'70's/'80's CD music remix examples using Audacity

I’ve got quite a few early CD releases of prog rock (SuperTramp) jazz fusion (Weather Report) that sound flat and tinny with kick bass reduced to tap sounds that I’m attempting to give a big, live sound in Audacity similar to what DJ’s do to old vinyl samplings but not using over dubs of electronic bass lines.

I’ve scoured YouTube and conducted online searches and can’t seem to find any A/B examples, just tutorials on what tools to use to do this but demo’ed on modern recordings that don’t seem to need those type of edits.

I’ve made quite a bit of headway on my own but find it’s a time consuming trial and error process and thought maybe someone figured out other ways of doing this more quickly and easily. I’m having a lot of fun learning a lot about how to do this with Audacity, but feel I need to get more sun.

Now I know why most of the old school grammy winning mixing engineers are overweight and pale complected in their YouTube interviews.

One tip:
Select part of the track and open the Equalization effect. On the “Graphic Eq” view, set the controls “flat” (the “Flatten” button), then move one slider up and press the Preview button. Reset to “flat” and repeat with the next slider. You will find that the extreme bass sliders do little for increasing “punch” but that other sliders that are fairly low frequency will. Experience will make finding the appropriate slider to move a lot quicker and easier. Sorry, I don’t know shortcuts for gaining experience :wink:

Steve, prior to my registering here after using Audacity exactly as you described and then some on about 30 aiff’s, I took quite a bit of time reading your posts to others in searches on similar topics. Hope you don’t feel offended that I got a laugh from recognizing your “Captain Obvious” EQ tip to my thread. I can see I’m not going to get any responses here so I appreciate your efforts not just on the forums but also your plugins work (your Limiter in particular) and now I’m assuming your style of levity.

I’m surprised there’s no one doing what I’m attempting, not even on YouTube. What I have come across are folks playing the vinyl versions on their own audio systems recorded off their digital video camera mic of the type and era of music I’m trying to fix and noticing a huge difference not only in bass response and added reverb but also pitch reduction compared to the mp3 samples on Amazon which sound exactly (small) as they did on the original vinyl back in the '70’s and now on CD.



After 40 years I never realized how much signal processing was going on with music back then before digital came along and revealed to me why what I heard on the radio and what I got after the purchase was so different and disappointing. I was buying into the idea that the sound was suppose to be improved on the CD. Just yesterday I heard a snippet of SuperTramp used on a cable TV commercial and sure enough it had a nice fuller sound and the vocals were reduced in pitch.

Where does one go to get hardware or software that does this automatically in real time or in post processing?

Are there restrictions posting on these forums before/after processing demo’s of purchased commercial CD music under fair use copyright laws? I was thinking of posting my before/after attempts to get feedback on whether my headphone sourced edits have affected my judgement. I notice my edits heard on my headphones hardly make a dent listening on big box home audio speakers or in my car with subs in the trunk. But I also note I can crank up the volume far more than the original without distortion.

TV commercials have dynamic-range-compression applied to make them loud, ( see loudness wars ). That can be done in Audacity, but not in real-time.

It’s possible the unsatisfactory EQ you’ve now noticed may be due to age : high frequency hearing goes first … Presbycusis - Wikipedia

There are free VST live hosts and Digital Audio Workstations, [software], which allow real-time adjustments …

More Freebies … Comparison of free software for audio - Wikipedia

Thanks for the links, Trebor. I’ll have to spend some time sorting out what those inline “Digital Workstation” VST’s do and how they would connect with my setup.

Since you question my hearing of high frequencies due to age, I take it the YouTube videos didn’t make clear the type of sound quality I’m describing and it has nothing to do with Loudness Wars. It’s about making the music sound big as it did on FM radio back in the '70’s & '80’s which was the only way we could base our music purchases. There was no in-store sampling back then and they didn’t take music back if you didn’t like it once you opened the package. My hearing was fine back then as it is now because I’m hearing the same thing today as I did on the LP which sounded like crap (not big), the same on the CD today.

Did you compare the Maynard Ferguson “Awright, Awright” YouTube version with Amazon’s mp3? Here’s the YouTube version of the small sounding, speeded up mp3…


Hear a difference? I do and you can’t amplify that without extreme discomfort. Loud does not equate to big.

Not trying to argue with you, just making my point more clear from what I’m getting from your answers.

Do you have any before and after sound improvement samples of the kind of sound in the music I’m describing? You know, make small, tinny sounding music sound big and opened up?

You are asking a very broad question. There is no “one click” answer. Try Google search and include the term “remastering” in your search string.
Also, have a look at “multi-band compression”.

Thanks for the feedback.

I’ll continue to scour YouTube for A/B remix samples.

The live VST hosts allow allow you use free VST plugins like equalizers or compressors in real-time , which isn’t possible in Audacity.

I just remembered that Windows Media Player, which comes with Windows OS, has a real-time* equalizer built in …
Windows Media Player has hidden equalizer.gif
[ * there is about half a second delay between adjusting a slider control and it having an effect ]

The only other controls other than equalization and compression to make the sound “big” are those which modify the the stereo-image, ( which I have not applied to the above , see my next post in this thread).

[ The technical quality of the sound on YouTube can be very poor , it’s not a reliable reference source ].

e.g. Free Mastering Software - Bedroom Producers Blog

“Modern Spacer” effect VST plugin from Antress [Free] …

YouTube demo … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOq2SJ5mJQE

Trebor, I really appreciate your time and effort to post the VST plugin A/B sample effects. It gives me a better idea and insight on how they affect the character of sound and the amount and level of precision the control knobs provide. I won’t be using a Dynamic Compressor. A Limiter so far is the magic bullet for making it loud while retaining clarity.

I gather from that and the “Modern Spacer” YouTube video these plugins appear to be more designed for subtle enhancements for music that is generally already clean and dynamic compared to what I’ve accomplished experimenting in Audacity with the MF “Awright, Awright” example which I’ld describe as more “restorative” in nature with not so subtle but very pronounced changes.

Trebor wrote:

[ The technical quality of the sound on YouTube can be very poor , it’s not a reliable reference source ].

The YouTube “Awright, Awright” version used in your edit sample is pretty close to the original aiff I copied from my CD. My copy is just a bit more crispy and shrill with the pyramiding trumpets sounding like an amplified high pitched kazoo with a torn reed. YouTube is a bit softer but still with very little bass, openness and clarity as is the aiff. Your demo’s told me enough to where I got the gist of what they do to the sound.

What I’ve found to be the biggest problem in particular with this piece and others with similar dynamics is the difficulty surgically EQ’ing to bring out the punchy portion of the kick drum without making the bass guitar too boomy which reverb type effects squelch into a oddly loud, bass-less, flair like fog in the lower midrange. I can hear it in your posted samples as well as in my Audacity edits. Making it loud is not a problem, but retaining clarity across its entire audio spectrum is.

I realize I can’t expect perfection working on an aiff copy of music mixed/mastered decades ago, but I’m so thrilled by what I’m able to accomplish in Audacity, I tend to expect too much and think if I can take it this far in Audacity what do more robust, automated preset alternatives provide that others on YouTube and in this forum may be using. Wanted to get ideas from what others are using according to their results, the main reason I posted this topic.

BTW, Trebor, can those VST plugins you linked to edit the waveform or are they only designed to be used in host apps that allow real time play through sound shaping?

Thank you, Trebor, for providing helpful information.

The spacer VST is essentially a reverb effect : it simulates acoustics of a room you would wish the performers or loudspeakers were in , it can create a wider stereo image , there is a plug-in specific to Audacity called stereo widener which does something similar. Plugins are not limited to “subtle enhancements” some can make the music unrecognisable.

A multiband compressor ( like the free Gmulti) may be the solution : it can compress specific frequency bands, e.g. bass frequencies only.
Compressors are dynamic and only attenuate when the signal, (in that frequency-range), goes above a threshold you have specified , when below threshold it does nothing.

I used those VST plugins installed in Audacity. When using VST plugins in Audacity you have to press the “Preview” button on the bottom left of the effect’s controls to hear how it sounds, in Audacity you can’t adjust the controls while the preview is playing :¬( and any animation in the plug-in controls won’t work. The duration of preview can be altered in Audacity’s preferences , personally I find 3 seconds is plenty time to assess how an effect sounds.

Not in my opinion. I’ve set it to 30 seconds. Firstly, I can always cancel the preview with space bar. You can often not tell how an effect interacts with other portions of the sound later on. A de-esser may sound fine on the first 3 seconds but horribly on a following “sh” or “dj” sound.
Also, you might want to use the effect on a whole track (for consistency sake) but how do you want to judge a stereo widener from a drum and bass intro?

Upon investigating Trebor’s links to VST plugins and later sadly finding out they’re for Windows only (I’m on a Mac) at least it got me motivated to further investigate what level of sound shaping to expect out of a multiband compressor which lead me to this wonderful demonstration…


Can’t afford that plugin but it got me to twiddle and experiment changing the 3 frequency band crossover Hz numbers within Audacity’s AU Multiband Compressor (Fast & Smooth preset) and finally got acceptable results if only I could figure out a way to control what gets loud and soft over my other previous “EQ/Amplify” methods. I guess I could apply the effect in sections of the music.

Most of that plugin’s settings are pretty hard to figure out what affects what part of the sound. How do you determine threshold within the entire spectrum of a waveform and relate it to the plugin settings and sound level?

I also finally figured out how to control bass frequencies within Audacity’s AU MatrixReverb plugin by changing the default ‘3’ in the Octave setting to ‘1’ starting at 800Hz editing the “Plate” menu preset, my favorite reverb so far.

Guess I’ll cap this thread off posting my own “Before/After” Audacity edit mp3 of the same sampled section of the YouTube Maynard Ferguson “Awright, Awright” only I’ve sampled off my purchased copy of the CD’s aiff on which I applied the edits, saving in 32bit floating point .WAV format.

Before you listen to the mp3 sample set your volume at half mark especially with headphones. I applied a round shaped fade-in using Audacity’s “Adjustable Fade…” to the louder edited version so it will be a very slow progression to max volume. It ends at the loudest with a trombone solo, not the screaming trumpets.

I was surprised to find how big and loud I could get it and still retain detail just using Audacity tools. My first attempts back in March are pretty pathetic by comparison mainly due to my lack of familiarity with AU plugins (MultiBand Compressor/MatrixReverb) as well as my lack of patience on account of looking for an easy quick fix.

Here’s the list of edits…

  1. -7 setting in “Change Speed…” plugin. Gorgeous results, no artifacts.
  2. +12db EQ notch curve with start end points at 60-70hz to isolate the punch of the kick drum (Hardly made a dent but it gave me something to work with later)
  3. 30% wet/dry, 5% small/large, 800hz filter frequency, 1 octave filter bandwidth in AU MatrixReverb plugin (Plate preset) which opened up the stereo imaging and preserved bass.
  4. Additional EQ to put back the brightness, loudness and clarity reduced by the reverb
  5. Duped the waveform, reduced to single channel mono & applied 3 times 70Hz LowPass @48db roll off, reset max peaks to .1 in Amplify, applied same settings to HighPass for 2 channel, no amplify, mixed & rendered back down to 2 channel stereo.
  6. Now to make it louder…applied George Yohng’s W1 Limiter (best free one I’ve found so far…My apologies to Steve) Here are the settings…

Threshold: -6db, Release: 250ms with Adaptive Release selected, Ceiling: -0.2db (And yes the waveform is a brick wall but detail is still preserved) Kick drum punch in “Plot Spectrum” shows a 65Hz peak at -4db in some parts of the 7 minute song. YIKES! Compare that to the kick drum peak in the original aiff which is around 80Hz @ -20 to -30db.

Questions, criticisms and comments welcome.

I’m surprised you changed the speed, doing so has also changed the pitch.
Usually that’s only applied when the record/tape was running at the incorrect speed , [so not applicable to CDs].
But there are no rules when it comes to taste : you can modify audio anyway you like.

Audacity does have two options to change speed without changing pitch :
“Change Tempo” and "Sliding Time Scale / Pitch Shift ", both create digital artifacts though.

[ “Changing Pitch” without changing tempo is also available ].

Trebor, this particular song off the “MF Horn 3” album is the only one I applied the speed/pitch change to for a number of reasons that not only include the artifact issue with the other plugins, but as a former trombone player in similarly styled bands I’ve become quite familiar with the way brass instruments should sound. Also I was told in my youth by music instructors that I have a good ear.

The vinyl LP sounded the same back in '78 as it does on the CD, but it took the YouTube video I linked here to confirm my suspicion that speed and not only pitch were the main cause for the tinny inaccurate sound. I mean really, 80Hz kick drum/bass punch is ridiculous for bass frequencies of funk styled music.

Also most sub/satellite audio systems have their bass crossover networks at 80Hz. Playing the CD in my car equipped with such a system the punch of the bass is being played only through my back dash 6x8 Polks (with 80Hz bass blockers) where the two 10" subs in the trunk remain quiet. No car CD player 3 band EQ can fix it. I tried it. I don’t have this issue with other funk styled music no matter by who or when or what media format mixed/mastered to except for Sly and the Family Stone Greatest Hits CD. Sounds like AM radio.

What’s funny is I was told by home audio experts and salesmen back in the late '70’s when I first played the MF Horn 3 vinyl LP that I needed an expensive high wattage system to get the sound I wanted. Fortunately I didn’t (couldn’t) buy into that. But in '87 I had the opportunity to play similar sounding '70’s vinyl LP’s (Weather Report’s “Mr. Gone” album) on a $10,000 Bang Olufsen home audio system with no improvement to the sound.

Here’s a no pitch/speed dynamics/loudness edit to “River People” off the 1978 Weather Report “Mr Gone” album as it sounded on the 1978 vinyl LP as well as the 1991 CD [Digitally Remastered Directly From The Original Analog Tapes] Whoopty-DO!

Even the $10,000 Bang Olufsen system couldn’t make it sound this way even with its huge EQ board. Or maybe I just didn’t want to have to fool with it since it was my roommate’s system at the time and he didn’t want anyone messing with his setup.

Note the tap sound that is suppose to be the kick drum, I’m guessing. This time I found a good use for the AU MultiBand Compressor and it worked beautifully on this particular piece. Just applied it after listening with a fresh ear and not realizing the level of murkyness in my final edit. Glad I wrote down the AU MBC custom settings. Didn’t have to go to the trouble of coming up with an EQ curve. Here’s the edits…

  1. 30% wet/dry on AU MatrixReverb “Plate” menu preset.
  2. Clarity EQ with 18db bass ramp peak at 70Hz.
  3. AU MultiBand Compressor settings…“Fast and Smooth” defaults: -5db post-gain, Crossover 1,2,3=100, 3000, 15000, EQ1:9db, EQ2:9db, EQ3:13db, EQ4:0db
  4. W1 Limiter: all settings the same except threshold at -3db

IMO there’s some bass* you’ve missed out on between 200Hz and 100Hz …

The equalization depends on the type of speakers/headphones, your hearing, and how loud it is.

  • Audacity Manual [change “linear frequency” scale to “log frequency” to see the bass clearer]

Trebor, I always go by Log scaling in the Plot Spectrum. That’s how I located the punch of the kick bass which is mostly what I’m interested in.

And IMO your increasing lower midrange bass frequencies (100-200Hz) on a non-reverb version (no opened up stereo imaging) isn’t really comparing apples to apples so I’m not hearing an improvement in bass response over what I did. The hum of this bass region tends to reduce overall clarity and often perceptually gains when amplified on speakers listened to in an enclosed environment (living room/car) which is what I’m hearing from your treatment even on my Sony MDR V6 headphones.

Are you saying what you’re hearing from my edit is thin sounding? Not loud and full? What are you listening on? Or are you basing your judgements strictly on plot spectrum measurements?

Trebor, OK, you got me going on that 100-200Hz thingy to the point it motivated me to apply the same 80Hz/48db LowPass/HighPass mono channel bass boost to the finished RiverPeople version before multiband compression. Then I applied MBC but this time I amped the bass EQ1 from 9db to 15, EQ2 from 9db to 12 and EQ3 from 12db to 15. Applied -6db threshold to W1 Limiter.

Boy was I wrong about getting all the bass in this file! OMG! Not only did I get the punch but I got the beef to go with it and still preserve the Plate reverb effect. WOW! This turned out better than I thought. Thanks for the motivation, Trebor.