Old 10-16-2019, 02:38 AM   #1
mountaincabbage
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Default Improving old analogue tape recordings

Hi Guys,

I mainly use Reaper to transfer old audio reels and cassettes. Often I will find there is issues with:
Leveling (very quiet areas)
EQ (often quite tinny sounding)

Any recommendations on hardware/plugins for quickly rectifying these problems?

Thanks,
Sean
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Old 10-16-2019, 03:29 AM   #2
martifingers
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Hi. Is compression the answer here? No doubt there would be implications for noise etc. but assuming the quieter sections were the result of bad recording technique rather than in the music itself if you see what I mean, then compression perhaps of the multiband variety would be the way to go?
Here's Kenny: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1gYrZxo384

Similarly with EQ. Set up typical presets in RealEQ? Or Reafir if more restoration is required?

I don't know about how to speed things up much more than that . Old recording each seem to offer their own challenges (!) and for me it's always been a case of listening closely which takes time. But that could well say something about me and my deficiencies...
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Old 10-16-2019, 03:29 AM   #3
Softsynth
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Kenny's free solution to cleaning the audio:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31phzT7pxkk

These are simple to use and effective:
https://accusonus.com/products/audio-repair

More comprehensive:
https://acondigital.com/products/audiolava/

https://www.izotope.com/en/products/rx/features.html


Free Nova dynamic EQ
:
https://www.tokyodawn.net/tdr-nova/

Last edited by Softsynth; 10-16-2019 at 03:40 AM. Reason: Add Nova EQ
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Old 10-16-2019, 05:09 AM   #4
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I don't do tape very often, but I find it's usually manual labor, mostly.

For noise (hiss), it can be more or less automated, even across different tapes.

For all the rest, you need to listen to the tape, while transferring to digital. Keep notes. Saves time while cleaning up in Reaper.
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Old 10-16-2019, 10:15 AM   #5
serr
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mountaincabbage View Post
Hi Guys,

I mainly use Reaper to transfer old audio reels and cassettes. Often I will find there is issues with:
Leveling (very quiet areas)
EQ (often quite tinny sounding)

Any recommendations on hardware/plugins for quickly rectifying these problems?

Thanks,
Sean
Quickly? Nope!

A lot of the signal on the low level tapes is going to be buried in the noise floor. Heck, a lot of the signal on the properly recorded tapes will be in the noise floor!

You first want a full audiophile capture that especially preserves everything WAY down into the decimal dust. That starts with the deck itself. Low quality consumer decks will leave half or more of the fidelity of the tape on the cutting room floor. Can't very well clean up what you didn't capture!

Dial the deck into the tape carefully. Especially head azimuth! We have truly lossless speed correction in Reaper with the Elastique Pro algorithm but you still want to get the speed close too if possible.

Use an audio interface or stand alone DAC with great AD converters.
Capture at 24 bit and at least 96k. We're going to be digging in the decimal dust with this and we want the wide margin for the audio with HD sampling rates.

The above will be responsible for 90% of the fidelity you capture. No digital restoration techniques will have a chance unless you get the front end with the analog capture on point.

Once we're in the DAW, iZotope RX is a VERY useful tool set that can help you pull off some small miracles. Tools like ReaEQ shouldn't be overlooked though. I've done some parameter modulation tricks with instances of ReaEQ to dial up very specific dynamic bands to go after saturation gone wild.

There may be some elements to isolate - like a saturation gone wild - and compress. Overall the cassette recording is already going to be compressed into damage though. You don't want to add to that. If you find yourself hitting it with a limiter to let you do makeup gain, you're doing it pretty wrong and adding more damage!
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Old 10-16-2019, 10:49 AM   #6
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I'd use ReaFIR to build a noise profile and try to minimize it that way. If there are sections of only tape noise, it makes it pretty quick, but can still create unwanted artifacts if the signal to noise ratio is too low.

If it's ever just dialogue, you can sometimes get away with steep hi and low pass cuts to remove a lot of it in a fairly natural way, while preserving the frequency range around speech.
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Old 10-16-2019, 10:52 AM   #7
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Trying to use ReaFIR for that would be like trying to use a sledge hammer for a jewelers screwdriver. It really can't do that job beyond the crudest level.
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Old 10-16-2019, 11:27 AM   #8
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It all depends on what you're getting on the input side...

If it's good tape, well digitised, please stay away with the plugins. Even the slightest bit overdone, tends to loose the life of the performance.

If it's a messed up recording, badly digitised and maybe coming in as an MP3, go ahead. It's quick. And the life is probably gone anyways.
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Old 10-16-2019, 01:06 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cyrano View Post
It all depends on what you're getting on the input side...

If it's good tape, well digitised, please stay away with the plugins. Even the slightest bit overdone, tends to loose the life of the performance.

If it's a messed up recording, badly digitised and maybe coming in as an MP3, go ahead. It's quick. And the life is probably gone anyways.
Despite my recommendations I will agree with that. My VST suggestions are not really good enough to restore cherished music material. Plugins cannot work miracles. Scrubbing noise invariably scrubs life and detail, sometimes small improvements can be made with care though - very much suck it and see.
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Old 10-17-2019, 03:03 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by serr View Post
Trying to use ReaFIR for that would be like trying to use a sledge hammer for a jewelers screwdriver. It really can't do that job beyond the crudest level.
As a matter of interest Serr is that your opinion of Audition's noise reduction tools as well?
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Old 10-17-2019, 09:52 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by martifingers View Post
As a matter of interest Serr is that your opinion of Audition's noise reduction tools as well?
I haven't tried it recently but I'd guess that. That was a limited app with very basic tools. What I remember was in the same camp as ReaFIR or the old one that Protools used to have circa 1998 (DINR?)

For context, just about any of these - even the 20th century stuff - can be used to remove hiss from a bass di track, for example, and no one would be the wiser or hear any artifact of any kind in the mix. Or a dozen other examples.

But for full program music that is slathered in tape hiss? It's really the big guns or nothing. I guess I'm assuming these are music recordings and not just dialog, but that wasn't specifically stated by OP. Oh, and that music slathered in tape hiss will have high end attenuation at the same time. So your task is to both remove the noise and bring the high end back into balance. It doesn't come easy.
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