Why podcasts suck or Why I hate podcasts .
It seems that everybody has a podcast these days. From popular podcasters like Leo Laporte and C|Net’s Buzz Out Loud, to podcasts that nobody has and probably never will hear about like Crazy Rob and naked Jay. Some of the podcasts out there are interesting, funny, and educational. Others are just stupid, but virtually ALL podcasts suffer from one, big, common problem.
PODCASTERS DO NOT KNOW HOW TO MIX SOUND!
You see, I started listening to podcasts long before I ever had an iPod or MP3 player. I would download podcasts via iPodder or Podspider, copy the files to my thumb-drive, take them to work and listen to them on my PC via Windows Media Player. Because I work in a small office I have to keep the volume low when listening to my podcasts. This is when I first began to notice that podcasters do not have a clue about engineering or mixing sound. I first noticed this problem while listening to one of my favorite podcasts, TWIT. The volume level would be perfectly adjusted while Leo Laporte was speaking, but as soon as Patrick Norton would open his mouth, I’d have to crank up the volume to hear anything he’d say. Once Leo would come back onto the mic, the people 2 offices away could hear everything he was saying. I would have to quickly turn the volume back down. Some podcasts are pretty good about leveling their modulation. C|Net’s Buzz Out Loud is a great example of a well engineered podcast. Not once while listening to Tom, Molly & Veronica would I have to adjust the volume. But, because there is no standard of any kind for volume levels in the podcasting realm, as soon as the next podcast in my playlist would begin I would once again find myself being blasted out of my seat by an extremely loud “This is TWIT”, or I would have to crank the volume up to hear the faint whisper of NPR’s Technology podcast. NPR’s podcast is one of the worst offenders. While switching between stories, correspondents voices would vary from #2 on the volume scale all the way up to #9 – very frustrating, especially for people in the office down the hall from mine.
I ditched my thumb-drive and Windows Media Player for a Nano and a stereo docking station, thinking that this would somehow help. While the Nano and iTunes makes downloading and playing podcasts easier, it does nothing to help the wildly flucuating sound levels.
Hopefully as time goes on, and the lame podcasts die away, podcasting and podcasting software will mature into something a bit more like radio. Standards for modulation levels, software that makes it easier to mix and engineer sound levels and mic inputs, and podcasters that are smart enough to make it work. Until then I guess I’ll go back to listening to my Adult Contemporary music on the old, $19 clock radio in my office.