Hey there!

A lot of people consider me to be one of the very first people to podcast. I did a lot of it. And from that world, comes a tool that is very useful if you’re reading audiobooks, especially if you want to be compliant with ACX standards in one simple step.

Because audiobooks are listened to by people in high noise environments (cars, trucks, planes, etc), it’s imperative that every single word you say as an audiobook performer gets heard.

And sometimes, when you have a microphone with little or no pre-processing, the levels you speak at can vary greatly.

These two facts are at odds with one another.

One solution is to add compression to your audio, either with a microphone pre-processor, or in your sound software. In ProTools, you can use RMS normalization, as described in ACX’s production and mastering standards:


There’s yet another tool that I’ve been using lately, because I was reminded recently that it still exists, and still works great.

And it’s free.

It’s called The Levelator. A group of podcasters, led by Doug Kaye, created it a few years ago to solve the issue of two people talking on a podcast at different levels with different microphones.

The Levelator scans your original audio, adjusts the levels of the audio as it goes along, and when it’s all done, creates a new version of your audio that, well, just sounds better.

Because the levels have been adjusted so that they are uniform – uniformly louder. Which means that this tool that was created for podcasting, works great on your audiobook audio as well.

Prep your raw voice tracks with The Levelator, then use your audio software’s tool to finish the job before turning it in.

Warning – a moment of geekspeak ahead: Levelator does exactly what ACX wants you to do with your audio: root-mean-square (RMS) normalization at -20 dB.

But, there’s one last thing you need to do: adjust the peak normalization (as opposed to the RMS normalization – they are two different things).

Levelator will create a new .wav file, in the same folder as your original, that has the suffix “[filename].output.wav”. Open that file in Audacity, and use the Normalize… function to reduce that -1.0 db to -3.0 db. You’ll see the height of the waveform reduce slightly (Oh, and yes, do leave that first box checked, the one that says “Remove DC Offset”)

Then, export your audio as an MP3 file and upload to ACX.

There. Geekspeak over.

Oh, and just in case you’re thinking you should peak normalize before exporting, don’t. The Levelator does its own normalization – plus, you won’t be able to match your performance and volume if and when you have to do pickups with the raw audio if you’ve normalized it. Just leave it alone.

The Levelator is available for Mac OS X, Windows and Linux. And, again, it’s free:


So, go grab it.

Hope this helps.


9 Responses to 6 Steps to a Perfect VO Demo

  1. Kelli August 18, 2011 at 2:58 am #

    I feel really good about my demo. It is a quick and fun process, even for someone like me who gets very self concious. :)

  2. David Britz September 5, 2011 at 11:25 pm #

    The demos are great. Superb quality. Why go anywhere else?

  3. David Britz October 20, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

    Can’t wait to record my Narration VO Demo!! :))

  4. Mike Brang December 31, 2013 at 9:44 am #

    Having a well-produced demo is one of the most important things in the VO business. I had a number of demos made from other producers in the past and they all had one thing in common — that manufactured, cookie cutter sound!
    What sets David apart from the rest, besides his affordable price and tremendously fast turn around time, is that all of the clips you record with him sound unique. Each spot sounds like an actual commercial you recorded for a job.
    My agent loved the quality and even asked who produced it to refer his other talent there!

    Thanks again, David for producing such a great, high quality demo for me. You made the process relaxing and enjoyable. I urge anyone reading this unsolicited reply to listen to David’s student demos to hear the difference for yourself. Anyone would be lucky to work with him

  5. Kristy Liles February 9, 2017 at 7:04 pm #

    I can not thank you enough. I worked so hard on 15 page IVR project, one day I cryed, look for answers, pull my hear (not really) but I was about until another VO send me this great tool. Thanks!

  6. Frank June 11, 2017 at 9:51 pm #


    When v123 indicates the audition is for a student/ nonprofit are we to assume it is for $0. If so, why does the audition ask for an amount to be entered?

  7. shirley jordan June 12, 2017 at 5:58 pm #

    I did get this scam through Voice 123. In our discourse, they offered me the gig and they gave me the name of a legit local place to record and the same runaround with the money. I didn’t send anything, but instead, I called the studio to make sure the booking was for the day we set up, and lo and behold, the people there had no idea what I was talking about. I then tried to call back my “contact person” who was setting this up and there was a fax machine beep on the other end. I immediately contacted Voice 123 and told them what had happened. You know what they say…if it sounds togaed to be true, it probably is. Thanks for the reminder!

  8. shirley jordan June 12, 2017 at 5:59 pm #

    …too good…not togaed.
    The one time spell check didn’t work!

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