Speeding Up Audio Files

In my profession I’m required to complete several hours of continuing education credit each year to maintain my license. There are various ways to fulfill this requirement including attendance at seminars hosted throughout the state.

The problem is, traveling to these seminars can be cost prohibitive as it typically requires several days out of the office, a hotel stay and related expenses. As such, I’m pretty picky about which seminars I to attend in person and try to pick the best two or three each year.

Knowing this, most seminars will offer audio recordings of the lectures available as a CD (yes, a CD - someone please tell them it’s not 1999) or occasionally an MP3 download in lieu of in-person attendance. By ordering the audio recording purchasers can attain the continuing education credit without the additional costs associated with in-person attendance and listen to the material on their own time.

There are a few problems with this. First, CD players are going the way of the dinosaur. Second, the only thing worse than sitting through a 2-day seminar on the reverse commerce clause is listening to a 16+ hour audio recording of a lecture. How can you use technology to make that better?

Speed it up!

I’ll show you a few ways to do just that. Note that these instructions will work with any spoken-word content, not just lectures. You can use them with your own DRM free audiobook or similar files too.

Use iTunes

  1. Import your Audio CD or files into iTunes - for spoken word content, you may want to adjust your import settings to a lower quality to save space. You can do this in iTunes preferences under the General Tab.
  2. Once the audio is imported, select all the tracks associated with the content and Get Info. Fill out as much information as you like about the content, but make sure you check these items:
  3. Under the Details tab fill out basic information including the title and author. 
  4. Under the Options tab you’ll set the media kind to audiobook and check the boxes next to “remember playback position” and “skip when shuffling” 
  5. The selected tracks will now show up in the Audiobooks section of iTunes and you can sync them to your iOS device.
  6. Once the Audiobooks are synced to your iOS device, you’ll have the option to play them in the iBooks.app under the audiobook tab and can play them back at 0.75x, 1x, 1.5x or 2x speed.

Audiobook Builder

Audiobook Builder is an App by Splasm Software that will allow you to import audio CDs, MP3s and M4A files and then join them together into larger files, create chapters, and import them into iTunes as a bookmarkable audiobooks. The $4.95 App automates and streamlines the process described above while adding some additional features such as allowing you to add meta data, adjust the size of your files and set the file size and audio quality.

It’s an App I’ve used for many years and for less than $5, I recommend picking it up if you regularly listen to spoken word content that you import yourself.

Create A Private Podcast Feed

If you like listening to podcasts, you may want to listen to your spoken word content all in one place. You can create private podcast feeds of your own audio files using a service like JustCast coupled with Dropbox. Bradley Chambers writing for the Sweet Setup has a detailed write-up of the service.

JustCast is free for limited use, but if you want to listen to more than three audio files at a time you’ll need to pay for an account, which starts at $5 per month. The JustCast service allows you to create an RSS feed that you can import into your podcast App of choice from audio files that you store in your Dropbox.

Once you sign up for the JustCast service you can create a new “podcast” by creating a folder in your Dropbox with the name of the podcast and then audio files within that folder become episodes. From the JustCast Web site you will be able to view the RSS feed associated with your “podcast” and import it into your podcast player. I use JustCast with Marco Arment’s Overcast application on my iPhone so I can take advantage of not only faster playback but Smartspeed which is unique to Overcast and saves even more time.

JustCast is designed for personal use or sharing audio files within a very small setting. It’s not designed as a publication platform for podcasts.

Become an Overcast Patron 

If you use the Overcast podcast application, a recent update made the process of uploading and listening to your own audio files a lot easier. While the basic App is free, if you want to upload your own audio files, you do have to support the App as a patron, which costs about $1 per month and unlocks a special dark mode and the ability to upload your own DRM-free files.

Patron payments are made via in-app purchase and one you’ve made your payment you can upload up to 2GB of your own DRM-free audio files (1GB max file size) through the Overcast website. Overcast will then serve that file up through the Overcast App just as it would any other podcast.

Since Overcast added this feature, this has become my preferred method for uploading and adding my own audio files because it’s just so simple.

This article first appeared in the March Issue of ScreencastsOnline Monthly Magazine. ScreenCastsOnline monthly magazine is packed with hints, tips, articles and links to streamable versions of ScreenCastsOnline tutorials and delivered monthly via Newsstand on the iPad. You can find out more at https://www.screencastsonline.com/membership_benefits/