We've so far resisted the urge to jump on the podcasting bandwagon here at SlashGear; the market is running close to saturation point with thousands of vocal opinion-junkies clamouring at the ears of the vaguely interested. It can be tricky sifting through the masses of mp3s to find something worth listening to, and the wildly varying recording standards don't do much to help matters. Perhaps most frustrating is when levels of volume don't match up - one pundit is far louder than another, maybe, or intermittent music booms out over everything else - meaning you're constantly twiddling the volume dial like a cheap DJ.
Jake Ludington helpfully points to a free piece of software called The Levelator, which offers a foolproof way to normalise audio levels in a sound file. Pretty much option-free, users drag a WAV or AIFF file onto the app and it automatically tweaks the gain optimisation and RMS normalisation, spitting out a new file which should be far easier on the ears.
This seems like a great addition to everyone's toolbox - if you're a podcast producer then you can make your show sound far more professional, whilst if you're a podcast consumer then you now have a simple way to make poorly-recorded files sound more palatable.
The Levelator is freeware and compatible with Windows 2000/XP and Mac OS X.