I am a veteran Windows user (sorry!) who typically rips audio discs with CDex or EAC. CDex includes the option to normalize volume levels during the ripping process.

I am trying to find a program to rip audio discs on a Mac, other than iTunes, and am coming up empty-handed. I have found XLD and Max, both of which seem to be highly recommended and feature-rich, but neither seem to offer normalization.

I don't want to have to run audio tracks through a separate program before compressing to MP3 (or any other format).

I'm aware that Mac is a superb platform for professional audio, with industry pros using software like Logic and Pro Tools in production environments, but I find it a bit frustrating that CD ripping software for Mac seems to often lack this feature.

Am I just not finding "the one", or is there some reason that normalization is not common among these rippers? What software (free or not) should I be using for CD ripping which meets the following requirements:

  • Normalizes volume levels
  • Names files based on database lookup (such as freedb)
  • Supports MP3 compression (LAME for example)
  • Accurate rips with moderate error-checking
  • Why would you need to normalise? I'm pretty sure the Mastering engineer would have taken care of that before it was even pressed.
    – Tetsujin
    Sep 12 '15 at 6:04
  • In an ideal world yes, but lots of discs vary in volume enough that random playlists make it quite obvious and more than a little annoying.
    – JYelton
    Sep 12 '15 at 6:08
  • They may vary in average output, but the peaks will be normalised. The extreme would be comparing a classical recording to a chart hit; very apparent that one sounds a lot quieter than the other, yet both will actually be peaking at just under zero [no-one likes all zeros, it upsets some playback systems, so a sensible peak is -0.3dB] The only way to 'fix' this apparent difference is using compression, or brick-wall limiting, which is not a 'set & forget' parameter you can just apply on import.
    – Tetsujin
    Sep 12 '15 at 6:13

Normalising, as such, is not really helpful when importing from commercial recordings, as the Mastering engineer will have already made sure the tracks are correctly normalised, whilst maintaining the relative levels between each component track.

The only way to truly level-match would be using compression & limiting algorithms, which really ought to be left to a professional, & is beyond the scope of Ask Different.

The way to do this at consumer-level is to use iTunes for playback [& also would be by far the simplest for the initial ripping, as it is capable of all your bullet points] & switch on Sound Check in Prefs > Playback.

This allows iTunes to measure the apparent loudness of each track or album & automatically adjust the playback levels on the fly, enabling more comfortable listening without levels jumping around track to track.

This is done by a system known as ReplayGain
See 'Alternatives' at the end of that wiki page for a brief explanation of why normalisation & recompression are not ideal solutions.

However, iTunes has traditionally done this on a per-track basis, not a per-album basis, which can make quiet tracks in the middle of an otherwise loud album jump out at you far too much.
This trait is reported to be fixed in recent versions, but once a track has been analysed, iTunes will not go back & fix it later.

To get around this, you may need to employ something like iVolume which is capable of resetting the iTunes data, then recalibrating. It will also allow you to specify whether any album or compilation should get individual or global adjustment.
You can also manually tweak any individual track/album manually.

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