The Dreaded "Improve Old AM Recording"

This request may be impossible. But, I’ve found some fixes to impossible issues by coming to this forum in the past, so here goes:

THE RECORDING: This is an old CBS Radio Mystery Theater show that originally aired in 1980. The title of the show is A Holiday Visit. It is, by far, the best holiday episode to come out of this program that ran for a decade. Many old time radio (OTR) collectors made tapes of this show. The best of the tapes that survive were done on reel-to-reel.

THE PROBLEM: The year is 2023. The reel-to-reel tapes that survive from old OTR collector clubs are 5th, 6th, 7th or 8th generation. Maybe even older than that. There’s no way to tell. The episode I have my hands on is complete (a big plus), but the voices are hollow. The entire show is hollow. It sounds like it’s coming through a paper tube, or from underneath a blanket.

I narrate audio books for Audible and other online audio book retailers, so I’m pretty familiar with Audacity and the Effect toolbar. I’m running through these tools and it’s just not having much of an effect. I know, I’m trying to turn crap into a slice ofcherry pie. Which is probably impossible. BUT, the people on this forum have helped me in the past with problems like these. The suggestions have been more than helpful.

I appreciate it very much.


PS: One of the stars of this episode is none other than Lloyd Battista. He was a great character actor. One role that I love to this day is that of a contract killer in the movie Chisum starring John Wayne. When he asks the Wayne character if he brought any gold or silver with him to retrieve some stolen cattle, Wayne replies “Nope. Just Lead.”

That’s resonance. There are plugin$ which can automagically fix that.
e.g. Sonible’s PureEQ, which is free for 30 days.


Thank you Trebor! That is quite an improvement. The copy I obtained, a reel taped off of WHAM AM in Rochester, NY, is actually quite clean. Other than the hollow sound, it’s pretty darn good. It gets even better with a smidgeon of Noise Reduction and Compression.

My thought is that I will perform noise reduction first, and then the resonance fix, followed by compression. Unless you believe my steps are out of order.

I do appreciate your help, sir.

Bill Bird

That’s the order I would use, but I would not use Audacity’s native compressor,
as it’s too slow to respond for speech, and only operates a single-band.

I’d use multiband compression plugin, or one designed for speech.
The free versions of Tokyo Dawn Records (TDR) plugins are worth the effort of downloading. They work in Audacity.

TDR Nova | Tokyo Dawn Records [NOT the “GE” version] multi-band comressor & equalizer.
TDR Kotelnikov | Tokyo Dawn Records [NOT the “GE” version] single-band compressor with vocal presets.

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