Until a couple of months ago, I was frequently frustrated by a shortcoming on the iPod that effects anyone who shuffles their songs or uses any sort of playlist rather than just listening to a single album at a time - the fact that Apple's built-in 'sound check' feature really does quite a poor job of equalizing the volume from one song to the next. This was leading to frustration on a daily basis in the operating room. I bring an iPod Classic when I perform surgery and dock it into a speaker system across the room. Despite 'sound check' being activate on the iPod and on iTunes to which it syncs, you could never be sure just how loud or quiet any given song would be when it comes to playing.
By searching the 'net for a solution, I came across iVolume - by Manfred Schwin (mani.de). The app is installed on your computer to which you sync your iPod and works in conjunction with iTunes to properly normalize the sound levels just as Levelator does for audio files for my Talking About Glaucoma podcast. As this program works in conjunction with iTunes, you need to turn ON sound check on both iTunes and your iPod for it to work properly. After installing the app, when you run it for the first time, it analyzes your entire iTunes collection and adjusts the sound levels accordingly. You only need to run it again when you add new music to your iTunes collection. As I had over 9,000 songs, I did have to leave it to run overnight the first time, but now whenever I add more songs, it just takes a minute or two to normalize the new content.
Now when I have my playlist running in the operating room, there are no more big surprises of the volume suddenly getting really loud or frustration when the next song comes on and its inaudible. I consider iVolume to be a core application that is missing from iTunes and everyone who is experiencing the same issues with fluctuations in sound volume in iTunes or on their iPod or iPhone should look into buying this. (The free trial works as well but pauses every few songs to annoy you into buying it; it's worth every penny.)
Update on Friday, July 22, 2011 at 2:58PM
(The following comments were copied from original submission dates and posted as a journal follow-up article in preparation for changing to DISQUS for future commenting on my blog.)
15Jan2010 reader comment:
That definitely sounds like an app that I want to have, thanks Dr. Shertzer. It will be nice to have a similar app for the TV someday. It's annoying when commercials and shows are at different volumes all the time.
27Jan2010 reader comment:
I agree that it's extremely annoying when commercials and shows have different volumes especially when at night while all is quiet. An app like that would be awesome!
25Feb2010 I responded:
Actually, it would not equalize the volume of the commercials as it is determining the average sound level of each track and making those consistent with each other. If the commercials were separate tracks then the sound level of those would be equalized to that of the rest of the show.
Robert M Schertzer, MD, MEd, FRCSC