Increase Productivity – Speed Up Your iPod Playback!

August 8th, 2007

I listen to a lot of podcasts and audio books on my iPod – while driving to work, jogging, doing repetitive jobs, etc. But I’m a bit of a packrat, and the audio has been piling up faster than I can listen to it all.

Here’s a way to get through more audio: play it back faster!

I didn’t know it until recently, but the iPod supports speedup of audiobooks. Unfortunately, you can’t speed up playback of other audio file types. So you have to trick it into thinking your file is an audiobook:

Step 1: Convert the track to AAC if it’s not already. In iTunes, simply right-click on it and choose Convert To AAC.

Step 2: Turn the new AAC track into an audiobook. For this, you’ll need the Make Bookmarkable script from Doug’s Scripts. Install it as per his directions, then highlight your AAC track in iTunes, and select Make Bookmarkable from the Scripts menu.

Sync the files to your iPod, and you’re good to go.

While listening to one of these tracks, click the iPod’s center button 3 times to bring up the playback speed options, then scroll to the right to set it to Faster. The iPod keeps the pitch the same while speeding up the audio playback, so it’s still very understandable.

The main drawback with this method is that you don’t get much control over the playback speed – it’s just Slower, Normal or Faster. I’d love it if I could speed it up in increments – 1.1x, 1.2x, 1.3x, etc. Some talkers are naturally very slow, and some are fairly fast, so they need different playback speeds.

If you know of a better way to speed up audio playback on an iPod, please post it in the comments!

Entry Filed under: iPod,Mac

14 Comments

  • 1. Lars  |  December 12th, 2007 at 7:11 am

    I would like variable-speed playback on my iPod. In particular, I’d like to be able to slow it down when playing back audio files, for better comprehension when listening to language-learning mp3’s. Second, third, etc. languages are much easier to understand when slowed down just 10 or 20 percent. So I agree, incremental speed control would be great. And for native-language podcasts or audio books, it would be nice to speed them up.

    Thanks for the tip about converting your file to AAC and making it an audiobook… I may use that. The approach I’ve been using is to slow the file down using 3rd-party software (e.g. the free Audacity) before putting it on my iPod. Of course this takes additional storage space if you want both slow and regular versions.

    Lars

  • 2. Colin Y.J. Chung  |  October 8th, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    Thank you for this useful post.

    This is a great way to really get through hours of educational material if you are short on time.

  • 3. Sam  |  November 17th, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    I tried this out with my nano chromatic and i don’t seem to have a variable playback option if I hit the center button 3x, any ideas?

  • 4. Darren  |  November 17th, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    I’m not sure, Sam. Are you sure you converted to AAC, and then made the AAC (not the original file) bookmarkable? Also make sure that it’s the AAC file that is getting synced to your iPod, not the original.

    I don’t know if it works on shuffles, but it works on every other iPod model I’ve tried (including my nano).

  • 5. TheKid  |  February 15th, 2009 at 3:32 am

    “I tried this out with my nano chromatic and i don’t seem to have a variable playback option if I hit the center button 3x, any ideas?”

    it has to be under audiobook and instead of pressing button 3x you hold the center button down

  • 6. sara  |  February 16th, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    I’m a pc :(((( Is there any hope for me?

  • 7. John  |  March 28th, 2010 at 1:48 am

    I use Audacity, which is open source and free. As far as I know, it doesn’t import AAC files, but most podcasts are in MP3 anyways. After importing into Audacity, go to the “effect” menu and then click on “change tempo…” (change speed will result in chipmunks). I listen to most things between 50%-80%. If you want to convert audible and itunes books to mp3, use a program called Sound Taxi. I haven’t found a suitable solution for Mac yet. I also use Text to Speech built into OSX. Text Aloud is a great program for PC which will do TTS at any speed and export it to MP3 in one step.

    I am looking for an ipod hack that will speed up a podcast to at least 50%

  • 8. Darren  |  March 28th, 2010 at 8:03 am

    @John: I wish it was easier, but you can speed up iPod playback as much as you like. You can pass the MP3s through something like Audacity to create a new MP3 that’s say 50% faster, then put that onto your iPod. You could optionally use iTunes to then turn it into an AAC audiobook file, so you can speed it up even more or slow it down if 50% is too fast. The only problem is that it’s a lot of mucking around. Like I say, I wish it was easier.

  • 9. Claire  |  May 16th, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    There is a muuuuch easier way to do this. In iTunes, just select the file, press ctrl/command+i, go to the “options” tab, choose audiobook from the media kind dropdown. Done! http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=605179

    Works for PCs and Macs.

  • 10. Darren  |  May 16th, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    @Claire: Thanks for the update. As you can see, this post was written 4 years ago when it wasn’t that easy!

  • 11. eltranced  |  June 1st, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    someone needs to hack ipod so vlc can be installed on it

    one time that i tried to use audiobook to speed up playback i’ve noticed undesirable algorithm, the playback is sped up by skipping over parts so the parts that are trimmed are not heard … and if thats still the practice i find it rather inconvenient

  • 12. Darren  |  June 2nd, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    @eltranced: I’ve been using the iPod for audiobooks, podcasts, lectures etc for many years, with sped-up playback, and I’ve never encountered a track that had the problem you’re describing. If you have some other software whose results you prefer, though (e.g. Audacity), there’s no reason you can’t use it to speed up the track and then drop the sped-up version into iTunes for playback on an iPod in the normal way.

  • 13. Tom  |  July 19th, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    Amazing slow downer can have variable speeds. From 1.0 to 2.0. It is an app for iOS.

  • 14. JRR  |  January 22nd, 2012 at 6:44 am

    If you have a RockBox compatible player (iPods qualify, I use a $25 refurb Sansa Fuze 4G), you can control pitch and speed independently with 1% accuracy from 35% to 250% normal speed, and pitch from 50% to 200%. A wide variety of players are supported.


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