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Enhancing old master recordings

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Enhancing old master recordings

PostPosted: Fri Mar 05, 2021 9:44 pm
by Phoenix99
Hi

My System:
Windows 10
i7 -8700K CPU
Cakewalk DAW


I have old recordings that I produced decades ago on subpar equipment. The sound quality is dull. Some have little stereo imaging and actually sound like they are in mono. I improved them significantly by stereoizing them with a digital delay set to 15 to 25 ms dry/wet panned L and R. I also applied the BBE Sonic Maximizer and EQ to them.

Since my initial attempts at improving them yielded promising results, I would like to remaster them again using better methods.

Can anyone suggest any methods or plugins that are ideal for improving poor-sounding masters?

Thanks for any suggestions

Re: Enhancing old master recordings

PostPosted: Fri Mar 05, 2021 10:01 pm
by Sam Inglis
Welcome to the forum!

Personally, I have to say, I wouldn't go down the route of artificially stereo-ising recordings that are mono or near mono. That was done to death in the late 60s and early 70s and is a cure that is worse than the disease!

The Sonic Maximiser is a good example of an enhancer or exciter, which helps to liven up dull recordings when there isn't enough high-frequency information for an EQ to work well. There are many other such plug-ins on the market, and some are different, but I'm not sure any of them are objectively better -- you might find you prefer them though. You can often achieve similar results with a saturation or distortion processor such as FabFilter's Saturn.

Re: Enhancing old master recordings

PostPosted: Fri Mar 05, 2021 11:17 pm
by The Elf
I agree with Sam 100%. Clean up the recording, de-noise, EQ and get them to give of their best, but please don't make them into something they're not - all it does it detract from hearing them as they were meant to be.

Re: Enhancing old master recordings

PostPosted: Fri Mar 05, 2021 11:41 pm
by blinddrew
If they're not actually mono, just a very narrow stereo field, then putting a mid-sides plugin on and boosting the sides a little will give you a more natural width improvement than a stereoiser.

Re: Enhancing old master recordings

PostPosted: Sat Mar 06, 2021 12:32 am
by James Perrett
I'd agree with the others about the stereo - most forms of artificial stereo have drawbacks and often won't sound good in mono due to comb filtering from delays or cancellation of the effect if you try to increase the width.

If they need noise reduction then do that as the first process as subsequent processing could end up with varying noise levels which will then be difficult to remove. As far as enhancement is concerned - try to find an Aphex or something that works in the same way. These seem better at creating high frequencies from almost nothing when compared to some of the alternatives. I like Stillwell's enhancer in the ReaJS plugins which are available in the Reaplugs package if you aren't using Reaper.

Re: Enhancing old master recordings

PostPosted: Sat Mar 06, 2021 5:57 am
by Tim Gillett
Phoenix99 wrote: I have old recordings that I produced decades ago on subpar equipment. The sound quality is dull...

You mention recording them decades ago. What was the original recorded format, or of the copies you have?

Re: Enhancing old master recordings

PostPosted: Sat Mar 06, 2021 10:30 am
by Mike Stranks
Since buying iZotope standard I've found that I can make significant improvements to decidedly dodgy recordings.

I also have Ozone Elements and Nectar Elements.

Used carefully and sparingly all of these can drastically improve recordings which need some help.

As for stereoising... why?

Re: Enhancing old master recordings

PostPosted: Sat Mar 06, 2021 12:14 pm
by Hugh Robjohns
Phoenix99 wrote:Some have little stereo imaging and actually sound like they are in mono. I improved them significantly by stereoizing them with a digital delay set to 15 to 25 ms dry/wet panned L and R.

I'm with most others here in thinking that if the track was recorded mono, it's probably best to leave it mono... but if you really insist on 'stereoizing' it, don't do it like your description above. If you listen to that in mono you'll have a horrible 20-ish millisecond thickening to the mix combined with a nasty 5ms comb-filtering colouration.

A much better way would be to use the fake M-S technique as described here:

https://www.soundonsound.com/sound-advice/q-how-can-create-fake-ms-setup-mono-compatible

Essentially, you're using the (single) delay to create a fake Side signal which you combine with the original mono (Mid) signal in the usual way. The advantage of this approach is that for anyone listening in mono, they get the original unmolested mono track -- because all the fake Side stuff cancels out. The delay time affects the impression of 'room size', so choose to give the music the appropriate acoustic environment. Usually somewhere between 10 and 80ms...

If the original track is dull and beyond the reach of EQ, then some form of aural exciter can be very effective, but it's very easy to over-do it, so keep referencing between original track and some similar commercial material, and assessing whether you really are improving the track and getting it closer to the commercial one, or just making the thing brighter...

Re: Enhancing old master recordings

PostPosted: Sat Mar 06, 2021 2:17 pm
by Tomás Mulcahy
Welcome to SOS forum! You've come to the right place, lot's of expertise here on exactly this topic :thumbup:

Agree with all of the above. The BBE process is not the best either.

Reaafir in Reaper is quite good for noise reduction, Izotope is much better though.

If they are genuine stereo recordings, this is good for tidying up the image IME:
http://www.alexhilton.net/A1AUDIO/index ... reocontrol

Here's an example of a live recording where we miked the room with PZMs way too far apart. A1 fixed that. I also used Izotope music rebalance to turn down the drums:
https://thecharms.bandcamp.com/album/live-at-the-lobby


Schoeps mono upmix is occasionally on sale, and it works very well on individual instruments to bring out the natural ambience IME but not on entire mixes. Bass and voice come out rather artificial. It's great on piano. Here's a recording I've "enhanced" and it really brings out the room the piano was in IMO. The other instruments are MIDI.
https://www.dropbox.com/s/kj1oj63qp1ccf ... s.mp3?dl=0

Above recordings are for amusement only- it was my first band, we were babies :)

Re: Enhancing old master recordings

PostPosted: Sat Mar 06, 2021 4:35 pm
by Phoenix99
Tim Gillett wrote:
Phoenix99 wrote: I have old recordings that I produced decades ago on subpar equipment. The sound quality is dull...

You mention recording them decades ago. What was the original recorded format, or of the copies you have?

Thanks for taking the time to respond.

The original recording were made with external synth modules recorded to a Tascam 8 track 1/2 inch tape through a Hill Mixer. I knew very little about mixing with I made these recordings.

Re: Enhancing old master recordings

PostPosted: Sat Mar 06, 2021 4:43 pm
by Phoenix99
Hugh Robjohns wrote:
Phoenix99 wrote:Some have little stereo imaging and actually sound like they are in mono. I improved them significantly by stereoizing them with a digital delay set to 15 to 25 ms dry/wet panned L and R.

I'm with most others here in thinking that if the track was recorded mono, it's probably best to leave it mono... but if you really insist on 'stereoizing' it, don't do it like your description above. If you listen to that in mono you'll have a horrible 20-ish millisecond thickening to the mix combined with a nasty 5ms comb-filtering colouration.

A much better way would be to use the fake M-S technique as described here:

https://www.soundonsound.com/sound-advice/q-how-can-create-fake-ms-setup-mono-compatible

Essentially, you're using the (single) delay to create a fake Side signal which you combine with the original mono (Mid) signal in the usual way. The advantage of this approach is that for anyone listening in mono, they get the original unmolested mono track -- because all the fake Side stuff cancels out. The delay time affects the impression of 'room size', so choose to give the music the appropriate acoustic environment. Usually somewhere between 10 and 80ms...

If the original track is dull and beyond the reach of EQ, then some form of aural exciter can be very effective, but it's very easy to over-do it, so keep referencing between original track and some similar commercial material, and assessing whether you really are improving the track and getting it closer to the commercial one, or just making the thing brighter...

Yeah. This sounds like an interesting solution to keep the original centered and split a delayed signal left and right. The sides would cancel out in mono. Great minds at work.

Thank you,