Old 10-16-2019, 02:38 AM   #1
mountaincabbage
Human being with feelings
 
Join Date: Aug 2019
Posts: 21
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
mountaincabbage is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-16-2019, 03:29 AM   #2
martifingers
Human being with feelings
 
Join Date: May 2011
Posts: 1,771
Default

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...
martifingers is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-16-2019, 03:29 AM   #3
Softsynth
Human being with feelings
 
Softsynth's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2015
Posts: 5,603
Default

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
Softsynth is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-16-2019, 05:09 AM   #4
cyrano
Human being with feelings
 
cyrano's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Belgium
Posts: 4,627
Default

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.
__________________
“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity” Albert Einstein
cyrano is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-16-2019, 10:15 AM   #5
serr
Human being with feelings
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 8,415
Default

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!
serr is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-16-2019, 10:49 AM   #6
foxAsteria
Human being with feelings
 
foxAsteria's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Oblivion
Posts: 7,182
Default

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.
__________________
Myyy Wyyyrd Music
foxAsteria is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 10-16-2019, 10:52 AM   #7
serr
Human being with feelings
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 8,415
Default

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.
serr is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-16-2019, 11:27 AM   #8
cyrano
Human being with feelings
 
cyrano's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Belgium
Posts: 4,627
Default

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.
__________________
“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity” Albert Einstein
cyrano is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-16-2019, 01:06 PM   #9
Softsynth
Human being with feelings
 
Softsynth's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2015
Posts: 5,603
Default

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.
Softsynth is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-16-2019, 03:21 PM   #10
serr
Human being with feelings
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 8,415
Default

The recordings with the most damage have noise and coarse level swings that dwarf the actual program. Sometimes significantly. At the very least, you want to present the program louder than the background noise. If levels were moving around - go for consistent program level and let the noise and artifacts follow how they will.

Don't try to go for perfection with noise reduction. Go for attenuating the worst of it that's louder than the program. Be critical A/B'ing with the raw original as you go and don't sacrifice any content for trying to present it more perfect than possible. Divide the frequency range up and work different ranges with different amounts of noise reduction.

If you have resonant peaks going wild that would make the listener leap for the volume control, go after those. A little blurring at worst would be preferable to ice pick to the eardrum resonant peaks!

But yeah, if this is an mp3 of dialog only and already full of youtube artifacts... Put a low pass eq at 7k and call it a day.
serr is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-17-2019, 03:03 AM   #11
martifingers
Human being with feelings
 
Join Date: May 2011
Posts: 1,771
Default

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?
martifingers is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-17-2019, 09:52 AM   #12
serr
Human being with feelings
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 8,415
Default

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.
serr is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-17-2019, 10:06 AM   #13
Reason
Human being with feelings
 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Posts: 756
Default

I digitized a cassette for a family member a year or so ago. I used ReaFIR to build a noise profile of the tape hiss and then applied it to the music. While it did reduce the noise, I found the result had some weird "beating" effect where the noise would seem to flutter in and out at about 5hz or thereabouts. I also got unanimous, if unscientific, feedback from 3 or 4 listeners that the non-edited version sounded superior.

This tape had been recorded relatively well - semi-pro to 4 track in the 90s, and then "mastered" from that. So my experience may not translate to a more poorly recorded cassette.
Reason is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-17-2019, 11:00 AM   #14
serr
Human being with feelings
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 8,415
Default

That's exactly how that plays out with the more crude simple noise reduction, Reason.

Here's something to consider. If you end up with an artifact from the nr attempt like the breathing thing or the popular wind chimes effect, you just ADDED noise to the recording that wasn't ever there before! That would be a fail if the goal was to remove noise, right? If you also lost some program content in that attempt - that's even worse!

It's tough when the noise is monumentally louder than the program. You really don't want to hit people over the head with a noise blast and talk of losing subtle elements of fidelity with that going on can seem ridiculous. Truncating the entire high end is looking pretty good sometimes...
serr is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-18-2019, 03:22 AM   #15
mountaincabbage
Human being with feelings
 
Join Date: Aug 2019
Posts: 21
Default

Wow lot of response!

I'm doing well with noise reduction at the moment, provided I can find a sample area.

The main issues are the tinniness and levels. I tried TriLever (as recommended in a different post) which did seem to work well, but then I noticed that some very quiet patches will be gated out completely.

Is there any way to improve the EQ without having to manually change the graphs? It would be great if a plugin could look at the low mid high, work out what was lacking and boost accordingly.

Cheers,
Sean
mountaincabbage is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-18-2019, 03:52 AM   #16
Softsynth
Human being with feelings
 
Softsynth's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2015
Posts: 5,603
Default

Maybe try Gullfoss EQ, it is very simple to use, unique but quite expensive currently:
https://www.soundtheory.com/howto
Softsynth is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-18-2019, 06:26 AM   #17
Judders
Human being with feelings
 
Join Date: Aug 2014
Posts: 8,992
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by mountaincabbage View Post
...but then I noticed that some very quiet patches will be gated out completely.
You'll have to automate the gate threshold. It's rare that you can set-and-forget with noise gates.
Judders is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-18-2019, 07:11 AM   #18
serr
Human being with feelings
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 8,415
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by mountaincabbage View Post
I tried TriLever...
Be absolutely certain that any compression you do is specifically targeted at a noise element and nothing else. The program is already going to be compressed from the tape and other non-linearity. (And in an uncontrolled non-musical way.) Adding compression to the program will mangle things.

You can split up the program into different frequency bands with a multiband compressor (the crossover EQ section) or other linear phase EQs. I like working in "layers" this way with restoration jobs like this.

Manually "decoding" dolby is the real epic PITA that comes about with some of these jobs too. Not sure if that battle is going on here but the "tinny, thin" comments might suggest it is.

Turns out that when the hardware circuit can no longer properly "decode" the dolby pre-emphasis compression because the signal attenuated/degraded too much on the tape, rolling it in with dolby off and fighting with it manually gets much better results. ie. closer to what the source would have sounded like. And even though there might be some artifacts along for the ride.

I've had some luck with parameter modulating a ReqEQ frequency to try to zero in on the sliding frequency thing the dolby compression does. It always has to be fiddled with per job. I haven't ended up with a magic dolby decoder preset.


Or you can say fuck all that and low pass the thing at 7k and then bump up the volume to average CD level with a limiter and call it a day. What you'll have will be "thumbnail" quality though. If there was actually fidelity remaining and hiding on that tape, it will be lost.
serr is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -7. The time now is 01:20 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.11
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions Inc.