Top Noise Reduction Plugins
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What is “Noise Reduction”?
Music production teams use Noise Reduction software within their production kit bag to take out those annoying non-musical noises that get in the way of a clear musical statement. They might be background electrical hums, cable buzzes, crackles from original recordings or any unwanted sonic interference. They set the levels to remove frequencies that should not be there and focus on those that should be there, giving you a clean sound – or at least a sound that only contains the grunge that you want!
Standard music production software comes with basic facilities to equalise levels and ease out interference but there are specialist add-ons that you can plug in to a standard set-up that are focused on the task. Just remember that with all powerful tools, you need to know how to use them correctly. You only want the plugin to filter out sounds you don’t want.
Your noise reduction plugin should be able to:
- Remove superfluous hiss, crackle, rumble and hum
- Wash out booms and pops
- Isolate and remove unwanted background noise
- Improve quality by removing the extraneous
The prize for the best name in noise reduction software goes to Antares for their SoundSoap 5. The user experience is simplicity itself. Use the sound view window to “automagically” isolate the noisy part of your sound file, then click the button to remove that frequency range: inexpensive, effective and easy to use. Child’s play with grown up results.
Accusonus offer a range of “single knob audio cleaning plug-ins” to support you. The suite contains levellers and de-essers with very good outcomes on the spoken word especially. Their ERA Noise Remover is the plugin you would use to remove unwanted background noise like you would hear from electric fans and air-conditioners: the hums and hisses from our electrically-powered world. Using the tool, as with all their software is as simple as turning a single knob. As a piece of software, it has a clean, focused interface. It has one job to do and it does it well.
Waves produce a couple of tools that are useful in this area. They have W43 Noise Reduction Plug-in and Z-Noise. The W43 is simple to use but has high-quality noise reduction capabilities. It is named and styled after Dolby’s analogue CAT43 4-band noise reduction unit that was originally designed for use in cleaning up dialog tracks in film sound production. This simple approach gives simple, good clean, warm results. The Z-Noise adds an extra wave band to the EQ but builds on the same approach. It adds a “listening” algorithm to help identify the sound frequencies to be filtered out. You then make a manual adjustment to fine tune before applying your parameters to clean the track.
Top of the sophistication list of most analysts’ Noise Reduction plugins is iZotope’s RX 7. This can be picked up standalone or as part of their comprehensive Music Production Suite. The full suite is aimed at professionals who know how to use its power and handles voice production, sound profiles, reverbs and full mastering tools.
RX 7 is billed as a “repair assistant” whose job is to clean up the noise. It offers a range of powerful facilities to:
- clean up glitches
- repair poor recordings
- identify rumbles and hums
- clean up interference from adjacent channels
- isolate background noise so that it can be removed
- improve the quality of recorded speech
- cut out booms and pops
- sweep out hiss, “garment interference” or wind noise
- help repair stereo imbalance
It can de-ess, de-crackle, de-hum, de-bop, de-click, de-clip, de-reverb and just generally de-noise. It is immensely powerful and far reaching. It really is a tool for professionals to use. It may contain a wealth of AI components but you need to know how to control them to get the best from them.
Zynaptiq’s REPAIR bundle is made up of a trio of products to help with audio restoration and enhancement. UNVEIL helps remove resonance and allows you to balance EQ as part of the mastering process. UNFILTER can help restore poor quality recordings. UNCHIRP is there to add clarity, definition and punch to your sound. The whole package needs some serious skills to make it sing effectively. But if you can handle it, give it a whirl.
Professional Level Products
There are 2 products that are widely used in professional audio mastering studios that are worth pointing out. They are used less in music mastering and more in cinema, broadcast or podcast circles where they are often embedded into video production software.
Cedar Audio were one of the first companies to specialise in audio restoration. They make their suite of software available for purchase by premium customers under the name Cedar Studio. Two elements in particular help with noise reduction: Cedar Studio DNS and Cedar Studio Restore. All of Cedar’s tools are top quality with a matching top price. It’s true professional equipment, but not necessarily focused around music production.
Popular throughout the world of professional audio-visual production, Adobe provide a combination of well-supported, effective tools. The video production suites of Premiere Pro and After Effects also include Audition. Audition is a sound clean-up and restoration plugin that gives precise editing aimed at those who are producing videos, podcasts or focusing on sound effect design. Many of Adobe’s tools are available “from the cloud” and as such can be accessed via a monthly subscription service.
A Ferrari is no good to you if you don’t know how to drive. You won’t get the most from a Pinarello if you can’t ride a bike. You won’t fly an Airbus 380 if you can only pilot a drone. And you won’t get the best from the most sophisticated of noise reduction plugins unless you really know what you’re listening for.
You also need to ensure you have ALL of the best equipment (software and hardware) to go along with the highly-tuned listening skills. And that’s where a professional music hand mastering service comes in. For a fully professional job delivered to the best in industry standards, don’t just leave noise reduction to the artificial intelligence of a plugin. Make sure you also plug in the skill and experience of an expert.
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