Restoring Old Recordings

been given a cassette of some old rehearsal studio recordings of a band I was in 25 years ago. Apart from being badly recorded they’ve suffered with the passage of time but they really are a cracking performance & sadly now the only record that remains of a period of my life, & so I want to restore them.
I’ve used the n track parametric EQ plugin to get a half decent sound to the band but the vocals always were low in the mix.
How can I boost them? My idea is to remove everything from the recording except the vocals & process them, then combine them with the Parametric EQd version of the band
Is this a reasonable idea & what sort of plug in should I use to filter out everything but the vocals in order to treat them.
The parametric eq wont do this.
Any opinions/ideas gratefully received


Hi Jetboy.

What you want to do to your old recording is very, very hard indeed. This is why tape restoration companies demand such incriminatingly high fees…

I’d suggest you get a multiband compressor plug-in for achieving the boost in vocals you want - try lifting the band around 3500 Hz a bit. MDA makes a free one you can use for this, or if you want to fork out some dough, try the Ozone Mastering Plugin.

I’d go about it differently, however, but this is only because I have the tools available to do it. Here goes…

1) Record the tape in wave-format - get the best playback you can.

2) Remove the noise. I use Cool Edit 2000 (alas, no longer available) with a noise removal routine for this.

3) Lowpass-filter the result to get rid of excess noise still present.

4) Use an enhancer plug-in for restoring the harmonic content.

5) Normalize the track.

6) Run this through a multiband compressor and a mastering limiter (KjaerhusAudio Classic series makes a great, free one) with the settings described above or use a mastering plug-in like Ozone to get both tasks done in one go.

This is my personal sequence of events in restoring tapes. YMMW. Remember that lots and lots of twiddling, listening, mistaking and redoing things is the road to achieving the result you want. Keep the original files as you progress, so you can go back and redo a particular step if you need to.

I’ve restored a lot of old tapes, sometimes achieving results indistinguishable from good, well-kept, analog masters. The better condition your starting material, the less work you have to do.

regards, Nils

Many thanks Nils for the information.
I have acquired the free plugins you mentioned tonight and will give it a go.
Are you familiar with something called Audio Cleaning lab?
A friend has leant me this today, it appears to have a Decllipper, Multiband Compressor, Limiter, Dehisser etc
It looks interesting.


FYI: n-Tracks V4 now includes a multi-band compressor.

phoo: FYI: n-Tracks V4 now includes a multi-band compressor.

Thanks, phoo! I knew that, of course, but I just forgot... - still on v. 3.3.

regards, Nils


This project is truly valuable so use a tool made for the job. I have demo’d almost every audio restoration product out there and the best one I found is called “Pristine Sounds”.

They have a demo at

This program has a subtractive noise function where you sample a quiet passage in the audio and then that noise (tape hiss, record rumble, etc.) is subtracted from the audio. If you have the patience to tweak everything just right you can get some amazing results.

One further tip for using one of those “sample and remove” noise reduction functions: When you’re applying the noise fingerprint, reduce only some of the noise (say, 10 or 20 dB). Then copy a new noise sample, and reduce some more. Repeat. This way there’s usually less audible artefacts in the final, noiseless file and the sound of the original recording (sans noise) is better preserved.

Another vote for Pristine Sounds. It takes some practice to get the best out of it, and it ain’t cheap, but it can be very effective.

Here’s how I would go about restoring your tape:

- get the very best cassette deck you can (borrow/rent). You should also be using a premium soundcard in your PC
- clean and demag the cassette deck
- “repack” the tape by playing it end-to-end a couple of times. Play, don’t use fast wind, so the tape gets evenly packed. you can of course listen to it while repacking it.
- clean and demag the cassette deck again
- if you have the time and tools (oscilloscope), align the play head azimuth to optimise the cassette output. Of course, if this is a loaner deck, you’ll need to be able to realign the azimuth to standard once you’re done.
- set recording levels into the PC, using the loudest possible part of the cassette. You can do this during the repacking stage, or later
- play the cassette and record onto PC in one pass. You’re now done with the cassette, unless the PC recording was sub-optimal
- I recommend you immediately burn the raw unaltered WAV file to a CD-R. Burn it as data, not as a CD-A.
- if it makes sense, chop the WAV file into smaller sections; individual takes, or sets or whatever. You might also want to archive to CD-R at this point.
- NOW you can start to clean up with various tools.

here are some pointers for restoration:
- pick a small but representative section 30 to 60 sec and make a new test WAV file that you can try things on and see results quickly, before doing the whole file
- take lots of notes, and save settings whenever possible
- no good restoration happens in ONE pass! Expect that you may make a few or several passes, reducing specific issues with each pass. use a bit less that you first think to use. Save intermediate files so that you can back out of a pass if it has undesirable consequences.
- fix big problems (eg a loud buzz) before smaller problems (eg a slight hiss)
- for discrete or unique problems, like one moment of buzz or distortion, or a popped P, etc, you may need to fix that by hand, or even edit it out or replace it with a similar thing from another part of the take.

Anyway, you can probably tell that I was into restoration at one point. :;):

Good luck.

Hey Archie!

Long time no see…

Quote (Tom Hicks @ Mar. 15 2005,10:29)
Hey Archie!

Long time no see...

Hi Tom,

I don't get to play here much anymore, and I'm embarassed to say how long it's been since i've done anything significant with ntrack (or digital audio, for that matter...).