Restoration secrets ...

I just finished to restore some old records (78’s) and a few very old tapes, and I had a very interesting conversation with the client. He actually confessed that he tried to restore the tapes, he spent a lot of time, he has some restoration package (BIAS if I well remember), and he wasn’t happy with the results he got. He was very curious how I did it after he listened to what I did for him, trying to understand why he wasn’t able to do it better.

The software he used is not bad, it is actually decent, despite some major limitations. But the software is just apart of it.

Restoration is a complex job, and there are a couple of ingredients that are needed in order to succeed. It is important to understand also that the nature of the audio that needs to be restored influences the way to do it. Restoring a 78 vinyl requires a very different set of tools than restoring a tape or a digital file of a conversation recorded with a small digital recorder.

For analog sources, the first very important step is to move the sound into digital. The better the quality of the transfer, the better the chances restoration will provide a clearer file. A 78 vinyl requires a good turntable with the proper stylus, the one used for 33/45 rpm are not good. If it’s an acetate, you need to know your way around with the pressure on the arm. For a tape (cassette or tape recorder), a good playback unit is essential, and sometimes adjusting the head can help. Also, tapes are degrading in time, and sometimes you need to bake them – which is quite a complex process.

When it comes to the processing itself, good tools, like in any other business, are essential. There are many denoisers, but each one is a bit different, and works based on different algorithms. So, you need to identify the noise and know what to use. Of course, there are tons of specialized tools, like adaptive filters, lattice filters, dc offsets, debuzzers, dehums, declicks, descratches, decrackles, dehiss, declip, dethump and so on. Each addresses one problem, and only experience will tell you how much to remove when you have to apply a couple of them, as the result from one can influence the outcome of another.

There are issues that can be resolved only using a spectral repair program, especially when it comes to recordings of conversations, where there is a lot of accidental noise and a lot of masking. This is actually the most laborious work, it is a manual one, and it takes time.

In conclusion, in order to get decent results with a restoration process you need (like in any other business) experience, acoustic knowledge, proper tools and the rest is easy.

Stay tuned,

Flo Fandango

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