Cleaning vinyl recordings

audacityAudacity can be used for optimising vinyl recordings, and once you've digitised your vinyl collection, you will be reducing the wear and tear on your prized possesions. This is the procedure that I typically follow.


Recording

It is naturally important to get the best recording in the first place. For this article I used a record deck that had a USB output that allowed me to record straight to my computer.

 

Remove clicks and pops

I find the Click removal tool works well when run on the entire album. If there are a small number of clicks that this tool doesn't completely remove you can use the Repair tool.

  1. Go to Effect > Noise Removal and Repair > Click Removal.
  2. Select any rogue clicks and small noises, and select Effect > Noise Removal and Repair > Repair.
  3. You can press CMD+R to repeat the last used Effect.

For Click Removal, I found the defaults work well, but you can experiment by adjusting the values of Threshold and Max Spike Width.

 

Remove DC offset and normalize

A DC offset can occur at recording time, when the waveform is not properly centred on the horizontal line. You can normalize each track individually, which might be useful if you are going to play the tracks in a random order, but typically I would normalize all tracks on one side in one go. Normalizing to -2 dB will give some headroom below the distortion level.

  1. Select the audio that you want to process (i.e. double-click the whole track).
  2. Go to Effect > Volume and Compression > Normalize.
    1. Enable DC offset.
    2. Set Normalize peak amplitude to -2.0
    3. Click Apply.

 

Reduce high frequency noise

There is always vinyl noise, that you might decide to leave or remove depending on how bad it is. Remember that noise removal is always a compromise between how much noise you want to remove vs how much music you want to leave behind. The Noise Reduction tool works by capturing a Noise Profile and then removing noise based on the profile. To capture the noise profile I generally select a short piece of 'silence' between tracks about half way across the album. The following settings have worked for me, but it is a good idea to experiment here.

  1. Start by selecting a small amount of 'silence'.
  2. Go to Effect > Noise Removal and Repair > Noise Reduction.
    1. Click the Get Noise Profile button.
  3. Select all the audio that you want to process.
  4. Go to Effect > Noise Removal and Repair > Noise Reduction once more, and make the following settings.
    1. Noise Reduction: 7dB
    2. Sensitivity: 6.00
    3. Frequency smoothing (bands): 2
    4. Click OK.

I don't recommend applying noise reduction more than once, as you will start to hear artifacts.

 

Compression

Using a compressor reduces the dynamic range of your recording, making the loud parts quieter and the quiet parts louder. It will generally give your audio recording a bit more punch, which can be desirable, especially on lightweight vinyl and vinyl that has a higher density of songs.

  1. Select the audio that you want to process.
  2. Go to Effect > Volume and Compression > Compressor.
  3. Make any changes you wish, and click Apply.

I found that the default settings work well.

You are now ready to split the clips to your liking, and export to MP3.

 

Thanks for visiting,
Steven