|In this category I want to explain a few words about audio restoration.
I'm a music collector since many years, so it was logical, that I was interested in the digitalisation and editing of historical sound archives. I began to engage myself more closely into media, for instance audio cassettes, audio tapes or vinyl and began working on a solution how to best transfer them to the digital area and to secure thus important and rare recordings.
In the next chapters, you'll find a short explanation how I operate with certain media to obtain the best results on CD-R.
Audio cassettes / tapes
To digitalise analogue tapes, you need besides the sound carrier machines that can play back those in a good quality. It also matters in which speed the sound tape has been recorded or which noise reduction system has been used on the cassette to ensure a true to original playback. Unfortunately, it's sometimes the case, that certain historical recordings have a deviation concerning the position of the audio head on new equipment. Which means, that a cassette deck that is up to date, is not enough to digitalise and you should never have faith alone that an adjusted machine right out of the factory achieves all the requirements to save your music archives to the computer.
To do justice to the recording that should be digitalised, you need some experience and, most of all, good ears and a cassette deck (or a magnetic tape recorder), which enables you to adjust the audio head to the particular data medium.
If this is done, the recording gauge on the soundboard (or the soundcard) will be adjusted, so that the signal is well balanced and still no clippings (overmodulation) can occur while the analogue material is digitalised.
Afterwards, the main work begins. First, the frequency response is corrected and then the noising of the analogue medium is analysed and eliminated. Then, the individual contributions will be mastered and, subsequently edited (beginnings and ends will be cut neatly).
You don't always have the pleasure to digitalise the analogue sound carriers in a brilliant quality, but often (mostly for diverse works for record labels, who want to publish old demo-tapes and rehearsal room-recordings of nowadays famous bands) they are in a state adequate to their age. In that case, the task is a lot more time-consuming than normal and can take up to one week of meticulous and nerve-wracking work. How often does it happen, especially with old cassettes, that there are certain spots that have been a bit deleted, the tape has been crinkled or a sticky piece that affects the recorded material for a moment is found? Here, a lot of patience and a well-trained ear are sought after, because it is possible with the copy & paste-method to eliminate some disturbances, without other people noticing it at the end. Single drop-outs are, for instance, replaced with pieces, that appear on the record on another place again. To let the original material as untouched as possible, only a fraction of a second will be replaced on most cases in affected areas, to make the sound-variations inaudible.
Another possibility is the correction with volume curves that are used if the material has on some places indeed the full frequency response, but the gauge is changing undesirably.
As a rule of thumb is however - the better the raw material, the better the result in digitalised form. Out of an extremely low-grade recording, it is impossible, even with the best equipment, to create a super production, but better than the delivered raw material have my results always been.
My works for diverse record labels are always met with enthusiasm and used for the publishing on CD or LP.
Already with the apparition of the first CD in the year 1981, the black rounder has be prophesied a near end, but even nowadays, no music collection of many a music aficionado goes without it, and even in the year 2010, many albums are still pressed on vinyl and sold. Even though many records labels have released most of their back-catalogue on CD, there are still countless rarities with fans and collectors, that aren't available on the silver disk, because the master-tapes aren't findable or destroyed or there's no interest from the side of the label to publish them once more. Which music-lover doesn't know the following: you have a precious and rare recording on LP, would like to hear it more often, but feel like avoiding placing the record on the turntable regularly, to needlessly wear it out. For this case, there is the possibility to transfer your well-kept treasure into the age of digitalisation and many a client is astonished what can be retrieved out of the partially very old and crackling records with good equipment.
There are by now countless turntables and pick-up-systems to choose off, to digitalise your private record-collection. A system for 250 Euro is of course sounding better than a system for 30 Euro and you should think carefully, if you want to get the maximum out of your records or just want to quickly digitalise them to listen to them in the car or on the iPod.
I myself am an avid record-collector and attach quite some importance on a well-balanced sound work. I have opted, many years ago, for a turntable of the brand TECHNICS, which is operated with a not very cheap ORTOFON-pick-up which showed very good acoustic attributes.
To digitalise an LP, the modulation of the surface should be cleaned deeply. There’s often dust, that accumulates and fixes itself on the surface through playing the record often or through storage, which is the main cause of a continuous crackling. The washing of records is a well-known habit for record-collectors and is, especially for digitalisation, a very time and effort-saving effect, for it helps to save some steps in the post-processing. Clients are of course asked if a wet cleaning is in order beforehand. Or else, qualitative deductions can be the result. After the LP is cleaned, the re-recording to the computer is done (also with every cassette and audio tape) and monitored meticulously by me with earphones. Should I percept a disturbance (dust, fluff on the needle etc.) somewhere while re-recording, the track in question will be played once more to ascertain if the same disturbance occurs once more on the same spot. Unfortunately, according to experience, there are pressings, where the middle hole is not exactly in the middle and the playback winches, because the pick-up arm has to go over different paths to play the information. This can be helped too because I found a way to re-record those defective records in the best possible way. With a few slipmates and some visual judgement, the LP can be adjusted and brought to the computer as best as possible.
As soon as the whole record has been digitalised, the material is subjected to a complete restoration. Here, cinch marks and noising, as well as the elemental humming of the turntable (< 30 Hz) and the physical noise of a vinyl recording are deleted to get a clean signal. Subsequently, the whole material can be mastered at request and brought to adequate volume and finally edited (beginnings and ends are cut neatly).
As an example of my work can be cited, that I have created a master out of a phonograph record for a CD-release of an Italian label, where no studio tapes were to be found. My completely digitalised, restored and edited version never shows any sign, that it was originally a vinyl record.
This is an overall short explanation on my work concerning digitalisation and audio restoration. Whoever wants their private music archives or their rare recordings brought to CD-R as a back-up and, if requested, edited, is invited to contact me and get a non-committal offer. Labels and sound-archives too, who want to get some editing for historical recordings for digital release, are hereby addressed.