Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Mailbag: Help With Audio Restoration?

Never forget. The media we use to preserve our memories of friends and family is VERY temporary.
Thank You for posting on you tube. I have been attempting to clean up some horrible audio. These are from some cassettes that were recorded 35+ years ago. They are from relatives talking about life and family history. The sound is either blaring or not there, it sounds like they were either attempting to swallow the mike or put it across the room. I am using audacity to 'record' it onto my pc. Is there anywhere you are aware of that I may get some help? Thank You.
-Al G
This stuff gets tricky, doubly so because you're working with content which is so personal. The basics here, make sure you're using the best possible tape deck you can get your hands on. Anything you can do to make sure the tapes aren't physically damaged in any way.

If possible record using good cables into an interface which will record at least 24 bit / 96KHz wav files. As you try to correct some of the poor recordings, the more information you have in the recordings, the more likely it'll be you can push your salvage tools a little further.

While working in Audacity, you should be able to see loud and quiet fairly easily. Audacity's built in volume tools should allow you to balance out some of those inconsistencies, but you'll most likely be doing a significant amount of that adjustment by hand. After you've balanced that out a bit, you can look at noise reduction and EQ plugins to help take some of the edge off the poor recordings.

As for help, you might be able to hit up a local recording studio to see if they can transfer the audio to a digital format for you. You might also be able to hire a company which specializes in media transferring, but I've never used a service like that personally, so I wouldn't know who to recommend.

For my readers, are there any other tips or tricks to help Al out?
Is there a service you've used which handled your media with care?
Please leave us a comment below!


  1. You should check out Adobe Audition's restoration tools. Audition isn't free, but it has some of the best noise reduction features built-in to their product. For instance, using the spectral view, you can remove unwanted noise like you would paint over a blemish in Photoshop.

    For correcting volume issues, you can use volume envelopes to target a specific section and bring it in-line with the rest of your track. Like you said, Juan, you're still going to have to do a lot of editing by hand.

  2. I've used Magix Audio Cleaning Lab in the past - it has a slew of tools for fixing old vinyl and tape recordings... and it's on the cheap side.
    (I also have used it to record sessions - great options for noise removal)

  3. I've heard great things about Adobe Audition's restoration tools. However, I've heard even better things about Izotope RX 2 for audio restoration and repair.

    As Mr. Mc mentioned above - a Spectral Repair sort of tool would probably be the most appropriate. Something that lets you really dig into the audio versus just turning frequencies down or up with EQ.

    Here is an example of using Izotope RX 2 to clean up an old recording. Using just 1-2 of it's 5+ tools. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhiCxTKswfo

    Oh, and Izotope RX 2 is on sale right now. I think it's up to 40% off right now from most vendors. I finally picked up my own copy from the sale!

    Hope this helps