Wireless Music – Part 2: The CompWide Plug-in

UPDATE (Sept. 2008: The CompWide plug-in hasn’t worked since I bought a PC pre-installed with Vista. I don’t use anything now and I’m sick of trying to find solutions for things that aren’t compatible with Vista.

While I’m waiting for my wireless music system to arrive, I’ve decided to check out some Winamp plug-ins that claim to automatically normalize the volume without spoiling the dynamics of the music. I’ll check them out and test them throughout the day when I have time. Then I’ll post my results.

KMG Dynamic Volume20 — This one isn’t the greatest, but it’ll do the job if you’re not picky and your sound system isn’t too hot to begin with. I tried it with some classical music and it was fine to my ignorant ears. But I couldn’t stand what it did to reggae and bluegrass and folk and all that other stuff I listen to. Changing the volume throughout a song is not a good idea. It doesn’t sound good — period. This plug-in also produced too many audio “artifacts” (clicks and pops). I hope the next one is better.

Zyraxs Evil Volume Normalizer — Hard to say if it’s as bad as the KMG plug-in, but it’s still not good. The sound is still being processed during playback, which seems to create artifacts. Like I said in my previous post, all I really need is a normalizer that doesn’t “process” the sound at all, but allows the user to simply save the best volume setting for any track that needs adjustment and remembers it whenever that track comes up again. Wouldn’t that be easier to program anyway?

CompWide — This one is it. It has some presets that provide good examples of what it can do, and if you don’t like them, you can easily adjust them. The configuration window displays a small real-time graph that shows you what the audio signal looks like “dry” (i.e., untouched), how much more or less volume is being added to the signal, and what the actual output looks like. You can make on-the-fly adjustments and immediately see (and hear) how it’s working out. It’s worth it to take the time to find the settings that work best for the kind of sound you want, for the kind of music you listen to. It works very well for classical music, but there are some reggae songs that it doesn’t know what to do with. To fix that, I simply reduced the rate at which it increases or decreases the volume, so the change isn’t as drastic. Generally I would still prefer something that allows me simply set the overall volume for any track that’s too loud or too soft, but this one executes the adjustments seamlessly without producing any noise or any other undesirable “artifacts.” (Certain settings will produce distortion, but just turn down the maximum volume and it’s fixed. Nothing to it.) This is the one. Look no further. CompWide should be a standard plug-in for Winamp. NOTE: This is a preliminary short-term test. Long-term use might reveal different results.

4:44pm (something different)
Toaster — This is an excellent plug-in that’s supposed to display the artist, the song, the album title and the album cover in a pop-up window that fades in and then out whenever a new song plays. But I spent at least an hour trying to make it work, and all I can say is: it’s beyond me. I don’t have the patience for it. All I can get out of it is the artist and the song title. Customizing the display is not as straightforward as it could be, and I can’t find a help file that is in any way helpful. People who write code for a living can probably figure it out, though. I would love to get this one working. Anyone have experience with this plug-in? Can you tell me exactly how I can make it display the artist, song title and the album title? (Displaying the album cover would be nice, but I can live without it if I have to.) Thanks.

See also Wireless Music – Part 1 and Part 3.

About Phillip

Phillip Cairns is a beekeeper in St. John's, Newfoundland, who writes about beekeeping at mudsongs.org.

7 Replies to “Wireless Music – Part 2: The CompWide Plug-in”

  1. Yup. Compwide has been in the audio chain of Whole Wheat Radio for years. I shoulda told ya about it but I was lazy and wondering what you’d come up with.

  2. Would anyone like to take a crack and configuring the Toaster plugin? Most of the examples on the plugin page show the artist, song and album title displayed — which is what most people would want. It’d be so much easier for first-time users who don’t have a knack for coding (like me) if they’d just set that up as the default settings. Doesn’t make sense to me why it’s not set up liek that. Frustrating.

  3. The CompWide plugin is excellent. I’ve encoded about 15gigs so far, about 3gigs of that just classical music. I’ve been playing random selections and it’s very nice to listen to, say, the Rolling Stones’ cover of “Love in Vain,” and then switch to a Beethoven piano sonata and hear both of them perfectly, including all the quiet parts of the piano piece. No extra noise or hiss or distortion. This plugin should be standard for WinAmp users.

  4. The Logitech wireless music system arrived today. I plugged it all in without reading the instructions, and it worked. Crystal clear audio from the stereo in my living room, and pretty good audio from the stereo in my kitchen (because it’s kind of a crappy stereo) — though not both of them at once. There are some things that don’t work as well as they should, but I can live with it for now (until I have time to figure it out). I’ll write a post about later once I’ve had time to test it out thoroughly, probably next week. It’s still going to take me a few days to finish ripping my CDs (I’m up to 17 gigs today.)

  5. Hey Jim, if you’re out there, and you have time for stupid lazy questions like this, what settings do you use with CompWide?

    I’ve been tinkering with mine, and for the most part, it does the job. But once in a while it distorts the bass in a way that isn’t nice (usually at the beginning of a song). The volume will be low, but the bass still comes in hot. Except for that, I like it.

    I still think the most ideal plug-in (for someone with only about 25 gigs of music like me) would allow me to adjust the volume manually then short-cut SAVE VOLUME, and that’s it. Every time that particular song plays in the future, it defaults to that saved volume. If I was a programmer, something like that would seem pretty straightforward — and useful. (But I’m not a programmer so I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.)

  6. Part 3 is on the way. I just don’t have time to write a detailed post. Initial findings, though: The remote for the wireless sound system is useless. That’s not a huge problem for me, so far, because I still prefer to listen to albums as albums. I still use CompWide for normalization, though I can definitely think of a few ways to improve it. And I don’t like ReplayGain, because adding gain info to the tag can screw up the MP3 so it’s not readable by portable devices. More to come. Eventually.

    Too bad there isn’t a lossless format that compresses as well as MP3 with the same tag ability. Not that I’d want to re-encode all my CDs…

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