SwingItTrev

Digitally restoring 78 records?

23 posts in this topic

I’ve been spending some time playing around with restoring some of the recordings over at the Internet Archive and I'm looking for some resources and/or advice.

I’m using Adobe Audition (it’s what I have access to) and would appreciate some thoughts on approach for dealing with these sort of recordings:

I’m mostly interested in Swing Era recordings that I currently only have in poor quality. The 78 transfers are noticeably better despite the heavy noise. Earl Hines example: https://archive.org/details/78_julia_earl-hines-and-his-orchestra-walter-fuller-george-dixon_gbia0062881a

Resources I have found so far are either too simple (run a heavy noise filter over everything), or too complex. I guess I’m looking for something in between suitable for an enthusiast but not an audio engineer.

Help appreciated!

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I know almost nothing, but you should drop me a line anyway (that dance we both love @gmail.com). For one, I have nothing better to do, and now that you've planted the bug I am likely to spend the next week reading all about this stuff.

One suggestion is to reach out to some well-known jazz archives and ask for advice or contacts. Rutgers University, the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, etc. You could even try Joe Bussard, as long as you don't tell him you're into Swing Era stuff. :)  Since it's only the process that matters, you can try classical collections, too. 

In addition to Audition, Izotope RX Elements is probably worth a look. It's the consumer version of their professional thing, and it's only $29 (40 upside down $) right now (at least when I access the website from the US). Not sure whether they'll give you a download or try to charge you an arm and a leg to ship you a CD.

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ClickRepair isn't bad but must be used very carefully. It can leave artifacts. But you can customize the aggressiveness of the software on a scale of 0 to 100 for both click removal and for hiss removal.

Personally when I transfer vinyl I prefer to drill down into the wav form and manually delete pops/clicks. This of course can take forever if the vinyl is in really rough shape so I balance time costs and importance/value I place on the music.

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I've only recently started to do this for 78s and for LPs in order to get material into WAV files suitable for broadcast.  I've generally been doing straight transfers, although my 78 pre-amp has some built-in noise limiting that I can use or not use as I choose.  On some occasions, I've grabbed a file from Internet Archive if it's something that I don't have in my own collection.  I've done some limited manual removal of clicks and scratches using either GarageBand or Audacity.  I've used a free program called VLC to do FLAC to WAV conversions of the Internet Archive files.

I've become accustomed to listening to 78s and ignoring or listening through the "noise" that you refer to.  I find that filtering of the high end, which has often been used in LP and CD reissues, reduces the "presence" inherent in the recording and can leave the result sounding somewhat lifeless.

I know some others here (AllenLowe, e.g.) may be able to weigh in on this.

 

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11 hours ago, SwingItTrev said:

I’m mostly interested in Swing Era recordings that I currently only have in poor quality. The 78 transfers are noticeably better despite the heavy noise. Earl Hines example: https://archive.org/details/78_julia_earl-hines-and-his-orchestra-walter-fuller-george-dixon_gbia0062881a

I'm curious about the display "system" that the Internet Archive uses.  At the "Julia" link above, there are 9 files.  The first is just titled "Julia," and the other 8 have more technical titles, relating to the type of stylus used for the transfer and whether the transfer was flat or used EQ.  So is the one just titled "Julia" the best of the 8, or is it some combination of the 8?  Or were there 9 transfers?  If it is the best, which one is it?

A clue might lie in the sentence "The preferred versions suggested by an audio engineer at George Blood, L.P. have been copied to have the more friendly filenames," but I'm thrown by the use of plurals.  "The preferred versions...more friendly filenames."  Is the one just named "Julia" the preferred version, or are all 8 (or 9) preferred versions?

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5 minutes ago, mjzee said:

I'm curious about the display "system" that the Internet Archive uses.  At the "Julia" link above, there are 9 files.  The first is just titled "Julia," and the other 8 have more technical titles, relating to the type of stylus used for the transfer and whether the transfer was flat or used EQ.  So is the one just titled "Julia" the best of the 8, or is it some combination of the 8?  Or were there 9 transfers?  If it is the best, which one is it?

A clue might lie in the sentence "The preferred versions suggested by an audio engineer at George Blood, L.P. have been copied to have the more friendly filenames," but I'm thrown by the use of plurals.  "The preferred versions...more friendly filenames."  Is the one just named "Julia" the preferred version, or are all 8 (or 9) preferred versions?

I thought it was pretty clear that the one with the song title only is judged the best and the others are for reference, or to taste.

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13 minutes ago, Dan Gould said:

I thought it was pretty clear that the one with the song title only is judged the best and the others are for reference, or to taste.

But which one of the 8 is it?

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28 minutes ago, mjzee said:

But which one of the 8 is it?

Seriously this still isn't clear?

The one with just the name. #1 on each page. 

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lotsa programs around, best I've used (and I used it on all 800 tunes I just restored for the new project) is de-click, denoise, etc from Acon digital.

It was something like $99 and seriously it's as good as the $3000 CEDAR system (or at least the one that used to be $3000) -

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30 minutes ago, Dan Gould said:

Seriously this still isn't clear?

The one with just the name. #1 on each page. 

I guess you're not understanding my question.  Does anyone else know?

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6 minutes ago, mjzee said:

I guess you're not understanding my question.  Does anyone else know?

If you are actually asking what the specs are on the best version, try listening to that one and compare to each of the others. That's the only way.

And it took me about 90 seconds to conclude that "Julia" and #8 are the same.

 

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1 minute ago, Dan Gould said:

If you are actually asking what the specs are on the best version, try listening to that one and compare to each of the others. That's the only way.

And it took me about 90 seconds to conclude that "Julia" and #8 are the same.

 

Are you always this belligerent?  Actually, I already know the answer.

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31 minutes ago, AllenLowe said:

lotsa programs around, best I've used (and I used it on all 800 tunes I just restored for the new project) is de-click, denoise, etc from Acon digital.

It was something like $99 and seriously it's as good as the $3000 CEDAR system (or at least the one that used to be $3000) -

Thanks for the suggestion Allen.  I may look into this.

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I don't even know if it exists as a going concern, but I use an all-in-one software package called WaveClean, which allows you to first record the LP or 78 as a wav file and then to de-click and do further scrubbing (and you can set the level of declicking, etc.).  I usually stop after one pass of de-clicking.  

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2 hours ago, AllenLowe said:

lotsa programs around, best I've used (and I used it on all 800 tunes I just restored for the new project) is de-click, denoise, etc from Acon digital.

In terms of workflow, do you de-click first, and then denoise? Do you denoise more for certain frequencies?

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Posted (edited)

16 hours ago, SwingItTrev said:

In terms of workflow, do you de-click first, and then denoise? Do you denoise more for certain frequencies?

I always declick and decrackle first; and I do all de-noising by hand, meaning that one should NEVER use the program the way the program advises you to use it, by having it create a noise print in which it "learns" the noise and then eliminates it. This is always grossly destructive, and is why you hear these youtube guys who offer tunes in which they have created that horrible gurgling effect. De-noise can and should always be done manually, like a filter in which different frequency bands are individually de-noised. But then ALSO remember that you can never eliminate all noise without harming the sound, so you almost always have to leave some.

Edited by AllenLowe

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59 minutes ago, AllenLowe said:

I always declick and decrackle first; and I do all de-noising by hand, meaning that one should NEVER use the program the way the program advises you to use it, by having it create a noise print in which it "learns" the noise and then eliminates it. This is always grossly destructive, and is why you hear these youtube guys who offer tunes in which they have created that horrible gurgling effect. De-noise can and should always be done manually, like a filter in which different frequency bands are individually de-noised. But then ALSO remember that you can never eliminate all noise without harming the sound, so you almost always have to leave some.

How do you declick Allen? By isolating the sound in the wav form and deleting? What I find tricky is that pops decay over the sound wave - the wav form that is clearly a "pop" can be isolated and deleted but then there is a trailing noise over the adjoining music that you can't even see on the wav form. I have to go out beyond the deformity in the wav to avoid the ghostly trailing decay of the sound.  Some music has to be lost but when you are talking about less than 1/10th of a second you can't perceive it.

Also tricky is removing ticks/pops in the middle of a vibrato-laden section as here the removal can create what sounds like a "jump" in the sound. Then I sometimes manipulate the level of the pop to minimize its prominence. Or just learn to live with it. 

I am not clear how different frequency bands are de-noised without still using some sort of algorithm that recognizes the sound of crackle and reduces it.

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57 minutes ago, Dan Gould said:

How do you declick Allen? By isolating the sound in the wav form and deleting? What I find tricky is that pops decay over the sound wave - the wav form that is clearly a "pop" can be isolated and deleted but then there is a trailing noise over the adjoining music that you can't even see on the wav form. I have to go out beyond the deformity in the wav to avoid the ghostly trailing decay of the sound.  Some music has to be lost but when you are talking about less than 1/10th of a second you can't perceive it.

Also tricky is removing ticks/pops in the middle of a vibrato-laden section as here the removal can create what sounds like a "jump" in the sound. Then I sometimes manipulate the level of the pop to minimize its prominence. Or just learn to live with it. 

I am not clear how different frequency bands are de-noised without still using some sort of algorithm that recognizes the sound of crackle and reduces it.

it really depends; I start with a typical tune - 3 minutes average let us say - by setting the de-clicking with the before/after button, listening, in real time, for distortion of any kind. After  a general run, if there are still left over noises, I enlarge the wave form and try to zero in and just de-click on that tiny fraction of time with the noise, and apply de-click. If this does not work I sometime have to snip it by hand, which is tricky because it can disrupt the time flow.

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I have learned to live with clicks and pops from 78s and LPs. Trying to eliminate them always seems to affect the music. The big guys, like Sony, can do a good job but IMHO not the typical collector.

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3 minutes ago, AllenLowe said:

it really depends; I start with a typical tune - 3 minutes average let us say - by setting the de-clicking with the before/after button, listening, in real time, for distortion of any kind. After  a general run, if there are still left over noises, I enlarge the wave form and try to zero in and just de-click on that tiny fraction of time with the noise, and apply de-click. If this does not work I sometime have to snip it by hand, which is tricky because it can disrupt the time flow.

Do you ever notice the decaying sound problem? That was the first thing I noticed when declicking purely by hand which pre-dated the inclusion of algorithms for automatic removal. I've noticed the potential for time flow issues but if its practically a jump on the record, how can you fix it anyway? I just try to delete as little as possible.

Here's another trick that may be somewhat incidental to my rig: I sometimes get clicks that are literally absent on one channel. If I can I copy that channel and replace the one with the noises. Turns it mono for just a blip.

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8 hours ago, Dan Gould said:

Do you ever notice the decaying sound problem? That was the first thing I noticed when declicking purely by hand which pre-dated the inclusion of algorithms for automatic removal. I've noticed the potential for time flow issues but if its practically a jump on the record, how can you fix it anyway? I just try to delete as little as possible.

Here's another trick that may be somewhat incidental to my rig: I sometimes get clicks that are literally absent on one channel. If I can I copy that channel and replace the one with the noises. Turns it mono for just a blip.

have not had the decay problem; might be a program issue.

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On 24/07/2020 at 11:11 PM, AllenLowe said:

I always declick and decrackle first; and I do all de-noising by hand, meaning that one should NEVER use the program the way the program advises you to use it, by having it create a noise print in which it "learns" the noise and then eliminates it. This is always grossly destructive, and is why you hear these youtube guys who offer tunes in which they have created that horrible gurgling effect. De-noise can and should always be done manually, like a filter in which different frequency bands are individually de-noised. But then ALSO remember that you can never eliminate all noise without harming the sound, so you almost always have to leave some.

Thank you. This has been my experience but I needed a sanity check.

I’ve had some success with the “centre channel extractor” feature, which analyses the L and R channel of a stereo digitisation of a mono recording and allows you to keep only the parts that are common to both. It doesn’t fix everything, but has helped.

I wonder if someone has made a feature like that that can analyse and combine digitisations of different 78s for the same purpose.

I just wish I could drop the overall noise levels without destroying the music, the way the pros seem to do, but i suspect that has more to do with access to clean original sources and metal masters and that sort of thing.

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17 hours ago, SwingItTrev said:

Thank you. This has been my experience but I needed a sanity check.

I’ve had some success with the “centre channel extractor” feature, which analyses the L and R channel of a stereo digitisation of a mono recording and allows you to keep only the parts that are common to both. It doesn’t fix everything, but has helped.

I wonder if someone has made a feature like that that can analyse and combine digitisations of different 78s for the same purpose.

I just wish I could drop the overall noise levels without destroying the music, the way the pros seem to do, but i suspect that has more to do with access to clean original sources and metal masters and that sort of thing.

yes, original source is about 80 percent of the battle. Transfer a mint 78 and you will sound like a genius. A lot of that first generation of restorationists like John R.T. Davies, as great as he was, had been able to, let us say, "borrow" some amazing things from the EMI vaults as well as pick things up from RCA that were about to be thrown away.

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