I use a free media player known as VLC for playing music in the background when I have people over for poker and games and other junk. Winamp (which I haven’t needed to update for years) used to be my go-to audio player, and it still is when I want to listen to individual albums or a few select songs. But when I want to play music at a consistent volume so I don’t have to adjust the volume for quiet and loud songs, I use VLC because it comes with a built in compressor that does the job well enough for background music. Here’s how I do it. Click the images for a more detailed view if necessary.
Step 1: Under “Tools,” select “Effects and Filters.”
Step 2: Select the “Compressor” tab and check inside the “Enable” box.
Step 3: Check inside the “Write changes to config” box and adjust to desired settings. I use approxiately the following values, which are pretty rough but probably won’t matter for music playing in the background: 0.0 / 399.99 ms / 300.0 ms / -11.0 db / 3.0 : 1 / 2.5 db / 17 db.
Update #1: I’ve been experimenting, messing with the settings to see which ones work best. I’m using these settings now. The compression is less noticeable but the volume is still fairly smooth: 0.0 / 399.99 ms / 300.0 ms / -20 db / 20.0 : 1 / 1.0 db / 12 db. I also set the default volume to 70% and turned off the enabling stretch-time audio, whatever that is.
Step 4: Under “Tools,” select “Preferences.”
Step 5: Click the “Audio” tab and check the “Always reset audio start level to” box. Then slide it over something between 75% and 85%. Also, make sure “Normalized” is NOT selected.
Step 6: At the bottom of the same window, under “Show settings,” select “All.”
Step 7: Under “Audio” and then “Filters,” select “Compressor.”
Step 8: Click “Save.” All the settings can be tweeked before saving as well.
Set 9: Close VLC. The next time it opens, the compressor settings should kick in by default.
Some people would file this under “How to normalized MP3 playback.” It’s not normalizing, but the normalizing function on VLC ain’t the greatest. This method isn’t the greatest either, but it’ll get the job done in a pinch. It works with anything played through VLC. WAV files, FLAC files, whatever. It’s also works with video playback. So if you want to play movies without having to adjust the volume during the loud and quiet scenes, a variation of this procedure should do it. (VLC works on Macs and other operating systems.)
This is all sacrilege to audiophiles. But most people don’t know any difference and don’t really care.