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Removing Audio Background Noise with Audacity

Monday, December 12th, 2011 by | Filed Under: Multimedia
 
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Scott from Colorado writes:

I’m recording cassettes with Audacity on a laptop using dual mics. My recordings not only pick up the music, they also pick up the ambient sound from the room. Disabling the mics provided the sound I wanted, but I’m looking for an easier solution.

Hi, Scott, what a great question!  Audacity makes editing audio files really easy.  I think you’ll get the results you want quickly by doing the steps below.

1) In Audacity, open the file from which you want to remove the background noise. 

2) Begin playing the track but stop it when you reach an area which includes only the noise you want to remove.

3) Once you stop the track, highlight the area that includes only the undesirable noise.  Your track will look something like the image below.

01_Highlight_Background_Noise

4)  Once you have the background noise highlighted…

a)  click the Effect button.

b) then click Noise Removal.

02_Choose_Noise_Removal_from_Toolbar

5)  The following Noise Removal screen will appear.  On this screen, click only the Get Noise Profile button.   What this feature does is learn the noise you do not want.

03_Click_Get_Noise_Profile

6)  Now that Audacity knows the noise you want to remove, select the entire track by clicking on the following:

04_Select_Entire_Track

a)  Edit

b)  Select…

c)  All

7)  Now that your entire track is selected, let’s remove the noise!  Open the Noise Removal window again by

a)  clicking the Effect button

b) then clicking Noise Removal

02_Choose_Noise_Removal_from_Toolbar

8)  Now click on the Remove Noise button as shown in the picture below.

 

05_Click_Remove_Noise

That’s it!  Listen to your track and see if there is any other noise that you need to remove.  I wouldn’t recommend doing this too many times to one track, but a couple of times is usually sufficient to get rid of the background noise.

Hope this helps!  If you have any further questions or issues, just post a comment below!

~Karen Powers Liebhaber

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3 Responses to “Removing Audio Background Noise with Audacity”

  1. ru says:

    I am not familiar with the software so I have a question: Couldn’t he record using a cable (RCA to 1/4-inch or whatever) from the tape deck to the laptop? That way he didn’t have to deal with ambient noise and achieve a better signal-to-noise ratio.

  2. Wolfgang says:

    I have read the question several times and my initial question is – do you convert cassettes to digital recording by recording them on your laptop, that is, your end product is a digital file? If so and you have a large amount, let me know at wolfgang.ries@gmail.com and I can give you a few very practical tips – not sure whether this forum is the place to do it? Maybe WS can advise. I have more than a 1000 cassettes to convert and learend some good lessons.

  3. Wolfgang says:

    I am not sure why my reply was not posted – I wanted to help – as your posting does not give a full correct way of removing background noise, nor did you advise Scott not to use dual mics. Ru’s question is very relevant – recording with mics will pick up ambient noise and if the noise varies a lot, he may not be able to remove all of it.
    Firstly, after getting the noise profile, you need to apply step 2 in the noise removal menu. You also may need to listen what the track will sound like – it is better to try it at different places on the track first before running the noise removal over the whole track. The danger here is that parts of the noise can also be part of the recording and removing the noise may remove some of the sound you want to keep (and the cleaned track may sound hollow, squeaky etc) – that is the reason for step 2.
    With regards to the recording with mics, I would not recommend that at all. Some laptops’ build in sound system may be able to take the line out from the deck to the line in of the laptop. Some have a boost facility built in the recording side and the low input signal may be boosted to sufficient levels.
    If that does not work, you may need to borrow/buy a small mixer and do the recording via the mixer. I followed that route as some have also some EQs.
    You can get a very high quality recording, however the way it is done is as important as the quality of your original.

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