Buzzsprout’s Magic Mastering is like an Instagram filter for your audio. It takes the audio you have and makes it better. Your episode will sound crisp, clear, well balanced, and perfectly match the industry best practices for overall loudness and true-peak. It's a crucial step in making a professional podcast that people will enjoy listening to.
The Apple Podcasts Authoring Best Practices states that podcast episodes should be "pre-conditioned in such a way that the overall loudness remains around -16 dB LKFS, with a +/- 1 dB tolerance and a true-peak value that doesn’t exceed -1 dB FS."
Apple articulates their reasoning by saying: Content that is heavily compressed and amplified might be too loud, will lack the dynamic range, and can introduce harmonic distortions. Alternatively, content with low audio levels will have dynamic range but will be too quiet, inaudible, or unintelligible in the case of spoken content. In either case, a listener might have to adjust the playback volume to a comfortable level.
Confusing right? Well, good news; Buzzsprout can automatically master your episodes to match the Apple Podcasts Authoring Best Practices, and optimize the encoding for spoken word (96k mono) or music heavy (192k stereo) podcasts - based on your preference.
Beyond that, Buzzsprout will also apply an adaptive leveling process to correct for any distracting volume differences between multiple speakers or segments in your episode and it can fix some minor problems like noise and hum reduction.
What's included with Magic Mastering?
1. Smart Adaptive Leveling Have you ever listened to a podcast where one person was louder than the other(s)? How about a podcast where the intro music is super loud and then the people start talking and you can barely hear them? This fixes those problems.
Technically, It corrects level differences between speakers, music, and speech, and applies dynamic range compression to achieve a balanced overall loudness.
2. Perfect Loudness and True Peak Targeting Since listeners move from one podcast to the next, and may even mix in some music, it’s important that your podcast is mastered at the correct loudness.
Apple states that podcast episodes should be "pre-conditioned in such a way that the overall loudness remains around -16 dB LKFS, with a +/- 1 dB tolerance and a true-peak value that doesn’t exceed -1 dB FS. Magic Mastering does this for you.
3. Audio Sweetening (Filtering + Noise, Hiss, and Hum Reduction) It’s hard to keep every unwanted sound out of your recording. Sometimes these noises are easy to notice (A/C or power line hums), and sometimes it just sounds bad and you don’t know why (electromagnetic interference). This can help.
By classifying regions with different backgrounds and removing the noise in each region then cutting disturbing low frequencies, we often have great success.
4. Optimize for Spoken Word or Music By letting us know if your podcast is mostly spoken word or music, we can better optimize the encoding. Spoken word podcasts can benefit from reduced file sizes, which means faster downloads. For music heavy podcasts we will prioritize audio fidelity.
Why is there an additional charge for this?
Ensuring an audio file is correctly leveled, filtered, pre-conditioned, and encoded requires significant processing power since the audio file must be analyzed multiple times. Additionally, Buzzsprout has licensed advanced algorithms from Auphonic to provide the best results possible. For these reasons, we must charge a small fee to cover these additional expenses.
Can I try it for FREE?
Yes! You can test it out on an episode for free! If you haven't used the option yet, then when you upload an email you should see a prompt to try it for one episode. Then just upload the audio file and Magic Mastering will be applied automatically! If you don't like the results you simply delete the episode and upload it again without Magic Mastering! You won't be billed for Magic Mastering unless it's enabled for your account at the time your monthly cycle renews.
How is Magic Mastering Billed?
When you add Magic Mastering to your account don't expect to be billed right away. We bill Magic Mastering at the end of each cycle. So unlike your subscription, Magic Mastering is billed after it is used.
That means that you cannot turn it off mid-cycle. If you have any episodes in your current cycle that were magically mastered then you will not be able to disable the feature in your account. Just wait until your cycle ends and you get the Magic Mastering charge. Then go to your Magic Mastering settings and turn the feature off!
Is Magic Mastering an Auphonic alternative?
Buzzsprout has licensed the Auphonic algorithms to power much of what you are getting with Magic Mastering. If you're using Auphonic to get the correct loudness, true-peak, adaptive leveling for your audio, and for noise/hum reduction - then Magic Mastering can serve as a suitable replacement. If however, you are using Auphonic for one of its many other capabilities (intro/outro, speech recognition, etc.), you'll want to continue with your existing workflow.
Is Magic Mastering a FixMyLevels alternative?
Yes. In most cases, Magic Mastering will produce a better result. Plus Magic Mastering has the added benefit of a simplified workflow (just upload to Buzzsprout and you're done).
Why does my episode sound louder/softer?
One of the main things Magic Mastering does is set the loudness of your audio file to match the Apple Podcasts Authoring Best Practices. So it's very possible that if you upload an episode that's too loud, Magic Mastering will reduce the overall volume. Conversely, if you upload an episode that's too soft, Magic Mastering will increase the overall volume.
Our targets are -19 LUFS for a mono (single channel) recording and -16 LUFS for a stereo (two-channel) recording - both with a -1 dB FS true-peak value. Not sure what that means? You don't have to. That's why we built Magic Mastering. 😉
Should I choose Spoken Word or Music Heavy?
We understand that almost all podcasts have some music in them. Mostly it's in the intro/outro and occasionally there are subtle music beds throughout the episodes. Even if a podcast contains some music, when it's mostly people talking, we would consider that a Spoken Word podcast.
Music Heavy podcasts are the complete opposite. These are shows that feature more music than talking. It would also include shows like audio dramas, that use the stereo effect as part of the production (like someone entering a room and that sound effect only plays through the left speaker). These shows need to be encoded in stereo, which is the main benefit of selecting Music Heavy and enabling the 192k stereo encoding.
IMPORTANT: Please don't think that even though your show is Spoken Word selecting Music Heavy will be a better choice. This will needlessly double the size of your episode files which consumes additional bandwidth, increases the time it takes your listeners to download episodes, and takes more storage space on their devices.
Can I run Magic Mastering on my past episodes?
No. Magic Mastering is something you’ll want to turn on, set your options, and then use moving forward. It’s not designed to be a process you run on your back catalog.
What happened to the 192k Stereo encoding option?
That option still exists, it's just undergone a name change and it's now bundled with Magic Mastering. Spoken Word files are encoded at 96k Mono and Mostly Music files are encoded at 192k Stereo. If you have been using the 192k Stereo encoding add-on for some time, you will now see a MM icon next to those episodes. That does not mean they have been re-encoded; it's just an updated icon since Magic Mastering now includes Automatic Mastering and/or High Bitrate Encoding. The icon indicates some aspect of Magic Mastering has been applied.
What if I don't want Buzzsprout to alter my file at all?
That's not a problem at all. Without Magic Mastering enabled, you simply upload an MP3 encoded at 96k or less, mono (1 channel). Buzzsprout will NOT re-encode these files.
With Magic Mastering enabled this doesn't make much sense unless you want your episodes encoded at 192k stereo. In that case, you would simply uncheck the Automatic Podcast Mastering box, and then switch the slider to Mostly Music (192k stereo). Now when you upload an MP3 encoded at 192k (or less) stereo, Buzzsprout will NOT re-encode these files.
Did we cover everything?
If we missed anything please feel free to email our amazing podcaster support team at firstname.lastname@example.org!