How to enhance a cassette recording


I’m converting some old demos of mine that were mixed (rather poorly) on a little four-track cassette machine. I’d like to make them sound as good as possible. I know that once everything is mixed down, there’s very little you can do, but aside from noise removal, what other techniques would enhance the overall sound - normalization? Compression?


I would use Gnome Wave Cleaner (Linux only) rather than the Audacity noise removal as it is a lot better.

Use Audacity 1.3.11 (should be available in a few days on the main Audacity web site).

If you clean the tape heads and pinch rollers before playing the tape (probably a good idea), ensure that it is all completely dry before you start playing, and test on another tape. The last thing you want is for the tape player to eat your cassette.

Compression - No.

Equalizer - Yes, tweak it for what sounds best. Test different settings on short samples before deciding on a setting for the whole thing. If all the tracks on a tape were recorded at the same time you may want to use the same Eq settings for the whole tape so that it has a consistent “sound”. If the tape is a compilation of various recordings you may be better to Eq each track individually.

Normalize - yes - Work in 32 bit and Normalize each song to 0.0dB. Have each song loaded into its own track (one above the other) and use the Solo button to listen to each track. (This is easiest if you set the behaviour of the Solo button to “Simple” in Preferences). Then lower the volume of tracks if necessary using the track volume slider so that the volume of each track matches the other tracks. Each song can then be Exported individually by selecting it and using “File menu > Export Selection”. Do not raise the track volume after Normalizing to 0dB or it will distort.

Test your work on different speakers and headphones - you probably don’t want something that sounds great on your computer but rubbish on another sound system.

Avoid doing anything too much.