audio processing pipeline for Quake sound samples
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quakesounds: audio processing pipeline for Quake sound samples

Current release: 1.1

quakesounds is a utility for easily ripping sounds out of Quake pak files and pushing them through a sequence of audio processing effects.

Motivation came from my experience setting up a few Quake-related noises as alert sounds on my phone. That involved a surprising amount of work to find good alert-sound candidates and then extract, rename, noise-reduce, format-convert, and gain-normalize them. So I thought it might be neat if I gave other folks a shortcut for that process.

The project took on extra life as an excuse to see what was involved in a complete/proper open-source user-configurable release of a modestly-scoped Python application. So the end result is somewhat overpowered for its original purposes. While it should still be easy to use this to just crank out a few ringtones, it's also data-driven to the point where you could use it to apply an arbitrary processing pipeline, using any external utilities that you like, to anything contained in a pak file.

If you have good chops with audio processing tools like SoX and ffmpeg, and you have suggestions on how to improve the default settings or add new example conversion pipelines, please share! You can find my email address in the page footer of, or post an issue on the GitHub repo, track me down on a forum, whatever.


You'll need to have Python 2.6, 2.7, or 3.x installed in order to run quakesounds. If you are working on Linux or OS X, you probably already have this; if on Windows, probably not (unless you've already gone to the trouble of installing it yourself). In any case, if you don't have Python then you can go get a Python installer for your platform of choice. The latest stable version of either Python 2 or Python 3 will work... if you're new to Python, you should look elsewhere for advice on whether to use 2 or 3, but the general consideration is that currently more stuff is compatible with Python 2.

Once you've installed Python, the next issue is whether you need to install any sound-processing utilities for quakesounds to control. All of the default processing pipelines in quakesounds use SoX, and the pipeline for creating m4r files (iOS alert/ringtone sounds) uses both SoX and ffmpeg. But before you go downloading and installing those, consider:

  • If you are going to run on OS X (64-bit) or Windows, you can choose to use a build of the quakesounds application that includes internally-bundled versions of SoX and ffmpeg. You won't need to worry about installing them yourself.

  • If you are on some other platform -- like Linux or 32-bit OS X -- then you will need to separately install SoX and/or ffmpeg if you are going to do any processing that uses them. It's preferable to get the most recent versions of those utilities.

  • If you intend to use audio processing utilities other than SoX or ffmpeg, quakesounds can certainly accomodate that, but you'll have to install other utilities separately.

That's about it. quakesounds also depends on the Python modules expak and pkg_resources, but if you don't have the module already installed on your system then quakesounds will automatically use an internally-bundled version of that module.

Choosing your quakesounds flavor

You can get a quakesounds distribution at the quakesounds releases page on GitHub.

quakesounds is a Python application, so it will run on any system that has a compatible version of Python (2.6, 2.7, or 3.x). As mentioned above though, you can choose to download a build of quakesounds that has internally-bundled sound utilities for convenience. Those utilities are built specifically for OS X or for Windows, so that's why there are unique quakesounds download options for OS X and for Windows.

To be clear: the quakesounds application itself will still run on any platform, regardless of which flavor you download. You can change the configuration so that it doesn't use the internal versions of the utilities, and make it use more appropriate external utilities that you have installed. But obviously the internally-bundled utilities will just be dead weight if you're not going to use them on the OS for which they were built.

Note for power users: even if you're running on Windows or OS X, you may want to choose the "lightweight" build with no bundled utilities, and just set up your sound utilities externally in the exact manner that you prefer. This will also make quakesounds start up a little faster (although the difference is not really noticeable on a modern PC with an SSD.)


The quakesounds application is the file named "". The distribution zipfile that you downloaded will have other stuff in it, but only "" is necessary for running the application.

quakesounds is a Python application, so if you are already familiar with running Python scripts you don't have anything new to see here, except to note that you can set pause_on_exit to True in the quakesounds configuration if you're spawning a console window that disappears before you can read it. (More about configuration below.)

For everyone not familiar with running Python scripts, please see the file for the rundown.


quakesounds is very configurable, but you can ignore a lot of the details for starters. In this quickstart section we'll create some sound files as quickly as possible; the next sections will describe what is happening in more detail.

  1. If you're using a quakesounds distribution that has internally-bundled utilities, skip ahead to step 2. Otherwise, if you're using your own external versions of sox and ffmpeg, then make sure that those utilities are installed and ready to go. For the purposes of this quickstart, sox and ffmpeg (or on Windows, sox.exe and ffmpeg.exe) need to be placed in your executables path -- i.e. running them should not require typing their entire path.

  2. If you're going to run quakesounds from a command prompt, make sure that the working directory for that command prompt is the directory where the "" file is located.

  3. Now run quakesounds once, using "" (as described in

  4. You should see a "quakesounds.cfg" file appear in that directory.

  5. Now make sure that that directory also contains the file "quakesounds.targets" that came with the quakesounds distribution.

  6. Copy your "pak0.pak" and "pak1.pak" files into that same directory.

  7. Run quakesounds again. (You may see a warning or two about "clipping"; this is expected. If you see a lot of warnings, your version of the SoX utility may be old.)

  8. You should see a "quakesounds_out" subdirectory appear. "quakesounds_out" should contain several files with the m4r extension; these are gain-normalized, iOS-alert-sound-ready versions of a few selected Quake sounds.

Victory! But now let's take a closer look at what is going on there. If you want a different sound selection, or you want the sounds to be louder, or softer, or in a different format, or with different names, or changed in any other way... hang in there and keep reading.


For the example command lines in this section, I'll assume that you're on Windows, that Python is on your executables path, that "" is in your current working directory, and that you're running it manually from a command prompt. If not, adjust the examples as necessary... the important thing here is not going to be exactly how quakesounds is launched, but rather what command-line arguments (if any) we give it.

The config file

quakesounds will look for its configuration in a file named "quakesounds.cfg". Settings can also be specified on the command line to add to or change the settings taken from this file; however the command line will usually be used for temporarily changing just a few settings, while the "quakesounds.cfg" file should contain the complete baseline configuration that you use.

quakesounds expects the "quakesounds.cfg" file to be in the current working directory. If you're manually running quakesounds from a command prompt, then the working directory is whatever directory you're in. If you run quakesounds by double-clicking an icon, then the working directory is normally whatever directory "" is in, although you can also create shortcuts that use different working directories.

If there is no "quakesounds.cfg" file in the working directory, and no settings on the command line, then quakesounds will create a default version of the config file and exit. So if you run quakesounds without any command-line arguments:


... then that will create a default "quakesounds.cfg" file in the working directory if there is not currently such a file. On the other hand, if there already is a config file, then invoking quakesounds like this will run it using whatever settings are in the config file.

The targets file

We also need to tell quakesounds what sounds to extract. This info needs to be in a file that contains a list of sound resource names. This list can also specify a new name to use for each sound.

The quakesounds distribution comes with an example of such a file, named "quakesounds.targets". Take a look inside that file to see an example of how the sounds were selected and named.

You can tell quakesounds to read this info from whatever file you like, using the targets_path setting. The setting in the default "quakesounds.cfg" will look for a file named "quakesounds.targets" in the working directory.

Which pak files to read

The names and locations of pak files are affected by the pak_paths and pak_home settings. In the default "quakesounds.cfg" file, pak_paths is set to pak0.pak,pak1.pak and pak_home is unset. This configuration will make quakesounds look for "pak0.pak" and "pak1.pak" files in the current working directory.

Processing the sounds

The audio processing pipeline for the extracted sounds is controlled by the converter setting. In the default "quakesounds.cfg" file, converter is set to m4r, which will create iOS alert sounds.

In the quickstart, once you had a config file in place, you ran quakesounds again without any command line arguments and without editing the config file. This means that all of the default settings described above were used to select and process the sound files, the result being a bunch of m4r files in the "quakesounds_out" directory.

Overriding the config file

Let's say you want Ogg Vorbis versions of the sounds instead, because you want to make alert sounds for an Android phone. Run quakesounds with a command-line argument this time:

.\ converter:ogg

The result should be the creation of a bunch of ogg files in "quakesounds_out".

What you did there was change the value of a setting using the command line, for that one run of quakesounds only. You could have the same effect more permanently by editing the config file and replacing the value of the converter setting in there.

You can specify as many settings on the command line as you like. If you like the Ogg Vorbis output but want it to be a bit louder, you could override the normalized DB setting in the config file (which is -12) like so:

.\ converter:ogg norm_db:-10

And if your pak files were located somewhere else, for example in "C:\Quake\id1":

.\ converter:ogg norm_db:-10 pak_home:C:\Quake\id1

If you need to work with a setting value that has spaces in it, just put quotes around the whole setting:

.\ converter:ogg norm_db:-10 "pak_home:C:\path with a space"

Of course if there's a particular setting value that you want to use repeatedly, you should just edit that setting's value in the config file. (No quote marks required for values in the config file BTW.)

For some final examples, let's talk about noise reduction. Several of the Quake sounds have noticeable background hiss. I've experimented with applying noise reduction using a noise profile taken from the end of sound/misc/runekey.wav; on some sounds it can help, although on many others it distorts the opening "attack" of the sound too much.

So in the default config for this release, there are two different sets of converter commands: those that include noise reduction, and those that don't. The examples above haven't been using any converters that do noise reduction. There's also a separate example targets file "quakesounds_nr.targets" that selects a few sounds that benefit from noise reduction. You could create noise-reduced m4r files from that set of sounds like this:

.\ converter:m4r_nr targets_path:quakesounds_nr.targets

Or some noise-reduced ogg files:

.\ converter:ogg_nr targets_path:quakesounds_nr.targets

This is one area where some expert help could probably improve the default configuration quite a bit.


At this point the natural question is, "what settings are available?" There's a simple answer, and then a less-simple answer.

Required settings

quakesounds only has three required settings, i.e. settings that must have values either in the config file or on the command line. These settings are targets_path, pak_paths, and converter. You can read more about them in the comments in the default "quakesounds.cfg" file, in the "REQUIRED SETTINGS" section, but here's the gist:

If you're using the default "quakesounds.cfg", there are seven legal values for the converter setting:

  • passthru : This extracts the sound file without making any changes.

  • wav : This keeps the sound file as a WAV file but performs gain normalization.

  • wav_nr : As above, plus noise reduction.

  • ogg : Along with gain normalization, this converts the sound file to Ogg Vorbis format.

  • ogg_nr : As above, plus noise reduction.

  • m4r : Along with gain normalization, this converts the sound file to M4A format, and gives it the iOS-expected m4r file extension.

  • m4r_nr : As above, plus noise reduction.

It's possible to do other types of conversions though; more about that soon.

targets_path is the path of the file containing a list of selected sounds, as described above. For the format of this file's contents, see the example "quakesounds.targets" file, and the comments about targets_path in the default "quakesounds.cfg".

pak_paths is a comma-separated list of file paths of pak files to read.

Optional settings

quakesounds also has an additional group of settings that it will look for, but if it doesn't find values for them it will assume that they should be considered false or unset. You can find descriptions of these in the "OPTIONAL SETTINGS" section of the default "quakesounds.cfg".

The pak_home setting used in the examples above is one of the optional settings. If it is set, then it is used to resolve any relative paths in the pak_paths list. The pause_on_exit setting mentioned earlier is another optional setting. verbose is an optional setting that you can set to True to enable more messages while quakesounds runs. out_working_dir is an optional setting that can be used to specify the directory where the output files are placed.

The remaining optional settings are more situational, but it's worth having a look at their descriptions to see what's available.

Additional settings

The required and optional settings aren't all the possible settings though. For example, the norm_db setting used in the examples above isn't in either of those groups. This is because, for convenience, the value of a setting can include values from other settings, and you can define as many settings as you like.

In the default "quakesounds.cfg" file, norm_db is one of these additional settings used by other settings. norm_db is referenced in a setting named sox_norm, which defines the command-line arguments necessary for gain normalization with SoX. The sox_norm setting in turn is referenced in every converter command definition that uses SoX and does gain normalization. If you open up the default config file and search for instances of norm_db and sox_norm, you should get a good idea of how these setting references work.

So by setting a value for norm_db you affect any sound conversion that does gain normalization. With norm_db isolated in this way, gain adjustments are simpler to do (especially when doing them on the quakesounds command line).

Another example of how this can be useful: if you're going to want to generate sounds at a few different gain settings for testing/comparison, you could change the value of the out_working_dir setting in the config file so that its value references the norm_db setting, something like this:

out_working_dir : quakesounds_out_gain%norm_db%

Then when you run quakesounds using different values for norm_db, the results will get placed in different directories.

Other settings referenced throughout the default config include sox_path and ffmpeg_path, which define the file paths to those utilities. You may need to change the values of those settings if you are using external utilities that aren't on your executables path, or if you have a quakesounds with bundled internal utilities and you want to force it to use external utilities.

And there is nothing sacred about the default collection of available converter values (passthru, wav, wav_nr, ogg, ogg_nr, m4r, m4r_nr). When you choose a value for the converter setting, you are just naming any other setting. That other setting's value must define which utility or utilities to launch for processing sound data, and what arguments to use.

So you can examine the current definitions of the passthru, wav, ogg, and etc. settings to see exactly what they are doing to the sound data. You can edit the definitions of those settings (and the settings they reference) to change the arguments used when invoking the sound utilities.

You could also add a new setting containing a definition of an entirely different sound processing pipeline, using whatever new setting name you like. The name of this new setting could then be set as the value of converter, to apply your new processing pipeline when quakesounds runs.

For more information about the way the config settings work, please see the file.

Legal stuff

The quakesounds application is licensed under version 3 of the GPL. See the LICENSE file for the full text of that license.

The SoX and ffmpeg utilities bundled in some distributions of quakesounds are licensed under version 2 of the GPL. My understanding is that there are no incompatibilities with that arrangement, especially since I don't compile against their source or link with their libraries.

The bundled copy of the expak module is also licensed under GPLv3. The bundled copy of pkg_resources is licensed to be used under the Python Software Foundation License or the Zope Public License.