Wishlist for Playback FX to Normalize volume with Auto/"Smart" Peak detect

A common problem for me when composing/reviewing is the audio volume of playback.

  • Art music uses significant dynamics
  • Playback is often used while writing
  • ppp dynamics are difficult to hear due to their artificially low volume with VSTi which are purposely designed to output low volume (to allow mixing headroom etc etc)
  • VSTi and various instruments have various master output volumes, some hotter output than others
  • Compression FX is not desired because Normalization is needed, not Compression. Compression also needs some manual tweaking. “Auto Makeup” on Compression also needs at least some manual tweaking. If Compression is added (i.e. to Master), then there is the additional trouble of having to remember to disable it when Exporting Audio.
  • Compression FX is enabled on the default projects Master track but it is not really desirable to max that out as a way to Normalize audio.
  • Ideally art music should never use Compressor at all, ever, to ensure a complete dynamic range. But in order to effectively use that dynamic range, the levels should be normalized.
  • Going into each VSTi to max out their VST Master Out’s or insert boost FX is fiddly and prone to compounding the same problems as adding artificially-boosted/temporary Compressor.
  • Cranking up the output knob on my audio interface or cranking up the macOs System Volume is not a desirable solution since that volume applies to all sound, while the problem is only Dorico’s playback and is project dependent.

The typical problem is that playback volume is much, much too low.

The solution:

Screen Shot 2023-04-01 at 11.00.10 AM

  • A new button added to the transport controls to enable “Smart Normalize / Smart Volume”. This is not a Compressor.
  • Dorico monitors and remembers, for future playbacks, the peak output volume of the composition’s measures. If new measures have been added since last playback and/or with new dynamics and/or dynamics have been modified, then the peak output volume of those measures is reset. etc etc. Dorico could also internally preview the audio of the entire composition before playback to update peak measurements (i.e. do this in the background or before playback) but this could be CPU intensive depending on VSTi/composition length etc etc.
  • Dorico applies a single-level Audio Normalize function to the playback according to the Peak of the entire composition, to raise the entire track up to a reasonable level (i.e. -3 dB below True Peak). (Again to reiterate, this is not a Compressor)