how do I best get static off old tapes that I can't let out of my sight?
September 26, 2006 4:15 PM   Subscribe

How do I best convert borrowed valuable audiotapes into a hiss and static reduced output?

I have recieved on loan from a relative some old family audio recordings- I am looking to make them clearer and copy them for my own use. However, the owner does not allow me to mail them away for fear they would get lost or damaged somehow.

How would I best (in the NYC area) have them converted to mp3 or other format and have the static reduced? I don;t mind either getting the software and doing it myself if that is the best way to do it (Audible?) or giving it to a professional (who? where? any recommendations)?

I could make copies of the tapes and then return the originals and THEN go and get them sent away to get it done- but i assume that a copy of these old tapes would be even a generation less clear then the "original copies" I am using.
posted by Izzmeister to Grab Bag (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would try and make a digital copy of the tapes THEN work on clearing them up.

You have a line in on your computer right? You could hook that up to your tape player. Then use audacity to record the tapes. Actualy thinking about it audacity does have some filters that you cold play with to try and clean them up.

you can then export the cleaned files as mp3.
posted by gergtreble at 4:50 PM on September 26, 2006

I've had pretty good results using the noise reduction features in Cool Edit (Adobe Audition, I think it's called now). This involves connecting a good quality tape player (that won't eat the tape) up to the line-input on your PC, and recording the entire side into the software. You then use the noise reduction tool. First, you select an area of "silence" on the recording - somewhere where there's no talking, just the hiss, and you tell the tool to use this to build up a noise profile. You then select the entire recording, run the tool again, and tell it to use the noise profile to reduce the noise. There are a number of settings to play with, and the help file explains what they all do.

It's a process of trial and error to produce the best sound - if you run the noise reduction at too extreme a level, the voices can come out sounding a little bit robotic. But there's usually a happy medium that can be found with a bit of experimenting, and once you've found those settings, you can apply them to all the recordings you do.

Then you can save the files as MP3, or if you are really looking for archiving purposes, some folks would probably reccomend FLAC format.

I've had success using this method to transfer audio off some ancient old bootleg cassettes, and I've been happy with the results.
posted by Jimbob at 4:55 PM on September 26, 2006

(Yes, for a "free" alternative, Audacity does have a noise reduction tool that does a reasonable job as well, but it isn't quite as tweakable as the one in Adobe Audition.)
posted by Jimbob at 4:56 PM on September 26, 2006

I would actualy agree with you there Jimbob. Adobe audition is a far superior program. But a little harder to get hold of in a short amount of time. Either way. I think with the right cables and a bit of tinkering, Izzmeister should be able to acheive decent results with either program.
posted by gergtreble at 5:00 PM on September 26, 2006

I've also had good results with the Audacity noise removal plugin.
posted by ludwig_van at 5:29 PM on September 26, 2006

If you happen to have a Mac and Roxio Toast, it comes with an app called CD Spin Doctor that has some nice tweaking tools. I used it to convert some of my dad's favorite tapes into CDs (since his new car didn't have a tape player).
posted by kindall at 9:02 PM on September 26, 2006

Save a lossless digital copy before noise removal, as well as lossless copy after your best attempt at noise removal. Then you can re-attempt noise removal using some future as-yet-uninvented technique...
posted by misterbrandt at 9:44 PM on September 26, 2006

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