This is where the audiophile and the practical come into conflict. The point, I think I’ve made a few times, is that we are crafting our audio files for our listeners. We are not crafting them to show off to other podcasters. That’s my way of podcasting, anyway. (Insert smiley face here!)
That being said, let’s think about how most people listen to podcasts. From my observations and my own practice, people listen with earbuds, quite often just the one. I know some people who use headphones but they a in quite a small minority. In the developed world, in cities particularly, band width and download speeds are rarely something to be considered. However, podcasting is a worldwide medium.
Difficult as it may be to believe, there are still people who’s access to the internet is at 2G and dialup speeds. If we want them to have access to our episodes in a timely fashion, we need to craft our files so they can.
So these are the standards I use for my episodes. Every time with every episode.
- .mp3 ~ This is nothing special, it is the industry standard.
- 64 kps bitrate ~ This can cause conniptions. I argue that this bitrate is sufficiently dense, in information, to allow a good audio experience for my listeners. It also means files are not too big for those with sub optimal downloading resources.
- Mono ~ Oh but the full stereo experience is so much better for the listener! I would disagree with this statement. Given both .mp3 and 64 kps, producing a stereo file doubles its size and makes it more difficult for the listener. In particular the one earbud listener. They miss half the show. Remember we are not producing a symphony orchestra, we are producing voice based shows.
- Loudness level of -14 LUFS. Now this is an even bigger area of contention. Before we go any further, LUFS stands for Loudness Units relative to Full Scale. I’ve heard old school podcasters say they aim for -3 to -4 and they aren’t going to change for anyone! Good for them. I used to listen to a few of those podcasts, the loud ones and I don’t anymore. Why? Every time they reached the top of my playlist I’d be deafened. Depending upon which earbuds I grabbed that morning, I might have to take the phone out of my pocket, adjust the volume and all this knowing I’d have to do the same thing again in reverse when the following show started. -16LUFS is the EU standard for podcasting and I used to use that. Now that Spotify and Amazon are in the space and are requesting -14, -14 it is.
These four standards, mp3, bitrate, mono and loudness are great ways of starting a “discussion” in Facebook podcasting groups. Make a stand and watch the reaction!
Takeaways ~ Production Standards