Normalising audio with the CLI


Recently I’ve been learning Pure Data, a visual programming language for creating music. One of the things I consistently screw up is correct signal control around volume. As a result, there are some videos/patches I post of my Pure Data findings that have inconsistent volume from patch to patch.

To hack around this (the correct way is to use Pure Data properly), I use a combination of sox and ffmpeg, read on!


The easiest way to normalise audio is with SoX, it just works™.

Let’s say you have a quiet audio file with a tolerable signal-to-noise ratio, you can do the following:

sox --norm my_file.wav my_normalised_file.wav

And that’s it, you’ll now have a normalised wav file.

Changing file formats

What you might find is that a file format you want to normalise isn’t supported by SoX. For example, SoX doesn’t work with mp3’s out of the box so you need to transfer your file to a format that SoX does work with.

Enter ffmpeg

ffmpeg is another life changing program that you should learn about. Changing file formats is as simple as:

ffmpeg -i my_file.mp3 my_file.wav 

And now you have a wav file.

There are also dedicated tools for audio normalisation that I came across such as ffmpeg-normalize but I find ffmpeg and sox ubiquitous enough to not need another third party solution.