It’s a Friday at 4 p.m. Just one hour before the weekend begins. Your program director walks into your production studio with a reel of tape and asks you to “clean up” the song he just found in his office for the upcoming “Retro Weekend.”
You hope your reel machine still runs. Then you start worrying … Will the tape be in phase? What about hiss? Was it dubbed from a record? Maybe there’s crackle?
Well, I’m here to tell you that you need not worry, my friend. Meet iZotope RX 3 Advanced noise reduction/audio restoration software.
We’re all under time constraints and nobody wants to spend hours trying to figure out editing software. So iZotope took this into account when designing RX 3. The layout and ergonomics of the program make it super-easy to understand. Your eye can easily find the button for the task that you wish to accomplish. From declipping to decrackling, noise reduction to phase alignment — iZotope RX 3 Advanced has it all. I especially like that you can view the waveform and spectrogram display simultaneously making is super easy to edit and restore your audio.
The program also allows you to add AU and VST plug-ins so you can make this your primary editing suite. However, in future releases I would like to have an option to build a mastering chain. For example, if I decide I want my EQ settings before noise reduction, instead of after, I have to undo my work. If a mastering chain existed, I could simply slide the EQ before noise reduction and be on my way. Hopefully we will see this in an upcoming (maybe the next?) release.
One thing that immediately caught my eye upon launching RX 3 was “Dereverb.”
Yes, that’s right. Dereverb. How cool is that?
So I really wanted to test this tool out. I took a recording I made of a popular artist and loaded it into RX 3. I had placed a decent amount of reverb on this recording of a female singer and her guitar. Now, I wanted to see if RX 3 was up to the challenge of removing the reverb.
It was impressive. While there was a slight trace, the reverb was almost completely inaudible, and I could not detect any artifacts. This tool really comes in handy if you no longer have a session file and are unable to mix the reverb out of the recording. This was cool!
If you have read my articles, my love for 1920s and ’30s 78 rpm records would be all-too apparent. I am always eager to try new remastering software when it comes to restoring and preserving the integrity of the original recordings. I have worked with several software programs regarding this matter and RX 3 is right at the top. It did a beautiful job of removing surface noise without creating artifacts. It is important to remember that you can’t take out everything. You do have to leave some noise or the recording will suffer.
However, I pushed RX 3 Advanced to the limits, and it sounded clean. The interface was easy to use and allowed me to be precise as to which frequencies I wished to attack. The Remove Hum module didn’t let me down, either. I purposely removed the ground from my turntable to get a nice 60 cycle hum. After running the dehumming filter, my recording sounded fat and full … minus the hum. Declicking was also a simple task. I tested this with a record that had minor groove distortion. To my surprise, the Declicker went above and beyond, removing most of the groove distortion. A nice side-effect, indeed. Although a word of caution: If you overprocess with the Declicker or Decrackler, you may get an unwanted gurgling sound, so be careful.
RX 3 comes equipped with time compression/expansion, phase correction, a spectrum analyzer and EQ.
I used much more modern recordings to really get the feel of how well the program handled altering the audio of a song recorded and mixed in the last 15 years. I was pleased with the time compression and expansion feature. Whether I wanted to alter the pitch or change the BPM, RX 3 did not disappoint. There were little to no artifacts left in the music after I compressed a three-minute song by 10 seconds. RX 3 really gives the user the ability to adjust the transient sensitivity, pitch coherence and noise generation of the tool so your recording will sound just right after alteration. However, I was frustrated that I could not see a display on the duration of my audio file. The Time and Pitch tool only displayed in percentage, not duration. This made things take a little longer when I wanted to shrink the size of my recording.
If you have ever needed a good tool to extract the vocal from a song, RX 3 would be a fine candidate for the job. Like anything else, you have to play with the settings to get the balance just right, but RX 3 makes it easy to extract the center channel and retrieve the vocal from a song, if you wish. This same tool also helps you adjust the phase and azimuth of your recording. This is especially helpful when transferring old cassettes that were sometimes recorded out of phase.
iZotope RX 3
Advanced Audio Repair Software
+ Excellent algorithms
+ Easy to use
– Unable to customize processing flow
– Time and pitch displayed in percentages only
Price: $1,199 (lighter version $349)
For information, visit www.izotope.com/rx
Note that iZotope has published a free RX 3 tips and tricks guide that can be downloaded at downloads.izotope.com/guides/iZotope_AudioRepair.pdf.
All in all, iZotope RX 3 Advanced is a well laid-out, easy-to-use program that will do a superb job of helping you restore tapes and records. Whether you are entering the field of remastering or are a seasoned pro, RX 3 sophisticated algorithms and ease of use make it a program designed for everyone.
Dave Plotkin is director of production & creative services for a large metropolitan radio station. He likes old records, a lot.