Volume problems on podcasts, a comparison of two podcasts I listened to today

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Geeks Guide To The GalaxySearch Engine with Jesse BrownDavid Barr Kirtley, who puts together and hosts Geeks Guide To Galaxy is responding to my complaint about his podcast being too low in volume.

But his show isn’t the only one I’ve had this issue with. Our most recent podcast, #155, also featured two out of three of us complaining about the volume of the Clarkesworld podcast.

I’ve also complained, by email, to Tevi Troy of New Books In Public Policy about the same issue.

Most podcasts are ok for volume. But there are some that are consistently low.

But to get a sense of what I mean I’ll use the two latest shows as my example.

So, picking on David Barr Kirtley again, I listened to Geeks Guide To Galaxy on my walk home from work today (the episode with Morgan Spurlock) – I could barely hear it at maximum volume. It was raining and there were cars on the roadway and because I wasn’t in front of my amplified speaker system at home I just couldn’t hear everything that was being said, and to make it worse to hear anything I had to jam my earbuds down my ear canals. A podcast should physically hurt me.

Here’s the Geeks Guide To Galaxy file: http://downloads.wired.com/podcasts/assets/underwire/geeksguide57.mp3

Now, compare that experience to the one on my way in to work today. I listened to TVO’s Search Engine. And right away I had my iPhone set to half volume of full, and at that it was plenty loud, loud enough, in fact, so that even set at half volume and with my earbuds hanging loosely over my ears, I could hear everything.

Here’s the Search Engine file: http://feeds.tvo.org/~r/tvo/searchengine/~3/mZBN588091g/801144_48k.mp3

And, incidentally, at home now in another comparison I’ve just made again, I can hear Search Engine from across the room at 3/4 volume through my iPhone speaker. The Geek’s Guide is at full volume and is not loud enough.

Posted by Jesse Willis

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3 thoughts to “Volume problems on podcasts, a comparison of two podcasts I listened to today”

  1. Search Engine is definitely compressing right to the 1.0 line. The volume difference seems to be more noticeable on iphone bluetooth headphones.

  2. If I’m getting this right, by reducing the dynamic range (compressing) the player will expand the signal accordingly and increase volume? I pictured it as a two step process: compress, then expand the volume.

    Seems to me some of this could be done on the user side. For music I would want a larger dynamic range, for speech not so much. Short of clipping distortion. Basically I would want to match dynamic range to the quality of my ear buds and the type of recording. Sometimes I listen on Dollar Store earbuds.

    So I think the argument could be made that the MP3 should provide the highest dynamic range and let the user side convert it to suit equipment, usage and taste.

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