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Thread: Need help enhancing a recording from 1929!

  1. Default Need help enhancing a recording from 1929!

    I've got a recording of a piano piece from 1929 that I'd like to enhance to sound as good as possible. I'm not very experienced in audio editing however, so if you could give me suggestions or ideas on how to do it I would get a lot further on my way.

    I've tried to do some basic things myself, like using Audacity to remove the sizzle of the old rock cake or LP or whatever it first appeared on, and the audio seemed to be preserved without any notable loss. However, the louder sections still had some crackles and unwanted noise in them, is there some way to edit that out?

    I'm also wondering if there is some way to artificially edit or enhance the audio (through samples or otherwise) to sound better than the primitive mic's of the time recorded it`? Like clearer or how a more modern recording would sound?

    I've attached a short bit of the original, unedited recording so you can check out what I have to work with. Any way you can help me is appreciated!


    PS. If you'd like to try and edit yourself, just ask me and I'll send you the full recording at a higher bit rate.

  2. #2


    A couple of observations:

    This already sounds exceptional for a 1929 recording. I've got very few from the late 20s that are as good sonically. I can make it quite a bit better though if you want to post the entire tune.

    There are programs for automatically removing clicks and pops, but it's better by far to zoom in to individual samples and do it by hand/sight when possible. There are a couple of different ways to attack hiss. A Cedar NR unit (both hardware and software versions have their uses) is generally the best way to go, but it's very expensive. Most of us settle for less sophisticated software methods. I use Audition's built-in noise reduction. It's quite good.

    Sometimes adding a touch of stereo reverb/delay, and then manipulating the stereo field by bringin in a third center channel, can make things sound a little bigger and better. It depends on the music though. There are people who will argue against it saying that this isn't the way the recording was meant to sound, but I doubt that's true. If engineers had stereo reverb available back then, I think they undoubtedly would have used it because it gives a lively feel to a recording made in a dry environement where musicians had to stand close to microphones to get a clean recording in those days, thus loosing any natural room reflections.

  3. Default

    Thanks a lot for your reply! Here is a link to the entire piece:

    02 Ballade for piano No. 2 in F major ('La gracieuse&#039 Op. 38, B. 102.mp3 - File Shared from - Free Online File Storage

    Some suggestions of what I've been trying to do myself and am hoping to enhance:

    - Cracks, mic noise when hitting loud, high keys, and background sizzle
    - Maybe a little more low end would benefit the recording? Not an unnatural amount, just so that the low keys are heard a bit better in some sections, if you think that is necessary.
    - A bigger, more "modern" recorded sound like you mentioned
    - Basically, feel free to do whatever you want to make it sound better

    I will try and figure out how to do the things you mentioned in Audacity as well, I got three more ballades I want to enhance
    Last edited by killen001; 01-31-2011 at 07:05 PM.

  4. #4


    Okay; I'll get back to you tomorrow.

  5. #5


    Here are three versions. All are just 128k mp3 files. If you find one you think is suitable, let me know, and I'll upload either A 320K mp3 or a lossless wma of it.

    Version One - This is the most like the original. I got rid of almost all the crackle. I cut the hiss by about half. I could have cut it farther, and you might have found it acceptable, but IMO any more would have taken a slight toll on the sound. I EQ'ed just a bit, raising both the lows and highs. It's about the same now as if you had hit the loudness button on a stereo reciever. There are still a couple of pops, but I was able to cut their volume down quite a bit.

    Version Two - All the above, plus I added a warm reverb room that's as close to the room sound in the original recording as I could get. I also added an effect that takes the mono file and doules it, and then pans each hard to each side, and then brings a third channel up the middle. It basically takes a mono source and makes it sound a little bit stereo.

    Version Three - Same as Version Two except I used a little more of the delay/pan effect. This is the widest of the three by far. You may think it's a bit much though. When you widen the stereo field this far it tends to take any reverb on the track and exacerbate it.

  6. Default

    Fantastic work! When I experiemented with cutting background hiss myself (Audacity is probably not the best of tools for that anyway) I observed what you mentioned, cutting the hiss too much and the sound became muffled, quiet notes weren't allowed to resonate their full length and much of the "singing" tone of the pianist's playing was lost. I think you used just the right amount.

    I like Version Two the most. I think it strikes the right balance between making the sound sound a bit bigger while staying true to the original recording. Version Three might be a bit too much, yes I'd love it if you uploaded a high quality copy of Version Two!

    Thanks an awesome bunch for taking your time! It's very much appreciated

  7. #7


    Two questions: Do you want to stay at 32 bit or do you want me to dither it to 16/44.1 for CD or 16/48 for DVD? And what codec? Wave? It will take a while to download, but I can make it a standard wave file if you want. Otherwise you can go mp3 or wma as long as you have the tools to convert it back to wave. WMA is lossless at its highest setting and is still half the size of a wave file.

  8. Default

    I'm not very knowledgeable in the advantages of certain formats; so I don't know what the advantages/disadvantages of having it in WMA instead of wave or vice versa. I haven't really thought about if it's going down on a CD or DVD in the future, if it would it would probably be for private use only (plus I have no idea what it means to dither it to 16/44.1 for CD or 16/48 for DVD anyway). My idea to edit this ballade, and the others that I'll probably try to edit myself with your descriptions of what you did as guidelines, was mostly so that I could listen to it with better quality and learn a thing or two about audio editing in the process. I will use it in 320k mp3 on my iPod of course, but if you send me a higher quality format I can probably just convert it myself, no? I don't have a problem with long downloads, so Wave is fine

  9. #9


    Well a 320k mp3 is practically lossless too, especially on an old recording like this that is mostly just midrange. And if you ever decide to use the recording in a movie or burn it to a CD, you apps for doing those things will usually make the necessary conversions for you. So I just went ahead and uploaded it as a 320k mp3. I gave you both the first and second versions. That way, if you want to play around with your own reverb rooms with version one in Audacity at a later date, you can.

    Version One (clean)

    Version Two (reverb)

    Let me know once you've got these so I can take them off the server--thanks.

  10. Default

    I got 'em. Thanks again for your work!

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