Is it possible to improve the worn tape sound

I have been recording some old tapes pretty successfully using normalize to boost the sound up but there is one thing which I cant seem to get rid of.

I am not sure if its the recording or just a worn tape but sometimes with tapes I get the sound volume kind of going up and down or maybe fading from left to right channel and it sounds terrible. I have used normalise and tried recording mono but its still the same.

You can use the [u]Envelope Tool[/u] to boost the volume “manually” where it fades-out. Try to fade-up and fade-down the changes rather than making sudden changes.

This will be time-consuming, and it may not be perfect. wherever you boost the level you’ll also boost the background noise. And sometimes when this happens, you loose the high-frequencies and the envelope tool won’t change the “tone”.

TIP: before recording an old tape us the Fast Forward and the Fast Rewind at least once to retension the tape - take care if the tape machine doesn’t have a ptoper braked stop as you may ping it off the spool.

These articles from the Audacity Wiki may be useful to you:


Thanks for the replies

I have quite a few tapes to go through so the envelope method seems like it may be a little to time consuming so I suppose I may just have to live with it or find a less worn out tape.

The tapes from the promoter I am recording mostly are pretty crap quality and quite hit and miss so I will just have to accept many of them won’t be great I guess. The rattle like mad when you fast forward or rewind them I guess due to the poor build quality.

I’m not all that confident to undertake the head cleaning etc to be honest but it probably needs doing. It’s an old technics twin deck I’m using but it is a last of the technics line 2003 model so it’s probably of quite decent quality in the cassette deck world.

It’s normally well worth cleaning the capstan and the pinch-roller.

When I transcribed my tapes I had my old Nakamichi BX-2 professionally serviced.


Twin decks usually had two cheaper heads instead of one higher-priced one. That’s just how they made 'em.

Waxy has a good point about ff the tapes before using them. This breaks up the pack and retensions the tape, but if you have the time for it, you are better off PLAYING the tape at normal speed, because old tapes get fragile and the high-speed transport can strip off some of the oxide coating, or break the tape. It also does not tension the tape as smoothly as a PLAY would.

The reason for the cross-fades and volume dips is probably from the oxide coating on the tape flaking off as it is being played, and while cleaning and aligning the head is usually good, it may not help any if the problem is the tape itself breaking down.