Are you here to learn what level to set your podcast audio volume, and exactly how to do so? It’s great to know that you care about such things, and soon, you will have the answers you seek.
First, let’s touch on a different but familiar media format and think back to the old days of FM radio. Remember using your radio's physical knob to dial your way up and down (or left and right), scanning through your favorite stations for your favorite songs or talk shows? If you were lucky enough to land on something you wanted to hear, and it sounded loud and clear, you’d stop and listen. On the other hand, if you landed on a station that was barely audible – too quiet, you just keep moving. No radio stations wanted to be passed over without a second thought. They wanted to be discovered by listeners just like you. So, since the 1970s, FM radio stations added professional audio hardware, including a 20:1 compression ratio, to their signal chain, boosting the quiet sections and raising the level of their entire broadcast resulting in a punchy overall sound that’s consistently loud. A radio hardware expert describes the compression in detail: “…a 20:1 compressor that has a fast attack and very, very slow release and a threshold set quite low in the 10 to 30dB below 0VU range used with the intention of averaging all the audio to a predetermined volume.”
Just as the FM industry set loudness standards, so has the podcasting industry. And if you’re about to start a podcast, you want to make sure your podcast production measures up so your listeners have a comfortable experience.
Why Care About Podcast Audio Volume?
But why should your podcast audio volume have to conform to a standard? Apple explains it this way:
Your audio settings manage the loudness of your podcast to keep sound within a specific range so that all spoken content is audible and free from distortion. For example, content that is heavily compressed and amplified might be too loud, will lack the dynamic range, and can introduce distortion. Alternatively, content with low audio levels will have dynamic range but will be too quiet, making spoken content inaudible or unintelligible. In either case, a listener might have to adjust the playback volume to a comfortable level.
No One Owns Podcasting. Why Follow Apple’s Specs?
But wait. Apple doesn’t own podcasting. So why should you take their advice?
When seeking out best practices for podcast audio volume, the global corporation that put the “Pod” in Podcast has an undeniable influence and is thus one of the important standard-bearers in podcast production.
And now, with all this context in mind, we present the specific podcast audio volume standard, directly from Apple with a citation from the International Telecommunication Union:
To prevent such content-driven volume adjustments, we recommend that the audio signals are preconditioned so the overall loudness remains around -16 dB LKFS [LUFS], with a +/- 1 dB tolerance, and that the true-peak value doesn’t exceed -1 dB FS. The LKFS and true-peak values are calculated according to the ITU-R BS.1770-4 recommendation. The preconditioning steps need to occur before the encoding process. We recommend this because audio compression algorithms typically don’t modify the loudness and might clip the signal if the recommended true-peak value is not respected.
Now that we have our -16 LUFS standard, what is LUFS?
LUFS stands for Loudness Units Full Scale. Decibel Peak writes,
It’s quickly become the new industry standard for measuring loudness and has replaced RMS (Root Mean Square).
How do we apply this recommended podcast audio volume to our podcast for business?
Processing Podcast Audio to -16 LUFS
The good news is that you can apply this processing to your finished podcast WAV file. Here’s how to do it in Adobe Audition:
1. Open your final mixdown .WAV file
2. Open the Match Loudness window (Window > Match Loudness)
3. Drag your .WAV file into the Match Loudness Window and let Audition analyze it
4. In the Match Loudness Settings, input the settings shown below. Your file name will of course be different.
5. Click Run button
6. Wait for the process to finish, then save your audio
Do you have questions about the -16 LUFS standard as it applies to podcast production? If you need more information on this or how to start a podcast, our experts are ready to help you Get Clear, Get Ready, and Get Going!