There are so many good podcasts out there, but there’s only so much time in a day. The Wall Street Journal reported on “podcasts nuts” who make time for podcasts by speeding them up with apps such as Overcast. Like, up to 5x speed. Sure, that saves time, but it also probably spikes your blood pressure and makes listening to podcasts super stressful. So what’s the best speed to listen to podcasts in without sacrificing your health or ruining the podcast?
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Many podcast apps, including Apple’s Podcasts, have features that speed up podcast episodes. Overcast has Smart Speed, a feature that speeds up podcasts by shortening the silences. I listen to Lifehacker’s podcast The Upgrade using Overcast’s Smart Speed setting and speeding the audio up two notches. Overcast had turned a 53-minute podcast into a 34-minute one without changing the pitch of the voices or compromising the quality of the podcast (thanks, technology). The speed ranged from 1.1x to 1.8x but mostly stayed at 1.3x. As I continued listening, I was able to increase the listening speed to an average of 1.8x. I tried 3x, but it felt way too fast for me. I could still understand what the podcast was saying, but it required all of my attention and was tiring to keep track of.
Image via Overcast
Lifehacker staff writer Nick Douglas says that Overcast’s Smart Speed works great for unedited talk shows, but not as well on highly produced shows. When listening to The Upgrade, Smart Speed ranged from normal speed (1x) to 1.1x speed, which doesn’t save much time. But for shows such as On Being with Krista Tippett, which publishes unedited versions of its episodes, Smart Speed sped up recordings 1.2x to 1.7x.
And while speeding up podcasts certainly saves time, it could take away from the listening experience, depending on your personal preferences, as well as what type of show you’re listening to.
Obviously, you shouldn’t speed up podcasts when the timing is important such as meditation podcasts, music podcasts or comedy podcasts — you can’t listen to Welcome To Nightvale at 2x speed without ruining the suspense and changing the tone of its storytelling. But for podcasts that I’m just trying to get information from, such as The New York Times’ The Daily, speeding up podcasts can be more efficient.
Like multitasking, where I’m rushing to do as much as I can in a short amount of time, I’ll continue listening to podcasts sped up, knowing it’s a bit of a tradeoff between enjoyment and efficiency. There’s something appealing about being more efficient even when you don’t have to — and having an extra 19 minutes in my day that could be spent listening to another podcast episode.