Jan 192012

Original file before amplify with Audacity

Before Amplify

Converted file after amplify with Audacity

After Amplify

I listen to quite a few audiobooks and I find that my MP3 players have never been able to play them at sufficient volume. Sometimes it is the fault of the player but sometimes it is the fault of the original material. On my old Sansa MP3 player I installed a hack that allowed you to boost the volume of the file above normal. Now, since I use my Android phone, you would think it would be easier but sadly no. I have tried a number of programs that purport to boost the output of the phone but none seem to work on my phone. What to do?

I realized the easy solution is to fix the ‘volume’ of the MP3 file using Audacity. Audacity is a free audio editor and recorder that works in Windows, Mac OS X, GNU/Linux and other operating systems. According to the web site, you can use Audacity to: Audacity Logo

  • Record live audio.
  • Convert tapes and records into digital recordings or CDs.
  • Edit Ogg Vorbis, MP3, WAV or AIFF sound files.
  • Cut, copy, splice or mix sounds together.
  • Change the speed or pitch of a recording.
  • And more! See the complete list of features.
I have used Audacity before when I was listening to podcasts during my drive time. I used it convert each podcast to a single mono channel and speed up the playback 25%. A 30 minute podcast would only take 20 minutes to listen to and I could wear one earbud and not miss a thing.

Now, I just need to boost the volume and Audacity makes it an easy task. I created a ‘chain’ (Audacity’s version of a batch file) that converts the file to mono (why not) then amplifies it and finally saves the file.. These ‘chains’ can be applied to a single file or to a whole folder of files, making batch conversion quite easy for each book.


p> You can see from the two images on the left that the original sound file’s amplitude was way low. (No wonder I could barely hear it.) Below it is the same file after it has been amplified using Audacity. I am sure if I was amplifying music files I would have to be more careful but for voice I have found that I can even amplify the volume more without any noticeable degradation. Now I can play my audiobooks and not have to strain to hear them.

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