Sound Check.
After iVolume completes its adjustments, the resulting window looks like the screen below. The green checkmarks signify that iVolume has adjusted the song's volume.
iVolume comes with five menus: iVolume, Tracks, Edit, Window, and Help.
The iVolume menu has the usual - buy, check for updates, preferences, etc..
The Tracks menu is where all the work is done. The Start Adjusting menu item gives the user more control of which tracks are to be analyzed than just the Start button (the Start button relies on the default setting in the preferences). You can analyze all tracks, tracks in the current group, or tracks selected in either iVolume or iTunes. The Start Adjusting menu toggles to Stop Adjusting while running.
Section 2 of the first iVolume screenshot above represents the iVolume Groups. iVolume has the ability to create groupings, a way of organizing your work. Straight out-of-the-box, iVolume comes with one group - Default - but you can add more groups. After processing my library the first time, I created two groups: Protected and Already Adjusted. After all the tracks had been processed, each song showed with a green check for success, or an orange exclamation mark if unsuccessful (protected M4P songs). I moved the green marked tracks into the Already Adjusted group and the others into the Protected group. Now, only new songs will show up in the Default folder whenever I open iVolume.
NOTE: iVolume cannot automatically adjust M4P songs. If you wish to make any adjustments to M4P songs, you must manually adjust them. However, with the ability to upgrade your iTunes purchases from M4P to M4A, this becomes a non-issue.
Once iVolume makes volume adjustments to your library, it also updates the comment data for the adjusted songs to ensure that these songs get updated on attached devices (such as an iPod or iPhone). Basically, iVolume "tricks" iTunes into detecting a change to a track by adding a comment to the song. iVolume only writes the comment if there is a volume adjustment made. iVolume uses the date and time in the comment, so that if there are any subsequent changes made in iVolume, it will trigger another update.
You can also choose to "Forget Analyzing Results" or "Remove iVolume Comments". This option will remove iVolume comments from your library. When choosing Remove iVolume Comments, a dialog box is displayed that says "Please note that the volume adjustments may not be synchronized automatically to the iPod if you remove the iVolume comments from the selected tracks". If you have already synchronized your devices, then they have already been updated. When selecting Forget Analyzing Results, the volume adjustments are reset in iVolume. If you've already performed adjustments on your iPod or iPhone, and you want your device to be reset to the default Sound Check volume adjustments, then select both of these options and synchronize your device. The removal of a comment will trigger a "difference" between the songs in your library and your iPod/iPhone, and those songs will then be updated.
The Track menu also allows you to "Play tracks in iTunes", as well as show tracks in iTunes or Finder. Unfortunately, the "Play tracks in iTunes" menu item does not change to "Stop track in iTunes" once the track is playing; hence, if you want to stop playing, you have to switch back to iTunes.
The Edit menu includes the usual copy, paste, etc., plus Select All or Select None. Except for Select All or Select None, all other Edit menu items are grayed out.
The Window menu includes minimize, zoom and close. Closing the window closes the application.
In section 3 of the iVolume screenshot above, there are two drop-down menus: Adjustment and Albums. The Adjustment menu gives you three options: Automatically, Manually, and Ignore. Only in Automatic mode will the Start Button work. The Albums menu has three options: Adjust each song separately, Combine Albums, and Combine All songs of the group. The default selections are Adjust Automatically and Adjust Each Song Separately. I used these default settings for my tests.
The iVolume preferences are simple - set the Master (or baseline) volume, zero out all manual adjustments in iTunes (Option Tab) in Get Info, and Modify Comments in iTunes. This last one makes sure that volume adjustments are transferred to your iPod or iPhone correctly. There is an option to keep your machine awake, which might be useful if you have a large library to process and use restrictive Energy Saver settings. The final choice is setting what the Start Button does: process all tracks, process tracks in the current group, or process currently selected tracks in iVolume, or in iTunes. Default settings are 92db for volume, all options checked, and Start Button set to All Tracks.
Technical support is standard for small shareware companies. At first, answers to technical questions come quickly, but as you ask more questions, the response time increases.
Manfred Schwind's iVolume is a spectacular shareware utility designed to enhance your listening enjoyment of your iTunes library. iVolume succeeds where Sound Check often fails. I tried adjusting the volume by moving the iTunes Volume slider in the Options tab of the Info window, but it just didn't work for all media. If the track sounded correct on the desktop, my iPod was too loud. I simply have never been satisfied with the iTunes Sound Check feature. For those with large and more diverse music libraries, iVolume is simply indispensable. Even those with smaller libraries such as myself, this tool really enhances the listening experience. iVolume solved all my sound volume problems, and now every song in my library plays at the same volume. No longer am I reaching for the volume control to adjust playback on my iPod or for CDs burned in iTunes.