Technology

Sound Restoration Software

TOOLS FOR AUDIO RENEWAL 12/01/2010 4:00 AM Eastern

Buzz. Hum. Click. Pop. Hiss. EMI. RFI. Wind noise. It’s a tough (audio) world out there. Sound happens. Some of it is good and some—well, not so good. Once upon a time, any sort of blemish on a track was there forever. And equalization and gating alone can only do so much. Today, high-speed, nearly real-time analysis algorithms and state-of-the-art sonic re-creation software driven by fast CPUs can create a powerful combination, capable of audio miracles that just a few years ago would have required either hours of drudgery or excessively long computational times.

And such products are not simply for archivists in tape vaults. Having the right application on hand can do wonders for saving a great take—even under ordinary, everyday circumstances, such as a piano bench squeak during the decay of a final note that mars an otherwise exemplary performance. Fortunately, help may be no more than a few mouse-clicks away. Let’s look into some new entries in the field of software-based audio restoration tools.

The latest version of Adobe Audition goes cross-platform for Mac or PC. Adobe Audition for Mac, currently in public beta, is a new development (not a porting from the PC version), offering stereo or multitrack mixing/editing/recording, Native 5.1 surround support and advanced audio restoration capabilities. Functions specific to audio renewal include automatic phase correction; adaptive noise reduction (to remove noise that changes over time); click/pop repair; de-clip; and a Photoshop-style lasso tool to select/delete glitches isolated in frequency and time on a spectral frequency display.

Algorithmix offers a full palette of mastering/restoration tools. Its flagship reNOVAtor runs as a plug-in on Pyramix, Steinberg WaveLab, Pro Tools HD/Mix/LE (Mac and PC), Sequoia, Soundscape 16/32 and R.Ed, and in stand-alone mode on Windows PCs. It uses color-spectrogram analysis to locate, isolate and remove problem spots; the removed sound is then replaced by a signal re-synthesized from the surrounding material. The company also markets two restoration plug-ins for DirectX/VST users: NoiseFree operates on broadband noise while preserving the timbre, ambience and low-level detail of the original; and ScratchFree removes clicks, crackle and scratches.

Included with the Logic Studio and Final Cut Studio bundles from Apple, Soundtrack 3 offers multitrack editing/looping/mixing with a variety of audio repair tools on the Macintosh platform. Included is a Frequency Spectrum view; individual or batch correction of clicks, pops, hum and phase issues; and an advanced Noise Print function for replacing unwanted sounds with ambient noise copied from another section or file, with automatic matching and crossfades for a seamless blend.

Formerly known as DINR, the Avid Intelligent Noise Reduction plug-in for Pro Tools reduces unwanted noise, such as tape hiss, guitar amplifier buzz or rumble from air-handling systems. Previously available only for TDM systems, this award-winning plug-in is now also available in the AudioSuite format for Pro Tools LE systems on Mac OS or Windows.

Offered separately or included with its new Peak Pro Studio XT bundle, SoundSoap Pro 2 from BIAS offers intelligent adaptive noise-reduction with four restoration tools in a single plug-in, including new Adaptive technology for automated broadband noise removal with advanced controls for eliminating unwanted hiss, room noise, electrical hum, rumble, clicks, crackles and broadband noise with minimal artifacts. SoundSoap Pro 2 is designed for AU, RTAS/AudioSuite and VST formats for use with Mac (OS 10.3.9 and higher) and Windows (XP/Vista/Win 7) hosts.

DNS One—the first software-based, dialog noise-suppression plug-in from CEDAR—is available in RTAS format for Pro Tools HD and LE (Mac OS X and Windows), with the same audio quality and performance as the DNS1500, DNS2000 and DNS3000. A DNS Control System GUI lets users control as many instances of DNS One as the host system can support, plus up to 126 instances of DNS2000 and DNS3000. It’s fully integrated with Pro Tools’ automation and hardware control surfaces, such as the ICON, D-Control and D-Command..

CEDAR Tools is a range of AudioSuite plug-ins with advanced processes (Auto-Dehiss/Declip/Retouch/Declick/Decrackle/Dethump) tp eliminate audio degradations on the Pro Tools PC platform. All offer high-resolution processing of up to 48 tracks simultaneously.

Known for its extensive mastering, restoration, analysis and surround sound Virtual Precision Instruments (VPIs) for its AudioCube 24-bit/192kHz multichannel DAW, Cube-Tec now also offers VPIs for the Pro Tools platform. New RTAS versions of the AudioCube restoration plug-ins developed for Pro Tools (Mac OS X) include DeBuzz, Spectral DeHiss Expert, DeScratcher, DeCrackler, DeClipper and RepairFilter. Also planned are Azimuth and DePop, the latter designed to remove low-frequency impulse noise bursts, which can occur on optical film soundtracks. A number of Cube-Tec VPIs are also offered for the Sequoia platform.

iZotope is now shipping its second-generation RX and RX Advanced software, which include the original’s Denoise, Spectral Repair, Declick, Declip and Remove Hum modules while adding DSP algorithm improvements and new Decrackle and Channel Operations modules. RX 2 Advanced expands the package with an adaptive Denoiser mode, a Deconstruct module, third-party plug-in hosting, iZotope 64-bit SRC™ resampling, MBIT+™ dither, iZotope Radius time/pitch control, multi-resolution Spectral Repair and automatic azimuth correction. It supports Windows and Mac (OS 10.5 and later) for stand-alone use and as plug-ins for Pro Tools 7 and above (RTAS/AudioSuite), VST, MAS, AU and DirectX.

Sonic Studio’s soundBlade Version 1.3.5 handles mastering, editing, restoration, recording and mixing chores, with up to 16 channels at up to 192 kHz and real-time AU and VST DSP hosting. Standard is Sonic EQ LE, DDP file delivery, background SRC, TPDF redithering, and iZotope’s SRC and MBIT+ redithering. Options include the NoNOISE II restoration suite, renovator spectral restoration and more. New to NoNOISE II is the FixIt suite, providing DeClick/DeCrackle/DeNoise, analog and digital noise suppression, transient and broadband noise elimination, specialized restoration EQs and real-time DeNoise.

Sonnox Restore plug-ins (Oxford DeBuzzer, Oxford DeClicker and Oxford DeNoiser) offer fast, effective removal of pops, clicks, crackles, scratches, hum, buzz and extraneous background noise. Each plug-in in this Native suite uses a two-step approach, where a detection section pinpoints unwanted noise followed by a removal section that determines the desired level of repair while minimizing collateral damage to the original audio. Supported formats include RTAS, AU and VST platforms.

Designed for audio editing and mastering duties on the PC platform, Sony Creative Software’s Sound Forge Pro 10 is an all-in-one, 24-bit/192kHz production suite for audio recording/mastering, sound design, audio restoration and Red Book CD creation. In addition to 64-bit SRC sample-rate conversion and MBIT+ bit-depth dithering from iZotope, Sound Forge 10 ships with Noise Reduction 2, a suite of audio correction plug-ins including Noise Reduction, Audio Restoration, Click and Crackle Removal, and Clipped Peak Restoration.

Now available for Mac OS X and Windows, this latest generation of Steinberg’s WaveLab stereo or multichannel editing/mastering suite sports an improved GUI, new VST3 plug-ins and restoration tools, a DVD-A burning engine, full surround audio (up to 7.1) support, enhanced batch-processing capabilities and more. Among its 30-plus included plug-ins is the Sonnox VST3 restoration suite with DeNoiser, DeBuzzer and DeClicker for removing even harsh noises without affecting the ambience of the original material. A new and improved CD-burning engine is included.

Now in V. 8.03, Diamond Cut from Tracer Technologies is a stand-alone program intended mainly for disk restoration. The PC-based software (XP/Vista/Win7) now includes a Big Click Filter for working with badly gouged records, a Direct Spectral Editor for manually interpolating noise issues (coughs, whistling, chair movement, etc.), a subharmonic synthesizer for boosting LF and an Overtone Synthesizer for adding top-end enhancement. Broadcast WAV (BWF), FLAC and Ogg Vorbis files are now supported.

The Master Restoration Suite from Wave Arts is a bundle of plug-ins designed specifically for audio clean-up applications that work with any Mac OS X (AU/VST/MAS/RTAS) or Windows-based (DX/VST/RTAS) DAW host. Included in the MR suite are MR Noise (broadband noise reduction), MR Click (click/crackle attenuation), MR Hum (buzz/hum removal) and MR Gate (expander/gate).

Waves offers a wide range of audio restoration plug-ins for TDM and Native users, ranging from its WNS Noise Suppressor (noise reduction for cleaning dialog tracks) to the Restoration bundle, which includes Z-Noise, X-Click, X-Crackle, X-Noise and X-Hum tools.

The latest entry is the W43 noise-reduction plug-in, which was inspired by the long out-of-production Cat. 43 hardware noise-reduction tool. W43 delivers minimal-artifact, 4-band noise suppression controlled by four faders to handle ambient noise problems like hiss, hum, traffic noise, wind and air conditioning. The Mac/PC-compatible plug offers TDM, RTAS, AudioSuite, VST and AU support, and is offered individually or as part of Waves’ Mercury bundle.

But from an audio restoration standpoint, perhaps the biggest news from Waves is the company’s new online rental store. This allows users to download time-limited versions of any of its software products and pay for a week’s or month’s usage, with prices starting at just $15 to $20 per week for simple apps and more for comprehensive top-end bundles.


Mix executive editor George Petersen’s recent projects include co-producing Voodooville: A Celebration of New Orleans, a surround audio DVD featuring jazz, funk and blues from The Big Easy.