Normalize to minus 3.0 dB, not 0.0

Hey, there!

The other day, I showed you how I helped my client Lee fix a noise problem in his recordings. The screen shots of his normalization dialog in Audacity caused a couple of people to point out that his normalization level was too high.

I couldn’t have disagreed more. But now, I’ve changed my mind.

An example of the emails I got – this one from Charles:

Hey David! Always love reading your stuff. I’ll make this quick.

I noticed his “normalization” level is 0.0. Shouldn’t it be set to -3 as that’s what sites such as Voice123 require for submissions?

Have a good one!

I get this a lot. And I’d like to take a moment to make sure that this misconception is cleared up.

Voice123 doesn’t require that, they suggest that. And, I used to think that they were completely and irretrievably incorrect in doing so.

Normalizing a piece of audio to -3.0 dB reduces the maximum volume to only 72% of full volume. Now, I’m all for headroom and avoiding the possibility of distorting sound, but I thought that went too far, that it was too much headroom, and the resulting audio sounded weak.

I wanted my clients and students and readers – you – to sound powerful and professional, full and rich. And there really was no danger of distortion – if you don’t distort your recording to begin with, no amount of normalization will add distortion.

It took putting the finishing touches on the editing system I created years ago for audiobooks that made the difference in what I recommend. That, and the production requirements for ACX audiobook projects.

ACX wants all their submissions to be normalized to -3.0 dB. So, OK. I’ve changed my mind about this – and I’m happy to change my advice as well. This one’s now a no-brainer:

Normalize to -3.0.


Hope that helps.


10 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!

  9. Bernard Prame July 1, 2017 at 9:44 pm #

    extremely helpful demo. Thank you!

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