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SoundSoap Pro

Professional restoration plugin scrubs and shines your audio By Frank Moldstad

SoundSoap Pro ($599) is a professional audio restoration plugin from BIAS  that is designed to handle problems such as 60 cycle hums, crackles, pops and tape hiss. It evolved from a more basic broadband noise tool for video editors called SoundSoap, which features preset parameters (and was just upgraded to version 2). But SoundSoap Pro is designed with extensive manual controls for those who need to get deeper than generic presets will allow.

SoundSoap Pro is a plugin that works with Audio Units, Direct X, RTAS and VST-compatible host applications on both Mac OS X and Windows XP platforms. It includes four basic tools: Hum & Rumble, Click & Crackle, Broadband Noise and a Noise Gate. Each of the tools includes a dedicated window that can be accessed by double-clicking its icon at the bottom of SoundSoap Pro's main interface. The four icons are arranged left to right in the order BIAS says is the most logical way to proceed in the restoration process.

Tools arranged at bottom of SoundSoap Pro interface

Much of the work in SoundSoap Pro is done by tweaking parameters and listening, moving the sliders to remove as much of the offensive noise as possible without eating into the signal you want to preserve, or adding artifacts. The best way to start is by understanding the four tools and what they do. Each tool is designed for specific types of noise.

BIAS has included tutorials and sample files for experimenting with each of the tools, taking you step-by-step through the process of cleaning them up. For example, one of the tutorials demonstrates the capabilities of the Hum & Rumble filters with a sample interview file  (in .wav as well as Quicktime .mov format if your host application supports it) with extensive background hum and rumble.

The tutorial instructs you to launch a host application (in this case Ableton's Live 4 in VST mode), open the file "Dialogue with Hum," and then launch SoundSoap Pro. Playing the raw clip in loop mode, it sounded like the interview was conducted directly under an air conditioning vent, drowning out the subject's voice.  But by enabling the Hum & Rumble filter by checking the 'X' next to its icon, the low frequency hum dropped by half. That's because by default the filter is set at 60Hz, the most common frequency for low level hum.

Hum & Rumble filter showing noise removed

But this is where SoundSoap Pro goes beyond the control provided by simple presets. In addition to being able to adjust the frequency slider above or below 60Hz, you have several more controls at your disposal in just this tool. One of these is a Q slider that adjusts the bandwidth of a notch filter applied to the selected frequency. By sliding this up to about 40 from the default 20 setting during playback, and moving the depth slider to the right, you can interactively find an optimum setting. But even with this substantial amount of hum removal, the file still had an annoying constant rumble throughout -- similar to hum, but occurring at an even lower frequency. To remove that, a Rumble filter is provided. Clicking the box to enable it and moving the Rumble filter slider to the right caused a dramatic lessening of all noise, and the audio track was restored to usability.

One of the handy features of SoundSoap pro is a Noise Only button. When enabled, it plays only the noise that has been removed from a file -- a good cross-check of what the plugin has done. Listening to the noise removed from the dialog file was a testament to SoundSoap Pro's effectiveness -- as was comparing the original file to the cleaned-up one by by clicking the Bypass button. SoundSoap Pro also allows the user to save presets, with up to four varieties possible, accessible from A, B, C and D buttons at the top of the interface. This is a handy way to process mulitiple files with the same settings, and it is also good for setting up slight variations of the processing for an individual file and comparing the results. 

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Related Keywords:SoundSoap Pro, SoundSoap 2, BIAS, restoration, plugin, 60 cycle hums


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