iTunes Sound Check options
Ask iLounge offers readers the opportunity to get answers to their iPod-, iPhone-, iPad-, iTunes-, or Apple TV-related questions from a member of the iLounge editorial team. We'll answer several questions here each week, and of course, you can always get help with more immediate concerns from the iLounge Discussion Forums. Submit your questions for consideration using our Ask iLounge Submit Form. We reserve the right to edit questions for grammar, spelling, and length.
Q: I’m curious about the Sound Check options in iTunes and on the iPod. Do they only adjust the volume during playback, or do they actually adjust the volume of the actual MP3/AAC files? I’ve heard some people complain about it distorting songs. Can you give me a better description of what the Sound Check option really does and how effective it is?
A: When you turn on the Sound Check option in iTunes (Preferences > Audio), iTunes analyzes your music to determine each track’s “average” volume. It determines how much of an adjustment it should make when playing back music to ensure that the overall volume level is more or less constant. You can see the amount of adjustment that iTunes makes as a number of decibels (dB) when looking at info about a track. Select a track, then select File > Get Info and click the Summary tab. The Volume shown (with either a plus or minus amount) is the adjustment made during playback.
If you have turned this option on in iTunes, and then activate it on your iPod (Settings > Sound Check), the iPod will take this volume change into account and increase or decrease the volume accordingly.
Sound Check is only really useful if you listen to many types of music. Say you listen to Metallica and Bach; the Metallica will get lowered a few dB, and the Bach will be played back a bit louder. It can save you changing the volume manually as tracks change. But note that you must turn this on in iTunes to be able to use it with your iPod; the iPod can only make this adjustment if iTunes has set a volume level change.
As for distortion, it is entirely possible that very soft or very loud music could be distorted if the adjustment is large enough. However, we looked through one of our ambient music collections and found tracks where the volume was adjusted as much as +17 dB without any noticeable distortion. The highest negative adjustment we found in that iTunes library was about -11 dB, and again, we didn’t hear a noticeable difference with that song. Noticeable distortion will depend as much upon the quality of your ears and source material as on iTunes and the iPod’s ability to change specific levels.
- Will removing a credit card from Safari also remove it from Apple Pay?
- Can I mute Handoff calls coming into my Mac from my iPhone?
- How do I keep my iPhone calls from ringing on my Mac?
- Why doesn’t Traffic show up on my Today Notifications Screen?
- Why doesn’t my iPhone reconnect to Wi-Fi after I turn it on?
- Why can’t I see the iPad-style landscape view on my iPhone 6 Plus?
- Report: EU to rule against Apple-Ireland tax deals, recommend Apple pay 1B+ Euros
- Apple sued over unresponsive iPhone 6/6 Plus touchscreen issues
- Apple announces Sept. 7 event
- Philips introduces Hue Motion Sensor
- Photos hint at improved battery for new Apple Watch
- Spotify penalizing artists who release Apple Music exclusives [Update: Spotify responds]
- Apple releases new round of iOS 10 and tvOS 10 betas
- Report: 2017 iPhone to eliminate home button
- Apple to add payment technology to iPhone for transit passes, Apple Pay in Japan
- Apple releases iOS 9.3.5 ‘security update’
- Western Digital My Cloud (OS 3)
- Distil Union Stanley Stand
- Philips Sonicare FlexCare Platinum Connected Bluetooth Toothbrush
- Audeze EL-8 Titanium Over-Ear Headphones
- Defined Corp Dome Stand for Apple Watch and iPhone
- Speck StyleFolio Pencil for 9.7” iPad Pro
- Audeze Sine On-Ear Headphone
- First Alert Onelink Wi-Fi Smoke + Carbon Monoxide Alarm
- Logitech Create 9.7” iPad Pro Keyboard Case
- iDevices Outdoor Switch Power Outlet
- Inside the betas: iOS 10 Photos gets Advanced Computer Vision
- Inside the betas: iOS 10 Music app delivers ‘clarity and simplicity’
- Inside the betas: iOS 10 Maps gets a major redesign
- Inside the betas: iOS 10 shakes up the user experience
- Inside the betas: watchOS 3 promises a real speed boost
- Inside the betas: A sneak peek at what’s new in tvOS 10
- Filling the Gap: A look at third-party HomeKit apps
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of tvOS 9.2
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 9.3
- Opinion: Why Apple needs a dedicated HomeKit app