In this age of super-hot mastering, you've probably noticed that some of the older CDs in your collection are considerably quieter than more recent purchases. On a home hi-fi, this really isn't a problem, as you can simply turn your system up and enjoy the extra dynamic range afforded by a less compressed master.
However, with your iPod on shuffle mode, it's a different story. Tracks ripped from older CDs just don't have the volume to compete and sometimes - especially with the EU volume limit - you just can't get enough level out of your headphones to compete with the rumble of a train or traffic noise.
Of course, the more tech-savvy amongst you have many options to combat this, but if you're the type of person who finds using mastering software to be roughly as confusing as conversing with a jellyfish, help is at hand.
Crank it up
Vloud.com is an incredibly simple, free online tool that processes MP3 and WAV files up to 10 megabytes in size and just makes them louder. Simply locate the file you want to process on your machine and select either light, loud, louder or loudest. The file is processed, then you can audition it and download the louder version.
The only downside is that you'll have to re-enter any artist/album title information contained in the original file's ID3 tag.
We uploaded a file to test out the loudest setting, and you can listen to the results for yourself here…
Without getting too hung up on science, we're guessing that the vloud algorithms are simply preset levels of automated normalisation. Here's what the stereo waveforms look like before (top) and after (bottom) processing: