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…