De-Crackle, De-Pop, Burn

Bringing old albums out of the vaults and onto the market as CDs is a pretty standard process these days. First you get the licensing straightened out, find the original cover art, and locate the first-generation master tapes. In a pinch, the safety copies of the masters can be used, but if these also can't be located, what next?

Burn a CD master from a vinyl LP of course.

Waves, a company that develops and markets audio signal processing software for the pro-audio and multimedia markets, is releasing next month its new "Restoration" software bundle, which the company claims will professionally remove an old LP's snap, crackle, and pop. "Removal of unwanted background noise and disturbing signal transients without affecting the original sound has always been a major challenge in audio remastering," says the company.

While specialized equipment typically used to process noisy source material, such as an LP, can cost quite a bundle, Waves' Gilad Keren reports that "early users indicate that the signal restoring quality of our $1200 system is comparable to the high-end $10,000+ reference hardware tools, while offering dramatically simpler real-time operation."

As an example of how important this type of software can be to music fans, small label owner Jim Watson explains that using a pre-release version of the Waves programs "allowed me to do some great work on restoring and remastering an old album. The original master tapes for Linda Hopkins' Me and Bessie from the '70s were lost and the vinyl I received was in rough shape. But the Restoration tools did an amazing job of cleaning this up so we could use it."

Waves says that the Restoration bundle includes four new "plug-ins" (used with audio mixing and mastering software such as Pro-Tools): X-Noise, X-Click, X-Crackle, and X-Hum. According to the company, these tools are based on audio restoration technology licensed from Algorithmix of Germany.

Waves says that X-Noise "intelligently" learns from a section of noise and then applies broadband noise reduction to eliminate background noise from the source, while X-Click removes clicks from 78s or vinyl records, as well as spikes arising from digital switching or crosstalk. "X-Crackle is the second stage in the restoration of old records, eliminating crackles and surface noise left after the X-Click process. X-Hum attenuates steady pitched low frequency disturbances, such as ground -loop hum and its harmonics. It is also intended to reduce the rumbles, microphone pops, and even DC-offset frequently found in old recordings."