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Podcast Volume

Today I used GarageBand to produce episode 10 of the Golf Talk Podcast over at The Sand Trap.

My routine is as follows:

  1. Use Audio Hijack Pro and Skype to record audio.
  2. Reduce noise and pops/clicks in Soundtrack Pro (STP).
  3. Remove silence, bad jokes, "uhms" and "wells" and other crap in STP.
  4. Add in commercials, intros/outros, and other segments in STP.
  5. Export as AIFF from STP.
  6. Bring into GarageBand to add artwork.
  7. Export as AAC (.m4a) file for podcast.

Unfortunately, to hear the podcast in iTunes, I have to turn the volume waaaaaaaay up. I typically listen to my music at volume 7 (out of 100, and with my system volume at 50%). To hear the podcast, I have to turn the volume up to 85 or more.

A few times, we've had some clipped signals (i.e. we're too loud), so I don't believe it's poor recording quality. When I listen to songs in the Finder and adjust the volume to approximately the same level, it's tough to approximate, but the podcast volume seems to be 1/3 or 1/2 as loud. I'm willing to grant that some of it is perception - music is a "background noise" thing for me, so I may be willing to accept it at a lower volume level. But that can't explain it all, nor can it tell me the best way to get my volume up. Is this just a problem on my computer? What can I do to solve the problem?

P.S. If I ramp up the .m4a for episode 10 in iTunes to +100% volume, I would say that it is about as loud as my music at the same volume level. Thus, I'm looking at about half volume normally.

P.P.S. GarageBand worked pretty nicely for producing podcasts! I wish that iTunes didn't scale up images when you click on them. Very smooth. I haven't yet attempted to record via iChat, but GarageBand does a nifty thing: it records separate tracks (and inserts buddy icons) when different people talk. Perhaps I'll write more about GarageBand and the "Podcast Studio" in another entry.

10 Responses to "Podcast Volume"

  1. Cocoa Radio made their first podcast in Garageband last week. It also was very low for the volume. Could there be a setting or bug problem?

  2. One other thing I've noticed is that there's a setting in iTunes called Sound Check that equalizes the volume for tracks, this might be having an effect. I do all my weekly podcasts in Garageband and notice the master volume in the right-hand lower corner needs adjusted sometimes, I think STP might have a similar master volume.

  3. I haven't really played with GB being a ProTools user myself, but you should try putting a compressor on your vocal track. That will help smooth out the dynamics of your voice, allowing your voice to sound louder more consistently. Also, I think I remember that GB goes through a "Mastering" or "Maximizing" phase when you export, that should be helping to increase the loudness of your podcast (by limiting).

  4. You should use Garageband for everything. It would cut down on problems in level that would occur by transfering the data many times. You should be able to everything you need in there witht he exeption of noise removal.

  5. Heh, I have the opposite suggestion of Brian. Why do you need to use GarageBand at all? You can add artwork in iTunes in the get info panel, and you can convert files to AAC from AIF using the advanced menu. I suggest getting info on the file and telling iTunes to play it at plus however many decibels, then converting it.

  6. Guys, a few notes:Transferring the audio "several times" (i.e. once, then converting to AAC) does not change the audio quality.It's not a GB problem - all nine podcasts produced before with just STP and iTunes for the MP3 conversion were quiet, too.iTunes can NOT add chapter artwork, making GB a necessary step.I am not going to use GB full-time because it's cannot assist me with #3 at all.Nobody has really told me where to adjust the volume. I basically need to double it without distortion or other poor side effects. And I need to double it in the file, not just on my system (i.e. with the +100% in iTunes).

  7. Erik?

    Why do you say you can't edit the audio (Remove silence, bad jokes, "uhms" and "wells" and other crap in STP.) within GarageBand? You can do all of that in there...

    Well I can take out parts of my guitar licks when I record and just bring together the separated parts...

    So, yes (according to me at least), you could use Garageband for your whole podcast production process.

  8. Hmm, that link didn't work in my comment. Let's try it again. It's on Apple's website -> garageband -> recording podcasts.

    Here's the link. Good luck.

  9. El Rocco, no, you can't really do it. GarageBand sucks at doing that stuff - it's slower, kludgier, and simply doesn't work as well. You also cannot do "remove noise" and some of the other processing filters (clicks/pops) you can in STP. So, no, sorry.

    And koen, that link does not mention "volume," "quiet," or "loud." The only mentions of "sound" are "great sounding" and the like.

  10. Erik: Look for the words 'gate', 'compression' and 'gain', they all are in a section that gives some suggestions on recording voices. I haven't tried it, so cannot promise it will work in your case 🙂