Volume decrease on BBC Radio catch up and podcasts?

iOS and iPadOS

Okay, let me ask first that if you don't have a problem with volume, specifically on BBC iPlayer Radio, then there's no need to post a reply on here. I don't need to hear loads of 'nope, don't have a problem' and 'haven't noticed a problem' replies cluttering up this thread. This is only for those that DO have a problem. I fully accept that I might be the only person who has this problem, hence, I won't get any replies at all...so be it!...smiles

A couple more given, before I start. Yes, I have switched on the volume boost for hearing impaired users in the Accessibility options. Yes I am visually impaired, and also hearing impaired, a combination that is quite common among visually impaired people, hence I am posting this issue on Applevis.

I have noticed on some programmes that I enjoy via the BBC iPlayer Radio app, have significantly dropped in volume in recent months. If you have good hearing, then you are unlikely to have noticed this problem. When you are hearing impaired, then every little bit of volume is vital, especially on modern day electronic devices. I first noticed a significant drop in volume with the 'Just A Minute' programme at the beginning of this year. Then, about 2 or so months ago, I noticed the same issue with the omnibus edition of The Archers (I haven't tested the individual episodes as yet). Then, about a month ago, 'I'm Sorry, I Haven't A Clue' also reduced. To a lesser extent, I've also noticed reduced volume with programmes like 'Johnnie Walker's Sounds Of The Seventies', and 'Pick Of The Pops'. I have not noticed, although I can't be certain, a problem with 5 Live programmes broadcasting live, such as '5 Live Daily' and 'Question Time Extra Time'.

Some more 'givens'...I have recently had my hearing checked, and it hasn't changed since my last test in 2011. My wife, who has perfect hearing, has also noticed a change. I have reported this to the BBC, who did phone me back and said they couldn't locate a problem, but upon hearing that my wife had noticed this, went away again saying they would investigate and come back again...that was about three weeks ago.

I do have a couple of theories, and it could be an and/or situation. My first theory is that it could be a hardware change at the BBC, or some internal policy regarding sound levels that various departments are adopting, bit by bit. My other theory is that theramoue has been a recent file format change at the BBC...they have abandoned WMA files, in favour of AAC, in order to cut down their costs of storage and bandwidth, and there very well could be a change to the file's properties, either during creation or conversion, that alters the file's own volume settings.

One other thing. Yes, I know all about Bluetooth, and all about loop systems. I also own a pretty good headphone amplifier. These workarounds all have their major downsides. Bluetooth and Loop solutions do not maintain the external microphone while those options are in use...in other words, if you select the Bluetooth or Loop setting, you ain't gonna hear anyone else sitting with you...only what you're listening to, which means casual conversation goes out the window, without a lot of continually messing around with presets...it just doesn't work. The headphone amp is a great idea, but it compromises the whole point of a smartphone...portability, lightness, thinness.

Anyway, if anyone else has noticed this volume drop, I'd very much like to hear about it on here.



Submitted by Rob on Sunday, September 20, 2015

Yes, I have also noticed decrease in volume from BBC material, both in terms of listen live and catch-ups and podcasts. This has happened since they stopped using WMA. It is particularly worse when streaming but downloads are a little better. I am surprised this hasn't been addressed before now. Even with good hearing, I would be surprised if people didn't notice the volume of BBC content being quieter as against audio content from other providers.

Submitted by Logan9Fingers on Sunday, September 20, 2015

Thank you Rob, for taking the time to write on hear. My wife wonders if you might be the same 'Rob' who posts on the VIPhone email list?

Have you ever reported it to the Beeb yourself? If you haven't, would you mind me asking if you could? It's just that when they turn around and say what they did last time, that no one else has reported it, I'd really like to be able to tell them that I know for a fact that isn't true.

Okay, so in addition to Rob, has anyone else noiticed a volume drop on BBC iPlayer Radio?

Submitted by Wony on Monday, September 21, 2015

The work around is to disable Audio ducking via the rotor, at which point the volume of content being played is restored.

Ensure audio ducking is available in the Rotor as follows:

Double tap settings;
Flick right to and double tap General;
Flick right to and double tap accessibility;
Flick right to and double tap VoiceOver;
Flick right to and double tap Rotor;
Ensure that Audio Ducking is selected.

Submitted by Rob on Monday, September 21, 2015

No, I am not the same Rob who is on the VIPhone list.

I haven't contacted the BBC yet but hope to do so later this week.

Thanks to the other poster for the suggested work around but it doesn't really explain why only audio from the BBC is affected as opposed to audio from other content providers. Will check out audio ducking though.

Submitted by Logan9Fingers on Monday, September 21, 2015

No, audio ducking isn't a solution for this issue. I'm fully aware of the audio ducking issues, and intermittently have used the workaround of switching off voice over by pressing the home button three times to switch voice on and off. This, for me, is the quickest way, rather than trying to use the rotor.

As Rob says, this isn't anything to do with audio ducking. This problem is limited to BBC iPlayer content that is permanently (at the moment anyway) streaming at far lower volumes than other content providers. As Rob and I mentioned, this is almost certainly to do with the BBC changing their file format from WMA to AAC. Somewhere in the process, from the file creation to the streaming of that file, the volume levels have been reduced. It's up to the BBC to work out whether this is happening when the file is created, or when it is being streamed...or perhaps during a conversion somewhere in between. Files have their own volume settings, which can be altered...either when the file is created, or through some 'normalisation' function, and this has been set too low.

I have also noticed with my local BBC station, BBC Radio Surrey, that they are even broadcasting live at an even lower volume, which is just plain rediculous. The problem is, with the BBC being such a large orgnanisation, they are very hard to communciate with. Yes, they have a comprehensive 'Contact Us' email form, but it can be weeks before you get an answer, and very often that answer is unacceptable, because it probably hasn't dealt with the issue you've raised, and then you can't simply reply, you have to go through the whole 'Contact Us' email form again...it's extremely laborious and ineffective. The wheels of the Beeb grind quite slowly.