The listener's end: vocals drowned by background

I listen to a lot of BBC radio/podcasts but often struggle to hear voice through overzealous use of background music or sound effects. Some of the most interesting documentaries and interviews are frequently “enhanced” by sound teams who upstage the voice content with too-loud music or dreadful sound effects.

My latest disappointing episode is a fascinating documentary about women challenging music convention in Mongolia: BBC World Service - The Documentary Podcast, Swan's head, tiger's roar
I would really like to hear it but had to stop listening because I could not hear the voices of the people speaking over the wonderful-but-loud music. The volume of the voices is low, but doubly challenging to hear because of strong foreign accents. Ideally I’d like to be able to separate the voice and music and be able to listen to each separately, and also to boost the clarity of the vocals.

This has been constant struggle for me for years and I have written to the BBC countless times with zero response. There has been at least one article by the BBC about people’s difficulty with BBC (TV) programmes having background music too loud. The findings may have improved TV shows but the same thinking hasn’t made it to radio: BBC Blogs - TV blog - Is the background music too loud?

I am sure I am not alone with this issue. Would this be something you are familiar with? There are plenty of tools to improve sound on the creation/mixing end, but are there any tools for listeners to adjust levels…besides downloading each programme individually and editing it, or continuing to try to get the BBC to understand?


I completely understand your frustration. It’s indeed annoying when background music drowns out the dialogue especially in content as fun as documentaries.

You could try playing with equalizer settings and especially adjusting the mid range frequencies (1kHz to 5kHZ) were most voices fall.

It may be worth looking into Music Rebalance in iZotope RX but that’s an expensive solution to your probelm :money_mouth_face:

Failing that I’d write to the BBC and complain about this particular issue. If it impacts you I’m sure you’re not the only one that feels the same. Happy listening!