Before you buy iZotope RX consider Acon Digital Restoration Suite

Whether we’re trying to deal with mouth noises, a persistent rumble from a furnace, a truck driving by, or the neighbor’s snow blower, there are times that we’d all like to remove an unintended noise from an otherwise perfect take. In short form work, the best thing that can be done is re-record. But, in long form narration or audiobook work, there are times when fixing the file becomes the preferred course of action.

For a long time, the gold standard in audio repair is iZotope’s RX (currently at version 4). It can do amazing things. But, being the “gold standard,” it doesn’t come cheap. The Basic version currently costs $349 and the Advanced version currently costs $1199.

Most voiceover professionals will never use more than 20% of the features of the Basic version. And, the tools that they will use won’t be used with the level of precision intended by the developers of iZotope RX. Though RX’s tools can be run on whole files and in batch processes, they are intended to be applied to miniscule sections of an audio file. It’s like trying to carve a turkey with a scalpel.

Since some of the most useful tools for voiceover are only in the Advanced version (Adaptive Denoise, Leveler, Loudness, EQ Match, Ambience Match), many will think they need to spend nearly 4 times as much for the Advanced version — $1200. If your audio needs this kind of work, your money is much better spent hiring someone like George Whittam to analyse your studio and input chain.

Speaking of George, I have to thank him for turning me onto a cost effective alternative to iZotope RX — Acon Digital’s Restoration Suite.

George’s demo is a great tour of the basics. After seeing this, I downloaded the demo and started trying to figure it out.

First, I made my space as noisy as possible. I left the door to my booth open, turned on the dryer and the dishwasher, turned up the air vent for my booth to full power, and did everything that I could think of to worsen mouth noises.

The DeNoise module worked best for me by recording 15 seconds of just the room’s noise, telling the module that it should “Learn from room noise only,” then choosing “Freeze noise profile.” The adaptive settings worked amazingly well considering the all the noise I was throwing at it. And, it would probably work well in most situations. The noise profile method allows DeNoise to focus on removing the noise instead of spending half of its time trying to find the noise. That way, it uses less processor power to get the job done.

The settings that George uses in the video for DeClick were a great starting point. Again, for my exaggerated example, I had to tweak the click length a little longer and the sensitivity up a bit higher. Most people should get pretty good results somewhere near George’s settings.

Since I had gone through the trouble of creating rumbles from my dishwasher and dryer, I thought that I should check out the DeHum tool. Placing it after the DeNoise tool in the chain, it couldn’t find any kind of hum left to remove. But, placing it before DeClick in the chain, it did easily identify that drone-like hum caused by both appliances. And, again, George is right. The demo of DeHum on youtube is fantastic. So, I am including it here.

The DeClip example at the end of that video is also quite incredible. For my own test, I crowded the mic and forced myself to cause clipping. Again, the results were amazing. When I listened back to 2 lines that I had recorded (1 at normal volumes and 1 fixed by the DeClip tool), I had a hard time finding any artifacts introduced by DeClip.

Another amazing thing about the Acon Digital Restoration Suite is that it uses very little memory to get the job done. If you have ever tried using iZotope tools in a DAW (like ProTools, Reaper, Logic, etc) as live FX on a track, instead of at the Master stage, you will know just how memory intensive they can be. Acon’s tools are light enough to be used as live FX, if needed.

At $99, Acon Digital’s Restoration Suite seems like a much better buy for most voiceover needs. Before spending over $300 or up to $1200 on iZotope RX, you should definitely consider this tool from Acon Digital.

You could even download the demos of both programs and do your own side-by-side comparison. If you do, let me know your thoughts…

37 Replies to “Before you buy iZotope RX consider Acon Digital Restoration Suite”

      1. I downloaded a trial for izotope, then I discovered your article here. So I downloaded the trial of Acon. I cannot get Acon to work in Audacity. I’ve tried changing the location of it and it shows up as “New” in my Add/Remove Plug-ins manager — I can even enable it, but it never keeps the settings. I’m in Audacity 2.1.2. What I am missing? I’m sure it’s a checkbox or something like that somewhere. I’d really like to try Acon out. Thank you!

        1. Never mind. Maybe I just needed to whine about it. 🙂 I uninstalled (again), went back and downloaded the 32-bit installer (I figured, dumb it down a bit — what the heck, right?), installed the 32-bit, then went in to enable it and **poof** it enabled. So, for anyone else having this issue, even if you’re on a 64-bit computer but it won’t load correctly into Audacity, try going to the 32-bit download. It might just work.

  1. Steven

    Great post – I was actually just about to write up a blog on RX (I use declicker on all of my narration files – I can get rid of 90% of small clicks and pops in a few seconds saves tons of editing time) – even though I own RX4, I’ll have to check out Acon Suite.

    1. If you already own iZotope RX, then Acon’s tools really won’t add anything to your arsenal. But, if you’ve ever wanted to apply RX live to a track instead of working with it in the mastering stage, that’s where this product shines. I was able to apply DeHum, DeClick, and DeNoise to a live track with no noticable lag.

      1. At last, one year on: Got around to a first free trial of Acon today, specifically in my case for egregious k’s – and vocal fry on bad days. Grateful for your trials, Steven – and of course George Whittam’s tipoff.
        Well, what an improvement over RX (mine is RX2, to be fair). Friendlier interface and the significant advantage of being able to tweak as you listen, so you avoid putting ‘holes’ in the audio, which with my RX were only discoverable if you QC’d the whole track again.
        Next test will be to see if it can take away that last bit of environmental hum without sounding undersea: looks possible because you can listen and see spectrum as you adjust. That’ll save turning off the furnace now winter is here!

  2. What a timely review! I have been hesitating on iZotope due to the price, but $99 is certainly affordable and if it can deal with the mouth noises I hear, it’d be a lifesaver. I run a PC w/Windows 7 & Adobe Audition 5.0. Hopefully this will work well with that.

  3. Thanks Steven – I really don’t apply live too often – but I do like to know what’s out there – I do some consulting, and if Acon works as well as RX for DeClick, DeHum and DeClip, then I will have an easier recommendation than RX, which is great, but can be expensive and a bit tricky to work with if you don’t allow yourself the time to really get under it’s hood.

    Also – I wanted to send kudos your way for recommending BTT – I use it for one thing macro starting record – no longer have to edit out a click – every minute saved is a treasure – many thanks.

    1. Good to hear Michael. Yes, I agree that RX is an amazing tool, but for many situations, it feels a bit overkill. Restoration Suite feels like it may be that simpler solution that many people need.

  4. I have RX2, bought specifically to tame over-strong k’s and t’s. It’s never done so in a way I can rely upon. Terminal consonants can become completely deleted, and even on a mild click or crackle setting there’s an occasional undersea artefact, which in practice means another proofing pass.

    iZotope tell me RX4 provides time-constant adjustment which might be the answer – but thanks to you Steven (and to George Whittam) I can see that the more affordable Acon has this feature.

    Well worth a try, and I’m keen to know what other people find in terms of effectiveness versus artefacts.

      1. Hello Steven. This will be about the fourth time I have thanked you for the tip to try Acon. This week, a new neighbour arrived with a DOG. Yes D.O.G. Yap. With Acon denoise tuned to the bark frequency, it simply deletes the beast. Well, the sound anyway!
        Astonished, I tested for side-effects by sweeping my voice through the dog band, and then likewise an oscillator, at varied levels.
        It leaves wanted sound well alone, with not a hint of undersea weirdery. How do they do it?

          1. That sounds good, Steven. There are geniuses around. The Twisted Wave guy is another, as well as the team behind the ever-useful Audio Hijack. Capable stuff, easy to use.

  5. I Use iZotope’s RX every single day of my life to take out client voice clicks and mouth noises.
    This is a much less expensive alternative and it works awesome! Thanks for the great post Steven!!

  6. Another great article Steven! My stupid question is how to load it? I’ve downloaded the application but don’t know what to do with it with TwistedWave.. I will not win Engineer of the Day again..

    1. Don, once it is installed, restart TwistedWave. The modules will show up as plugins under both the VST and the AU (AudioUnit) menus. On a Mac, you should usually prefer AU plugins over VSTs.

  7. i would be dead in the water without all of your great info Steven! you are right up there with EWABS as a go to reference for all things vo tech and then some. thank you thank you thank you

  8. Thanks for this info Steven! I just invested in a different suite of iZotope products (Studio Bundle) and the RX suite was a consideration. Then again, so was my budget! Nice to know other options exist.

    For those interested in RX, I have a feeling we’ll see a promotion/discount program soon. They are wrapping up Mastering month as I type (July) and it seems to have been a successful endeavor.

    Thanks for providing the v/o community with great info!

  9. Steven,
    Nice article. I have a quick question. I am producing podcasts, and am using adobe audition cc. I was wondering if this restoration suite is better than the similar noise reduction tools found in audition? I often find myself frustrated, and going in circles .

    I just purchased deverberate, and was able to fix in one minute what I have spent hours trying to fix.

    1. Good question Justin. They offer a demo download that will turn itself off every once in a while until its paid for. You can try it side=by-side and make your own assessment. Let me know what you think.

  10. I use TwistedWave Light on my Mac Book Air..I have the mouth click problem and am considering Izotope..but now am curious about Acon. For me tech-wise , it has to be super simple to install & operate. Already reading some of the above comments, I get technically worried..can I figure this out I ask myself. I really would like to get this click problem resolved, yet keep it basic. What say you?

    1. Hi, Marv. Seven months on, where does the time go? Well, with my TW, I used RX2 until a change of Mac killed it. I’m not regretting recent purchase of Acon. Friendlier interface, it reduces throat and mouth splutters with few if any ‘holes’ generated. Even so – green tea remains as good a plugin as any!
      As with RX, I don’t use the hum-removal as I hear it generating occasional ‘weird’ tonalities: preferring to use Apple’s default Parametric EQ to notch out slight hum.

  11. I have a noise removal tool built in fl studio. but it cannot be applied on live input. it takes a noise sample and cut the noisy frequencies from the whole track which really works great. But I want a real time noise removal vst for my electric guitar. which one has the live / real time de-noising ability? RX or acon?.

    1. Manir, I’m puzzled by why your guitar is noisy. The signal from pickups is quite strong, even hum-buckers, and not that hard to amplify without much noise though obviously it gets harder when you compress or push into overdrive.
      Is the lead a really good one? Is the controls compartment screened? Does the amp itself have a screening problem around the input? Is there pickup of lighting-dimmer or fluorescent- tube buzz? Do you get less noise if you crank up the instrument and turn down the gain on the amp?
      My son plays a Les Paul into a 1960s Fender (ah, tubes!) and records it: no noise. By the way, as Steven points out, digital widgets will introduce a distracting delay but a simple noise gate won’t. Could be worth a try.

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