No bells or whistles: just 10 informatively chill podcasts with minimalist production design and even less random banter

round up June 29, 2022

If you love podcasts but loathe random tangential chitchat and/or jarring sound effects, this list is for you. We’ve rounded up podcasts with minimal sound design, no bells and whistles, just informative content with little to no banter in episodes.

On our list, check out podcasts from a variety of genres. If you’re a no-frills true crime junkie, tune into “Criminal,” “Swindled,” or “Casefile.” For science fans, we have 2 shows to put on your radar. Hear about lore and legacies on “Family Ghosts.” Internet explorers might enjoy “Endless Thread,” a weekly series covering online news and what’s happening IRL. Keep it chill with these low-key, awesome podcasts.

Family Ghosts image

Family Ghosts

Listen to ‘Family Ghosts’

WALT FM’s “Family Ghosts” recounts one family member’s story each episode, tracing legends and lore. Host and Moth Grand Slam winner Sam Dingman is investigating uncles with double lives, disappearing siblings, jewel-smuggling grandparents, and more family members who have left legacies or continue to haunt generations to follow. Each episode is an intimate portrait of others’ lives with stories that can perhaps help us see our own realities in a different light.

Ologies with Alie Ward

Ologies with Alie Ward

Listen to ‘Ologies with Alie Ward’

Alie Ward is asking “smart people stupid questions” on curious, science-filled episodes. Hear all about drunk butterflies, gorillas, eating bugs, death, anxiety, beer science, nature recordings, and more fascinating topics that might spur your next research obsession. In conversations with experts, Alie and the -ologists delightfully dig into a topic each episode with charm and humor. Check out over 260 episodes of “Ologies with Alie Ward.”

Endless Thread image

Endless Thread

Listen to ‘Endless Thread’

WBUR’s “Endless Thread” unravels internet culture with hosts Ben Brock Johnson and Amory Sivertson. They’ll share online stories, dissect online communities, histories, discuss unsolved mysteries, and more in over 200 episodes. A recent episode talked about TikTok Tics, a rumor about kids getting tics from watching tons of videos on the app. Another episode looked at Duolingo and a Reddit post that warns listeners about drawing conclusions.

Casefile image

Casefile True Crime

Listen to ‘Casefile True Crime’

Casefile Presents “Casefile True Crime,” sharing the scarier sides of reality in over 200 episodes. The anonymous Australian host Casey calmly details each case’s facts, and this series has been a true crime staple since 2017. Hear about The Vampire Of Nuremberg, The Noordhoek ‘Ripper Rapists,’ The Glendale Train Crash, The Sodder Children, and The Butcher Baker – just to name a handful.

Swindled podcast art


Listen to ‘Swindled’

From con artists to pyramid schemers, white-collar criminals, and corrupt corporations, “Swindled” blends narratives and archival audio to immerse listeners in cases. We’ll hear about criminals’ greed and financial motivations to commit wide-ranging crimes that changed the world. Hear about the microbiome testing company uBiome, Bad Vegan‘s Sarma Melngailis, French con artist Chris Rockefeller (Gerhartsreiter), Port of Beirut’s disaster, and many more swindles in over 120 episodes.

Making Sense with Sam Harris art

Making Sense with Sam Harris

Listen to ‘Making Sense with Sam Harris’

Neuroscientist, philosopher, and best-selling author Sam Harris delves into questions about society, the human mind, and current events. Sam is joined by guests ranging from conversations with Judd Apatow on comedy to an interview with Graeme Wood about gun violence. In other episodes, hear about artificial intelligence with Eric Schmidt and “the illusion of the self” with Jay Garfield. Tune in for over 290 insightful episodes less than 90 minutes each on average.

Criminal podcast art


Listen to ‘Criminal’

Vox Media Podcast Network presents “Criminal,” a true crime series hosted by Phoebe Judge. Hear stories about “people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle” in 200+ episodes, less than an hour on average. If you’re a fan of Phoebe’s narration style, check out “This is Love” and “Phoebe Reads a Mystery.”

99% Invisible image

99% Invisible

Listen to ‘99% Invisible’

Roman Mars’ “99% Invisible” highlights the often unnoticed design elements of everyday objects, places, symbolism, and more. In weekly episodes, hear about the first American flag, cultural artifacts, cities’ housing options, The Punisher Skull, and office design. In informative episodes, you’ll hear invention stories about things we use or see but might not think about.

This is Actually Happening podcast art

This is Actually Happening

Listen to ‘This is Actually Happening’

Wondery’s “This is Actually Happening” shares firsthand accounts of true stories on weekly episodes. Hear about life-changing events, harsh realities, and true crimes from people who lived to tell the tale. The series is created, produced, and hosted by Whit Missildine. From worst roommate stories to delusional beliefs, cat hoarding, or getting stranded in the desert, you won’t want to turn away from these gripping tales. Check out over 260 episodes running less than an hour on average.

The Science of Everything Podcast

Listen to ‘The Science of Everything Podcast’

James Fodorl presents “The Science of Everything Podcast,” unpacking different monthly topics like natural + social sciences, scientific methods, and more. James recently discussed volcanoes, genetic testing, depression, and geomorphology. The podcast’s feed has over 140 educational episodes to choose from.

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