Data From Top US Podcasts Reveals How Loud Your Podcast Should Be

How loud should your podcast be? There are standards and then there’s the reality. I analyzed over 600 top US podcast episodes to find out the true loudness you should aim for.

The Podcast Loudness Standards from Apple are:

  • overall loudness remains around -16 dB LKFS, with a +/- 1 dB tolerance
  • the true-peak value doesn’t exceed -1 dB FS

This post is about the reality. I crawled the iTunes pages for a handful of top-100 podcasts from different genres, scraped the related podcast episodes and analyzed their loudness with the ffmepg command line tool.

Jumps in loudness are not good for our blood pressure. Be more like Nappi.

The data set includes:

  • 606 episodes
  • 87 podcasts
  • Averages for 5–7 most recent episodes

The idea is that you can take this information, apply it to your own podcast and make everyone’s listening experience a little bit better by making sure the listener doesn’t have to keep adjusting volume on their end.

A word of warning: I’m not a certified audio technician and you should consult an audio technician before you start a fitness regimen, or a podcast for that matter.

Okay, screw that. Here are my recommendations for audio specs, based on the data. The percentage is their prevalence in my data set:

  • mp3 (99.5%)
  • Sample rate: 44.1 kHz (94.7%)
  • Stereo (82.7%)
  • Bit rate: 128kb/s (59.6%) or 192 kb/s (11.5%)
  • Loudness: –16 LUFS
  • True peaks: below -0 dBFS

Loudness (LUFS) range for top podcast episodes

The histogram of loudness (LUFS, Loudness Units relative to Full Scale) shows that the standard of -16 LUFS is still something that many podcasters aim for. There’s a big spike near the -16 LUFS mark.

However, the spread is fairly wide which suggests that there’s still no unified workflow for mastering audio files for podcasts. The takeaway from this graph is that if you don’t have a really good reason for not aiming for -16 LUFS, you should aim for -16 LUFS.

True Peak values for top podcast episodes

Clip clop, here come the true peaks.

I’m pretty sure there’s no situation where you’d want your audio file’s true peak to be above 0 — hitting the dreaded red clipping area. Apple suggests keeping the true peaks below –1 dBFS, but there’s a surprising amount of variation in the true peaks for top podcast episodes.

The cliff near 0 dBFS suggests that it’s something the audio engineers tend to avoid. Peaks around -2 dBFS also indicate another popular goal.

The takeaway from this graph is that you should aim to keep the true peaks below 0 dBFS and you’ll be doing better than some of the podcasts out there.

Here’s a bonus graph: a scatter plot of Loudness vs True Peaks for individual podcast episodes: it looks like a slightly skewed dartboard where podcasts aim for the standards but also lean towards “loud is better”.

A wild hotspot appears near -16 LUFS and -2dbFS (true peak). It’s super effective.

The Big List of Loudness for TOP US Podcasts

This list is a non-comprehensive list of top US podcasts. It should give you an idea of the loudness for your favorite podcast — and perhaps also the loudness your listeners will be experiencing before or after listening to your podcast.

Podcast Name | Avg. Integrated Loudness (LUFS)|Avg. Peak (dBFS)

1. Build Your Tribe | -8,20 | 1,80
2. StarTalk Radio | -11,00 | 0,68
3. Good For You | -11,52 | 1,68
4. Fool Me Twice | -12,00 | -2,00
5. Jensen and Holes: The Murder Squad | -12,22 | 0,35
6. Seth Godin’s Startup School | -12,38 | -2,43
7. This is Your Life | -13,05 | 0,80
8. Deadly Misadventures | -13,17 | 0,33
9. The EntreLeadership Podcast | -13,38 | 0,77
10. Entrepreneur on Fire | -13,60 | -1,43
11. Invisible Choir | -13,95 | 0,17
12. Dolly Parton’s America | -14,08 | 0,38
13. Radiolab | -14,37 | 0,47
14. Office Ladies | -14,48 | -0,27
15. Overheard at National Geographic | -14,52 | -1,68
16. Online Marketing Made Easy with Amy Porterfield | -14,64 | -0,22
17. Criminal Conduct | -14,77 | -0,75
18. Mind Over Murder | -14,78 | 1,43
19. The Chernobyl Podcast | -14,82 | -0,93
20. Science Rules! with Bill Nye | -14,85 | -1,55
21. Freakonomics Radio | -14,87 | -1,68
22. Social Media Marketing | -15,05 | -1,80
23. Culpable | -15,20 | 0,30
24. Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend | -15,66 | 1,85
25. Sibling Revelry with Kate Hudson and Oliver Hudson | -15,80 | -1,08
26. Scene of the Crime: Delphi | -15,80 | -0,90
27. Bertcast’s podcast | -15,85 | 0,07
28. The GaryVee Audio Experience | -15,90 | 0,00
29. Building a StoryBrand with Donald Miller | -15,90 | 0,20
30. Beyond the To-Do List | -15,95 | 0,15
31. To Live and Die in LA | -16,00 | -0,22
32. Revisionist History | -16,11 | -0,57
33. The Church of What’s Happening Now: With Joey Coco Diaz | -16,12 | 0,38
34. Ari Shaffir’s Skeptic Tank | -16,15 | 1,93
35. The MeatEater Podcast | -16,20 | -1,68
36. The Clearing | -16,27 | -1,95
37. 99% Invisible | -16,27 | -0,35
38. Invisibilia | -16,30 | -1,44
39. Cutthroat Inc. | -16,37 | -0,52
40. Swindled | -16,43 | -0,93
41. Root of Evil: The True Story of the Hodel Family and the Black Dahlia | -16,43 | -3,38
42. The Dropout | -16,47 | -1,33
43. Meditative Story | -16,48 | -1,57
44. The Smart Passive Income Online Business and Blogging Podcast | -16,60 | -1,68
45. Nice Try! | -16,70 | -1,35
46. Cold | -16,80 | -3,20
47. How To! With Charles Duhigg | -16,82 | -1,90
48. Snap Judgment | -17,07 | 0,02
49. Dateline NBC | -17,11 | -1,26
50. The CONAN Podcast | -17,18 | -2,84
51. Mobituaries with Mo Rocca | -17,23 | -2,33
52. The Shrink Next Door | -17,25 | -1,60
53. The Jordan B. Peterson Podcast | -17,40 | -0,68
54. Women and Crime | -17,50 | -0,48
55. Appalachian Unsolved | -17,58 | -0,63
56. Man In The Window: The Golden State Killer | -17,60 | -0,40
57. Over My Dead Body | -17,65 | -0,90
58. Long Lost: An Investigative History Series | -17,72 | -1,72
59. The Ben Shapiro Show | -17,86 | 0,04
60. 1619 | -17,93 | -0,93
61. BROKEN: Jeffrey Epstein | -17,98 | -1,50
62. Your Mom’s House with Christina P. and Tom Segura | -18,05 | -1,75
63. The Cardone Zone | -18,10 | -0,65
64. Serial | -18,22 | -1,45
65. The Joe Rogan Experience | -18,40 | 0,53
66. What A Day | -18,62 | -0,87
67. The Science of Social Media | -18,82 | -4,26
68. Stuff You Should Know | -18,83 | -1,63
69. Monday Morning Podcast | -18,97 | -1,45
70. S-Town | -19,15 | -2,30
71. Bear Brook | -19,15 | -0,08
72. In Bed with Nick and Megan | -19,32 | -2,20
73. The Catch and Kill Podcast with Ronan Farrow | -19,35 | -0,03
74. Call Her Daddy | -19,38 | 0,22
75. Adam Corolla Show | -19,52 | 1,90
76. 22 Hours: An American Nightmare | -19,78 | -0,73
77. Armchair Expert | -20,49 | -0,84
78. Congratulations with Chris D’Elia | -20,63 | -0,07
79. The Moth | -20,72 | -1,55
80. The Toll | -20,85 | -4,28
81. Apple for the Teacher | -21,20 | -6,97
82. The Ron Burgundy Podcast | -21,23 | -1,15
83. Autopsy: The Last Hours Of… | -21,32 | -0,45
84. Unlocking Us with Brené Brown | -21,50 | -1,00
85. Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History | -21,92 | -0,88
86. Making Sense with Sam Harris | -22,52 | 0,05
87. Deadly Secrets: The Lawson Family Murder | -23,68 | -3,27

Final Words: Loud or Louder?

Is there something magical about -16 LUFS? Probably not. Will it make your podcast a success if you hit -16 LUFS with every episode? Probably not.

I’m inclined to think that these are the real questions you should ask yourself when mastering podcast files:

  1. Does it sound good?
  2. Is it uniform?
  3. Is it too quiet?
  4. Is it too loud?

And here’s a fairly non-technical way to answer each question:

  1. Does it sound good when I listen to it like my listeners will (in a car, with AirPods, outside…)
  2. Does the waveform look uniform enough? Are there long sections of quieter sound where the listener would want to turn up the volume?
  3. Is it too quiet compared to other podcasts out there when measured in LUFS?
  4. Is it too loud when measured in LUFS?

Loudness is only a part of the audio equation. That said, I’ve had multiple experiences with podcasts that are too quiet and I can’t hear them in traffic, for example. I skip the episode and maybe never come back. So, loudness is only a part of it, but it’s an important part.

Good luck and have fun!

Jukka Aalho is the co-host of the Finnish literature podcast Kertojan ääni, TEDx speaker and creative writer.

Writer | Copywriter | Storyteller | Oulu, Finland

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