Audio Repair in Music Production

Larry Crane’s Audio Repair Tips and Tricks

Tips & Tutorials  |  April 24, 2014

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This article is adapted from Larry Crane's full article on RX, which you may read on www.tapeop.com.

When I began work on what would become Elliott Smith's New Moon album in 2006, I knew I might have a few noise issues to tackle. One song in particular, "Angel in the Snow," had been recorded onto 1/2'' analog tape at a very low level. The song was beautiful, but the tape hiss was not. When "Angel in the Snow" required a new instrumental mix for the film Up in the Air, I used RX on the original transfers of the tape tracks and was blown away at how much better the mix sounded, enough that I snuck a new mix onto An Introduction to Elliott Smith in 2010. As mastering engineer Roger Seibel said, "if it sounds better, use it."

I'm going to explain how I use RX in the recording studio as a tracking and mixing tool. I use these techniques during tracking to eliminate sounds I didn't want to capture, and RX really helps during mixing, especially on sessions I didn't track myself.


Vocals

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I'll remove plosives, mouth clicks, background noises, and bumped mic stands with the Spectral Repair module's Attenuate or Partials+Noise algorithms.

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I'll remove plosives, mouth clicks, background noises, and bumped mic stands with the Spectral Repair module's Attenuate or Partials+Noise algorithms.

Electric Guitars

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Even weird mouth sounds, like the ones that appear after L sounds, Harsh S or T sounds can be attenuated by slightly reducing the overall volume or selecting certain dominant components with the Gain module.

 
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If you have recorded a guitar with too much attack or pick sounds, you can apply Declick to soften this up. Distorted solos can really benefit from a little cleaning up, and this can allow you to make them louder in the mix. Declick is also handy for removing pick noise from a bass take if it's got annoying high-end clicks.

 

Drums

How about that noise when the drummer switches on/off a snare in the middle of a song?
Gone with Spectral Repair's Attenuate algorithm.

Want a softer sound in the ride cymbal?
Run Declick, and all the sharp, high transients disappear.

Other

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Declip will actually work wonders on audible digital overloads. I've been sent a number of mixes with bad overloads, and though Declip won't always completely restore the original tonality, it will help reduce artifacts and harshness.

 

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Spectral Repair's Replace algorithm has to be used carefully, but I've fixed gaps in bass notes from dropouts and other damaged tracks like that. When it works on the material at hand, it's kind of amazing. Like, this shouldn't be possible!

 

Another use I have for Spectral Repair is for fixing final mixes before mastering. You know, like those times you miss an odd little high-end click on a fade or something buried in the mix that's annoying. You can get in there and save your mastering engineer some grief.

Conclusion

These techniques are just the tip of the iceberg of what RX can do, and given that iZotope offers an unrestricted 10-day trial, I see no reason not to check this amazing product out. RX is a massive tool, and if you work with digital audio on a regular basis, you need this application. I can't work without it anymore! www.izotope.com/rx

 

About Larry Crane

Larry Crane is an American editor, recording engineer and archivist based in Portland, Oregon. Crane is the editor and founder of Tape Op magazine, the owner of Portland's Jackpot! Recording Studio, a freelance engineer, and the archivist for musician Elliott Smith.

Crane has worked with artists such as Sleater-Kinney, The Joggers, The Decemberists, Jenny Lewis, M. Ward, The Go-Betweens, Elliott Smith, Death Cab for Cutie, The Thermals, Stephen Malkmus, Quasi, The Portland Cello Project, Jason Lytle and Richmond Fontaine.

Crane has spoken on and moderated panels about recording for TapeOpCon, South by Southwest, North by Northwest, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), Potluck Audio Conference, Indie Music Forum and College Music Journal. He has worked in the past as a record label owner, radio station music director, disc jockey, record distributor employee, freelance music journalist and band manager. Starting in 1984, he has been a bass player in several bands, including Elephant Factory, Vomit Launch, Sunbirds, Foggy Notion and Flaming Box of Ants.

 

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