Audio restoration - transfer your vinyl recordings to CD



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There are many software tools at your disposal to restore the sound of your albums. Here you'll find some general directions that will get you started. Email me if you have questions - if there's enough interest we could start a forum.

Software of Choice

There are many fine products available. If you have one already, that's great. If not, check into one of these:

  • Audition (Cool Edit Pro)
  • Sound Forge and Sonic Foundry Noise Reduction plugins
  • Pristine Sounds 2000

General Techniques

You may want to work on a copy of your original recording, either with a different name or on a different drive.

The idea is to take out as little as possible, as some of the music material may suffer.

Real-time processing lets you listen to the effect of the proccessing while the music plays, and you can adjust parameters to get just enough processing. Many programs will refer to this as PREVIEW. In Pristine Sounds after the effect preview button there's a choice to listen in real-time (if your processor can handle it), or to process and listen to a 2, 4, or 8-second snippet. Cool Edit has the fewest effect previews (not reviewed since acquired by Adobe and renamed Audition).

Save settings When possible, save your effect settings, in case you find a problem late in your restoration that requires you to re-record a track (to repair a skip, for example). Then you won't have to re-guess all your settings, and your inserted fixed track will be processed just his brothers.

Residual output Choosing residual output during previews will let you hear just the material you are removing. This will help you be more aware of what you are taking away. If you have a powerful PC or plenty of time, you can choose residual output for processing the complete wavfile; zoomed out to view the entire wavfile, you can see where the effect has the greatest effect, and listen to those areas to see if that is acceptable.

Background processing About applying effects during recording: some faster computers can keep up with the incoming audio data and processing demands. Personally, I'd rather record the thing raw first, as the problem areas will be more obvious (not masked), and I can make sure those spikes in volume are pops only, not skips (yikes!) and fix them before going further.

So many processing settings - which one first?

Each time you process you 'blur' the sound a little. The blurring may be imperceptible to you or me, but your program may have some difficulty when it is looking for sharply-defined anomalies (like clicks!). So do pops and clicks first:

Pops/clicks - one pass against entire wav to get the most offenders.
Big pops - use drawing tool or single-click fix (see above)
Rumble/Image noise - sample from between tracks, then apply to whole wav
Adjust dynamics
- to get that last bit of noise from between the tracks, adjust dynamics downward at low volume. test between a track or two and in quiet places, fadeouts, fadeins.

Impulse noise - Clicks and Pops

Clicks, pops, crackling - these are the bane of vinyl records. If you have discs that have been cared for, you'll have a minimum of these distractions. The different software packages have different algorithms behind them that will let you adjust sensitivity, size of clicks, etc.

Audition (previously sold as Cool Edit Pro) has the most configurable pop/click removable, but can be pretty intimidating, as well as time-consuming for your computer to process. Choose a section between tracks that has representative clicking sounds; choose Transform|Click/Pop Eliminator, then 'Auto Find All Levels' button. Save (Add) your newly-create settings, then exit the screen, select a part of a song with distracting clicks, low volume. Go back to Click/Pop Eliminator, load your setting (the last one current will be active anyway), and click OK to process. If the results sound good, undo your change, select and process the whole wave. If not, you can press F1 on the Click/Pop Eliminator screen to get detailed help, and explanations about the settings. This is about as fancy as it gets.

Pristine Sounds lets you adjust the Sensitivity and Strength (the default 50% is generally too much). Start out at 1%, preview a section, then adjust the percentage and preview until you get the balance you want between cleaner sound and purer music.

Sonic Foundry's DirectX Click and Crackle Removal plugin is pretty simple, and it's easy to use in real-time residual output mode. I haven't determined what click shape means, but from experimentation, shape #7 works best most of the time, along with sensitivity around 15 and max click size around 2.0.

Again, listening to the effect of your settings using residual output is great - for click removal, listen during vocal parts, drum or percussion solos, low brass sections.

Even the most careful application of click removal may leave a big pop or two. Sound Forge and Pristine Sounds have a pencil edit function that lets you 'draw' the spike down. Even better, Audition/Cool Edit Pro will allow you to select a pop (up to about .100 second long) and click a button to fix it (in the Click/Pop Eliminator). Sometimes, if you are unfortunately blessed with a hard-to-find recording with a deep scratch (or crack, even!), you may still have a whump sound despite all your careful editing.

Coolness: Pristine Sounds' Vinyl Restoration Tool can process a mono wav by analyzing both incoming mono tracks and removing the difference - very clean! Start out with the sensitivity and strength pushed way down to 0%, then preview until you find the perfect settings.

Constant noise - Rumble and Noise

Depending upon your turntable setup - direct drive or belt - you will likely have either unacceptable rumble in your wav forms, or really unacceptable rumble in them. If you're editing in headphones, you might not hear it until you're playing the final CD in your stereo. Take a look at a zoomed-in portion of the file in frequency view (PS2K - View|Viewing Mode|Frequency view|Extremely low range, or CTRL+4). Is there rumbly stuff down there around 20 - 30 hz? Should it be there? The answer to this last question depends upon your source - disco, probably; Xavier Cugat, probably not.

Older recordings or vinyl that has been improperly cleaned may exhibit noise (hissiness) that is very noticeable between tracks. Read on.

There are many ways to remove this unwanted noise. You could EQ it out of there, or use a special function of the software. Rumble removal is an option in both PS2K and SF CACR plugin. My preference is to make an image of the noise of a blank space between tracks (Image Noise Suppression in PS2K, Noise Reduction in SF Plugins and CEP), then adjust. You may want to make two passes. The first cranked high to remove 20 hz and below, and the second to remove a much lesser amount over the entire frequency range. {morelinks2}