How to set the right audio levels for YouTube

March 20th, 2020  |  by Eva

Audio levels are incredibly important when creating content – poor audio levels will ruin your footage no matter how incredible it is. Audio can sometimes be overlooked as you spend most of your time focusing on an incredible shot or colour grading. So, sometimes you just export and settle for average audio. However, by doing this, you can lose your audience. Audio is key to creating great content, especially for channels like YouTube – where the audience’s attention span is short and the quantity of content is vast. If your audio is poor, unfortunately, you’ll see a huge drop off in viewing numbers.

The best practices for setting your audio levels for YouTube

Tips for setting audio levels in YouTube

There’s a debate around what is the perfect audio level. But we can all agree on a few things, one being that you never want the level above 0db as if it’s any higher your YouTube video will have a horribly distorted sound.

Some editing systems allow you to go up to around 5-6db, but we recommend never hitting that high. The reason being is that it will distort your sound and will peak at a high level which will be off-putting to your audience.

There is plenty of discussion in the YouTube community about normalising audio levels. Users browse multiple pieces of content daily and don’t want to have to turn down the volume depending on the audio levels on each piece of content they consume.

Currently, YouTube videos normalise their full audio mix (all audio combined) between -12db to -20db. By having your audio between this benchmark, it will improve the quality of your video, the overall watch time and user experience for your viewers. 

Read more: How to remove noise in Premiere Pro

What should you aim for when publishing to YouTube?

Image of audio sliders depicting how to adjust audio levels for YouTube

When publishing to YouTube you should stick within the guidelines stated below. Your audience will want a smooth watch with audio that fits the content and is not too overpowering. 

Our recommended levels for publishing audio on YouTube are here:

  • Dialogue: -6db to -15db(Nb. Most YouTubers tend to stick at -12db max)
  • Overall mix Level: -12db to -20db
  • Music: -18db to -20db
  • Sound Effects: -14db to -20db.

We recommend experimenting with the audio levels; try using an offline audience to review it by watching it on a mobile device or with headphones before releasing it to your larger online collective. Having your audio around the levels we suggested will stop distortion or any other disturbances to the quality of audio for your audience. It’s better for them to turn up the sound on YouTube themselves, than experience poor quality or unbalanced audio.

Finally, the quality of audio does not just boil down to the audio levels. It comes down to the quality of the equipment, the balance and reducing the background noise.

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