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How to Clean Up Audio and Remove Background Noise

Audio cleanup and background noise removal involves various tools and techniques to remove noise and other imperfections from sound recordings. When used correctly, these techniques can alleviate problems including background noise, hiss, clicks and pops, audio clipping, and more.

In this guide, discover different types of audio problems and how to take care of them using iZotope RX, a powerful background noise removal and audio enhancement plug-in.

Learn more about Audio Cleanup in part 1 of this article.

How to Clean Up Audio for Podcasts

Learn how to clean up audio for podcasts, fixing issues like mouth sounds, noisy interview settings, and more. 

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Podcast Audio Cleanup with Guitar Nerds

In this series, learn how to unpleasant remove mouth noises, reduce background noise, fix audio clipping, and more in your podcast audio with iZotope RX 10 Elements.

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It has never been easier to produce, edit, and distribute podcasts to the masses. Though podcast editing is similar to dialogue editing for videos, there are a few podcast-specific instances of audio cleanup to keep in mind, including the background noise of your podcast studio, the number of speakers in your podcast, and any guests that could be speaking on a platform like Zoom or a phone recording

Determine the type of unwanted noise you’re dealing with

The first step for getting great sounding podcast audio is listening to your recording. Is there any steady background noise in your audio like fans or humming? What about plosives, audio clipping, or distortion? 

Take notes of what you’re hearing so you can determine what steps you need to take next. 

Learn more about some of the most common audio problems in podcasting and how to remedy them below.

Cleaning up podcast interviews

Maybe you have a home studio that doesn't have the best room treatment, or maybe you’re out in the field recording with your phone. In either situation, there’s a risk of unwanted audio or even compressed dialogue coming into your session. A few steps to cleaning up a noisy interview can include the following: 

NEW: RX Spectral Recovery

Is your recording lacking highs and lows? Was it recorded on a mobile phone or using non-studio-grade equipment? RX Spectral Recovery can help to bring life back to thin-sounding audio to match the rest of your productions. The new version improves upon the quality of re-synthesized upper frequencies and can now add missing lower frequencies, too. 

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Is there an easier way to remove background noise and clean up audio in my podcast?

There is an easier way! iZotope RX Elements is a smart solution for cleaning up audio from a podcast recording with just a few clicks. If you’re new to audio repair, or you just want to save time, RX Elements uses machine learning to find and fix audio issues quickly without leaving your DAW. The Assistant automatically recognizes specific problems and intelligently proposes a repair chain that you can modify to your liking with easy-to-use dials.

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Demo RX Elements Free   Try Now

You can also use VEA to quickly clean up your audio with AI-powered assistance. 

How to Clean Up Audio for Music

From everything to guitar amp buzz to vocal clipping, learn how to clean up your recordings to get a professional sound. 

How to Use Everything in iZotope RX for Music Creators

Discover how to rebalance your music, remove background noise, remove amp hiss and buzzing, clean up sung vocals, fix audio clipping, and much more with iZotope RX. 

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Recorded music can be rife with issues, including distortion, audio clipping, harsh transients, hissing, and more. And it’s important to clean up your recorded audio before you start the mixing phase, because issues like humming and distortion can be emphasized with further processing down the line like EQ, compression, and audio effects. 

Here are some of the most common types of audio issues in music recordings and ways to clean them up. 

Determine the type of unwanted noise you’re dealing with

Take a listen to your recording. Is there too much sibilance in your vocal? Is there an extra snare drum hit where there shouldn’t be? Or is there amp buzz that just won’t go away? Take notes of what you’re hearing, and then move into the next steps below. 

Cleaning up vocals

In some ways, sung vocals are even more tricky to clean up than spoken words. Sung vocals can be extremely dynamic, which can cause issues like distortion and clipping. Softer vocals can also get buried and sound thin in a live recording. And there’s also plosives, mouth sounds, and breaths to consider. 

Here are some basic steps to take to clean up your vocal recording with iZotope RX. 

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Clean remixing

Remixing a song (with legal permission) is a practice frequently used in music production to bring familiarity to a new composition, expand skills as a producer, and develop an artist’s brand. But what if you don’t have the original stems of the song to use in your track? 

The answer: Use the original track and extract stems using iZotope RX. 

Most remixes build off of the vocal. To isolate a vocal you can use RX Music Rebalance, which allows you to adjust the volume of various elements in a mono, stereo, or multichannel export of a single track. Voice, bass, percussion, and other instruments all have their own adjustable level, and sensitivity can be adjusted to determine what audio is identified as each type of element.

RX Music Rebalance plug-in

RX Music Rebalance plug-in

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Musical Instruments

Recordings of musical instruments like drums, guitar, and piano can be full of amplifier buzz, microphone bleed, harsh transients, and more. Here are some of the most common audio issues with recorded instruments and how to tackle them. 

Drums

Since drums are often recorded with multiple microphones, you can run into issues like cymbal spill on a kick drum track, excess reverb due to the room you recorded in, and extra drum stick hits. iZotope RX has a few ways to tackle these problems, including RX Spectral De-noise, which can analyze your noise profile and fix audio imperfections automatically. 

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Other RX plug-ins that are great for cleaning up drums include RX De-Bleed and RX De-Reverb

Guitars

Guitars are one of the most popular instruments to record, and yet they are full of artifacts including fret squeaks, string slaps, and amp noise. 

For acoustic guitar and electric guitar recordings, RX Guitar De-noise is the first tool to consider when fixing guitar issues in a recording. It has an Amp tool to attenuate hiss and electrical interference, a Pick tool to control pick-generated transients, a Squeak tool to adjust the presence of fret noise and string slides, and Sensitivity and Reduction sliders on each tool for precise refinements. 

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Sampling

Whether you're getting samples from a site like Splice or you’re making your own, music samples may require audio clean up in order to perfectly compliment your track. Live samples can be filled with unwanted background noises. Vintage samples often have crackle, a continuous stream of irregular noise that can clash with a modern sound in your mix. 

Here are some ways to clean up audio samples in your productions: 

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Audio cleanup in mastering

Mastering is the final stage of audio production—the process of putting the finishing touches on a song by enhancing the overall sound, creating consistency across the album, and preparing it for distribution. 

Sometimes, audible problems can move all the way to that final stage of audio production, like low end thump in a stem or harsh sibilance on a vocal. There are also unwanted audio byproducts that can occur in the mastering stage

For example, the song “Foraker” by Cyrus Reynolds is an ambient folk record that showcases a lush production with a sweeping vocal performance by S. Carey. The mastering approach was to highlight these qualities in the final mastered sound. Achieving this, however, resulted in a byproduct which made the high-frequency vocal timbre pop out too much in the climactic section (“ay” from the word “same”).

With RX Spectral Repair, however, you can isolate your desired fundamental note and harmonics without being intrusive to the overall sound. 

Listen to the before and after of using Spectral Repair: 

Before and After RX Spectral Repair

"Foraker" by Cyrus Reynolds

Learn even more about audio clean up with RX in the mastering stage and discover audio clean up scenarios in mastering for vinyl and mastering an old recording

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Learn More About Audio Cleanup and Background Noise Removal

Below are a series of helpful resources to get you started on getting clean, professional-sounding audio. 

Learn audio cleanup from iZotope RX tutorials

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We’ve partnered with dozens of professional engineers to help you produce high quality audio through video tutorials and intuitive guides.

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Learn how to clean up audio with the pros

Who will “RX it” better? Watch as two experts face off to fix complicated audio problems in 10 minutes.

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Learn more about Audio Cleanup in part 1 of this article.