Help with Distant Voices in Grandfather's Recording

Hello there, this is my first time posting here, and I’m hoping I could get some advice on cleaning up some old audio. My father found a cassette tape that has my late grandfather being interviewed by my aunt. It’s valuable audio, and I want to get it as good as possible. I brought the audio over to Audacity via an AUX cable and a Walkman.

There are two problems I’d like to fix with the audio:

  1. The white noise. This is something I already know what to do, but I’m not sure what when to do it or in what magnitude in regards to the second fix.

  2. The distant, diminished voices. This is especially true with my grandfather’s voice. It seems my aunt had the recorder beside her and my grandfather sat in his armchair a few feet away. Both of theses voices are on one track, and I have a feeling there’s some sort of algorithm or effect I can use to equalize their voices, but I’m honestly lost at what to do.

What can I do to fix these problems? Thank you in advance.

While I think its a terrific idea to try and clean up these tapes, as a practical matter you will probably not be able to do much good. There are ways to even out the volumes between the two performers on a clean tape. Not a tape with hiss.

Have you ever tried to get rid of hiss? Noise Removal does this without damaging voices by not removing the hiss when somebody speaks. If the hiss is bad enough, you get snake voices. If you try to remove hiss from voices, they turn into science fiction sounds.

You can sometimes help a very tiny bit of hiss in a recording because the voice is loud enough so you don’t notice it. But that doesn’t apply to a cassette tape whose hiss is usually pretty serious.

You have a non-recoverable set of conditions.


The right channel of the clip you posted doesn’t seem to be anything but hum & noise. Are you sure that the original tape is that way? Missing right channel could be a bad cable, or a mono cable used where a stereo one should have been used. If there is a second track on the tape it is worth pursuing, as it might have a clearer version of the voices. Otherwise the first step is to split the channels, discard the right channel track and make the other track “mono”.

I found the clip surprisingly hiss free for a cassette, If your Walkman has “Dolby” you may want to try transferring again with that switched off.

A gentle application of the noise-removal tool will help.

You can try using one of the various compressors available to equalize the volume, but I suspect you will get the best results if you use the envelope tool to partially equalize the levels by hand (which will be a lot of work).

I just wanted to thank the people here for their great advice. I could not get the right channel to give off more than his, so I split off the channels, put it to mono, and put in noise removal. I started to individually amplify my grandfather’s dialogue (I did not use the envelope tool as I am awful with it), but that had its limits without sacrificing quality.

It’s not perfect, but the posts here helped me accept that possibility. It’s much better though, and my father and aunt now have the CDs.

Thanks again!