Advice about converting an old recording

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by jcground, Jun 2, 2008.

  1. jcground

    jcground Member

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    I've been asked to take an old family cassette tape and make a CD of the recording, and I'm looking for advice for how to best handle the transfer and cleanup.

    I've done a lot of recording over the years, and I have studio experience, but this is a different sort of project for me. It's kinda like taking old family photos and Photoshopping them (which I've also done a little of). I'm concerned that I don't want to mess with the original in bad ways, but at the same time the original recording could definitely use some sprucing up if it can be done in a good way.

    The baseline:
    It's about a half-hour recording of my grandfather playing stride piano. It was made over twenty years ago, and sadly he passed away several years after it was made. I could have made a better recording even then, but I was away at college and it's far better to have an iffy recording than no recording at all. If I were doing this today, with a phone call I could get a matched pair of Schoeps and a DAT and go to town, but that obviously isn't an option.

    I'm trying to get as much info as I can about how the original recording was made, but my guess is it was done with a boom box and either a built-in mic or a very cheap external dynamic. I don't even know if noise reduction was used, but I'm guessing probably not. The recording has a high noise floor, which I can quiet with Dolby B or C NR, but that also whacks the high end. Given the quality of the recording, I'm still tempted to use NR on playback, but I'm wondering if it'd be better to try to EQ it after I get the recording transferred into my PC.

    I've done some test conversions with Audacity, and I know I'll be tracking it, normalizing it, and doing some other minor edits.

    Has anybody here got experience doing this sort of thing, and if so, I'd be really grateful for any advice, tips or best practices you've discovered.

    TIA!
     
  2. TAVD

    TAVD Guitar Player Gold Supporting Member

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    You can try it with & without NR but I think you'll have better luck without, then applying EQ and/or software NR (which isn't all or nothing). If there's some lead on the tape, record it too. It can be helpful for sampling the baseline for the NR.
     
  3. loudboy

    loudboy Member

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    Try a BBE Sonic Maximizer. Really.
     
  4. jcground

    jcground Member

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    Thanks for the suggestions, guys,

    There are a number of places on the recording where I can sample the noise floor and use Audacity's built-in noise filter, but I haven't been happy with the results. I get breathy phase problems with the content I want to keep. I'll keep fooling around with it, but using NR on the cassette source seems to produce better sounding results even though I'm pretty sure it's not the best fidelity on the top end.

    Loudboy, do you have a recommendation on a specific Sonic Maximizer? I don't have one, and I've always thought of them as a live sound thing. One of the places I've recorded in the past had an Aphex Aural Exciter, which I was never that big on. I gather they're different animals. At least some of the BBE units are pretty cheap, and it looks like they have a mail-in rebate going on until August. (I'd prefer to get a rack unit - I'm not much of a plug-in guy. <-- Showing my age I guess.)
     
  5. loudboy

    loudboy Member

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    Get a used one - they have them w/RCA I/O.

    Might cost you $40.
     

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