Hello! I use Audacity to convert old family recordings from cassette to CD. Needless to say, the sound quality is bad (white noise, tinny), and I can’t exactly redo the recordings. Using noise removal helps with the white noise, but what else can I do to improve the sound quality?
You can try some Equalization. For experimenting, I recommend the Graphic EQ mode instead of the Draw Curves mode.
The sliders on the left control the bass and the sliders on the right control the higher frequencies. Boosting frequencies above around 5000Hz will bring out the “T” and “S” sounds, and this can help with intelligibility and “clarity”. Boosting around 150-300Hz will bring-out “warmth” in the voices. But, just experiment to see if you can make an improvement.
If these are not musical recordings, reduce the bass below around 100Hz… There’s no deep bass in voice recordings except low-frequency noise.
Boosting high frequencies will also boost tape noise, and it will boost any noise reduction artifacts.
After applying equalization (especially if you boost any frequencies) it’s a good idea to run the Amplify effect before exporting (saving) to make sure you are not exceeding 0dB (which can lead to clipping/distortion). …Actually, it’s a good idea to run Amplify to at least check the peak levels after doing anything that potentially boosts the volume.
You can also try some Compressor and/or the Envelope Tool to even-out the volume. (The manual Envelope tool usually works best and it’s less-tricky than finding the best compressor settings by trial-and-error, but it’s time consuming for a long recording.)
Of course whatever you do, these recordings are never going to sound like they were made in a soundproof studio with high-quality, carefully-placed microphones and high-quality, low-noise equipment.
And they may not sound as good as the original tapes. An unfortunate but all too common way to transfer tapes is to jack a player into the Mic-In of a laptop. In a large number of cases, that will produce distortion and channel damage in addition to the original tape shortcomings. Overload, clipping and channel distortion are more or less permanent. You can band-aid partially hide some of it, but the shows are never going to sound particularly good.
You threw the tapes out, right?
I did keep the cassettes. I will try out your suggestions and report the results. Thanks for your help!
have a read of the tips in this article in the Audacity Wiki: http://wiki.audacityteam.org/wiki/Recording_from_Cassette
When I transferred my cassettes I had my Nak deck professionally serviced first.