Software to liven up dead recordings?

Any recommendations for good free or low cost software to liven up dead recordings? I would like to re-encode the original. Its mostly for rock, so I'm not afraid of "altering" it. There are just some recordings, even new ones, that have a really dead sound stage (well dead everything). The type that sound better in your car than at home. I've tried some filters that "enhance" or "spacialize" but they don't seam to help. I am thinking something that would give the "Bose" effect would help, like old 301's and 501's.
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  • mhardy6647mhardy6647 Posts: 26,071
    Care to offer a specific example of a recording that you find "dead" (and that presumably doesn't include either Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh or Bob Weir)?


  • pkquatpkquat Posts: 716
    I am trying avoid the thread becoming more about artists and opinions of recordings. Sometimes its not even the all tracks. By dead, I mean they either really lack a sense of depth, or they sound sterile like each instrument was recorded in a room with no liveliness on a separate track, and quickly slapped together. The latter can give it a cold and distant sound.
  • mhardy6647mhardy6647 Posts: 26,071
    That's usually because that's how they were recorded. Most pop music (and a surprising amount of 'serious' music as well) is recorded as multiple mono & mixed together to create artificial stereo. Usually, though, the sound is "close", not distant, in such recordings (especially in the last 10-15 years).

    I don't doubt that there's all sorts of sonic wizardry that effects to do what you want to do -- I don't know if it would be a real improvement.

    I also cannot offer much in the way of suggestions without examples of recordings that you think are "good" in terms of what you want and "bad" in terms of what you want -- and I also have no idea what kind of equipment you're using (or even what sort of source, analog or digital).

    Good luck on your quest, though.
  • pkquatpkquat Posts: 716
    Yep, a lot were recorded that way, but good recording engineers new some tricks. Some studios had more lively the recording rooms, or knew where to locate equipement and mics to give a better sound. Recent notes on that are Dave Grohls Studio 606, and Sonic Highways vs. the "Protools" digital world.

    The best example is some of the DSP programs on recievers, but few do well with only 2 speakers, and then it can be track dependent. There is not much room for adjustment. The Bose 301, 501, 601, is are good examples, and where I first noticed they helped liven some of these recordings. The were not faithful to the original, but gave a fuller, livelier, sonic effect with the reflections.

    I am looking to do it in the digital domain. Read a FLAC or wav file and re-encode it with some processing to give it a more lively sound. Without the original masters there is not a lot that can be done, but sometimes it can help. There is a lot of stuff out there, many are the same algorithms in a different software package. I am hoping someone has found something they liked.
  • tonybtonyb Posts: 32,479
    We used to call those equalizers back in the day. lol

    I know what your trying to do, but nothing I'm aware of is going to take a **** recording and turn it into a rose. Plenty of mini dsp things out there but they can only do so much and you might find those old bad recordings sounding somewhat fake and unimpressive by using them.

    They might help making some more listenable, but they will never bring them up to snuff against a good recording. Might be cheaper to just hunt up some good recordings of the music you think are turds.
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  • pkquatpkquat Posts: 716
    Ya I know it is a bit of a shot in the dark. The quality of these are ok. Its not so much the equalizer, its reflections, or simulated reflections enhancement that I am looking for. There are some "room effects" but often its a generic spacalizer -out of phase stuff- with heavy echo for everything. I haven't found one that does something like a simulated actual room or environment that I can actually save to a file.

  • tonybtonyb Posts: 32,479
    edited August 2016
    That's because the good dsp stuff cost some coin. Erniejade has just experienced some good results with his newly acquired gizmo, but it's not free or cheap.

    Even the downloaded software types of dsp, like Amara or others cost a pretty penny. Which circles back to....may be cheaper to just buy better recordings.
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  • tonybtonyb Posts: 32,479
    Pretty good description there Skip, I can second those thoughts as well. Many are stuck in that second stage because they figure the good recordings sound so good, why mess with it.

    All in all, you still have to figure out where to draw that line between upgrading, and about as much as you can do with bad recordings to make them listenable.

    You can google up many free DSP programs, worth their salt or not I dunno. I do know many like Amarra or Pure music with Amarra sounding a bit more tube like as some reviews claim anyway. Personally I have no experience with either.

    If your on a windows machine, they also have a free DSP program you can download. Again, worth it or not....I dunno.
    HT SYSTEM-
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    Wireworld eclipse 7 ic's
    Audio metallurgy ga-o digital cable

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    B&k 1420
    lsi 9's
  • pkquatpkquat Posts: 716
    For most of my effort this will be 2nd stage, and general headphone use. I was hoping someone may have found something. Maybe someone still will chime in. Most of the free DSP's I have tried have similar algorithms, which don't seam to do a good job of creating a room effect. I think it needs to only create reflections for certain frequencies and the time delays may vary depending on the frequency. Thinking about it further there is probably patents and licensing involved.

  • heiney9heiney9 Posts: 24,148
    edited August 2016
    It's very hard to create something that isn't there, especially when you are dealing with a fully realized stereo signal (vs. a multi-track). Everything applied is going to sound a little fake, funky or just plain weird if the info isn't there to begin with.

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

    Pass Aleph 30 | EE Avant Pre | EE Mini Max Plus DAC | MIT Shotgun S3 | MIT Z P/C's | updated SDA 1C| SQ Box Touch/Welbourne Labs P/S- Tubes add soul!
  • heiney9heiney9 Posts: 24,148
    edited August 2016
    The real possibility is to explore better gear, like scenario 3 of Dskips post. Perhaps that ambient info is there, you just aren't able to extract it with the gear/set-up you are using.

    One thing I have noticed in the past few years (especially when using tube gear) is there is large over emphasis on *most* contemporary popular music recordings. The amount of delay, ambience and effects I hear on most music can be over exaggerated. It wasn't as noticeable until I got a better dac and a better pre-amp. It was there before, but in "check" so to speak.

    Also speakers like SDA's are naturally designed to reproduce ambient info in recordings better than some conventional speakers.

    Live music, if recorded properly can have amazing ambient cues.

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

    Pass Aleph 30 | EE Avant Pre | EE Mini Max Plus DAC | MIT Shotgun S3 | MIT Z P/C's | updated SDA 1C| SQ Box Touch/Welbourne Labs P/S- Tubes add soul!
  • steveinazsteveinaz Posts: 19,464
    In the late 70's I played with a Pioneer reverberator.....pretty cool. You could make albums sound almost live.
    Source: Bluesound Node 2i - Preamp/DAC: Benchmark DAC2 DX - Amplifier: Parasound Halo A21 - Speakers: PSB Imagine T2 - Cables: Kimber Hero XLR; Kimber 8VS Bi-Wire; DH Labs D-75 dig coaxial
  • mhardy6647mhardy6647 Posts: 26,071
    steveinaz wrote: »
    In the late 70's I played with a Pioneer reverberator.....pretty cool. You could make albums sound almost live.

    Heh -- one of those in the basement someplace, still... I think...
  • pkquatpkquat Posts: 716
    I have a Parasound P5, and 2250 amp. A variety of Polk speakers includeding SDA 1C's (un-modded for now). They only highlight what isn't there.

    Many years ago when I was getting into audio, I heard some Bose 301's and 501's. I was impressed with the voicing, but IMO they gave everything a "live" sound. The reflections killed good stereo recordings (more symphonic type stuff where microphone placement was key), but some of the dead shoebox studio recordings sounded better.

    I'll keep waiting and looking. Eventually something may turn up.
  • mhardy6647mhardy6647 Posts: 26,071
    edited August 2016
    I would definitely be looking at the hardware being used for reproduction in lieu of software -- but maybe that's just me.

    Realizing this is a heretical statement on these forums; I am not a big fan of the "SDA" effect.

    The Parasound amplifiers are very respectable for massmarket, solid state stuff... but there are many other paths to enlightenment out there.

    EDIT: Just my opinions, of course. Free advice, and worth every penny it cost! ;-)
    Advice, like castor oil, is easy to give and hard to take.



  • pkquatpkquat Posts: 716
    As mentioned, this will be stuck mostly on 2nd stage stuff. Given the variety of hardware I've listened too, some very far beyond my price range, and the variety of much better recordings, I don't think much more can be extracted. Even if I gold plate it, it will look the same, and likely devalue the gold in that state. The right box and air freshener should do the trick to cover up the bad.
  • mhardy6647mhardy6647 Posts: 26,071
    edited August 2016
    I'm sure your correct -- you clearly know far more about amplifiers and loudspeakers than I do.

    Then again, you might be surprised :-)
  • tonybtonyb Posts: 32,479
    pkquat wrote: »
    For most of my effort this will be 2nd stage, and general headphone use.

    Color me confused, I always thought the point of headphones was to take the room out of the equation. Which kinda diffuses the whole DSP thing I would guess.

    I might be more prone to look at gear and cables, source material.....rather than DSP software. That's just me though, like I said, the good programs are not real cheap nor free, hence why all the ones you have tried pretty much do the same thing for you.
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  • JPeteJPete Posts: 292
    Just mod the SDAs. Might be the cure.
    Lexicon RT-10, Parasound P5, McCormack DNA 0.5, Polk SDA CRS+, SVS Sub
    Schiit Modi, Luminous Audio Axiom II, McCormack DNA-1, Digital Phase AP 2
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    Spares - Kenwood C1 Pre, NAD 2200PE, Polk Monitor 10B, Polk Model 11, other odds and ends
  • tonybtonyb Posts: 32,479
    I'm guessing he just hasn't found that synergy within his system yet.
    HT SYSTEM-
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    Sony 4k BRP
    SVS SB-2000
    Polk Sig. 20's
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    Cables-
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    Acoustic zen Matrix 2 IC's
    Wireworld eclipse 7 ic's
    Audio metallurgy ga-o digital cable

    Kitchen

    Sonos zp90
    Grant Fidelity tube dac
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    lsi 9's
  • JPeteJPete Posts: 292
    I lost some synergy when I introduced a P5 into my system. A lot more detail and lower noise floor were obvious, but I just didn't feel as involved as before. Some cable swaps and a new(used) CD player got me where I want to be for now and I didn't drop much coin.

    I still say mod the SDAs. Heard some stock 2As a few months back. Big difference from what I've been used to for a while now.
    Lexicon RT-10, Parasound P5, McCormack DNA 0.5, Polk SDA CRS+, SVS Sub
    Schiit Modi, Luminous Audio Axiom II, McCormack DNA-1, Digital Phase AP 2
    Marantz AV7701, Emotiva XPA-5, Paradigm 11se Mkii, DCM Time Windows, NHT 2C, SVS Sub

    Spares - Kenwood C1 Pre, NAD 2200PE, Polk Monitor 10B, Polk Model 11, other odds and ends
  • heiney9heiney9 Posts: 24,148
    steveinaz wrote: »
    In the late 70's I played with a Pioneer reverberator.....pretty cool. You could make albums sound almost live.

    I could never stand the extreme phasing issues with that "springboard" type thing. Sounded really unnatural, of course it depends on what "state" your mind was in at the time.......then I never really noticed it.

    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

    Pass Aleph 30 | EE Avant Pre | EE Mini Max Plus DAC | MIT Shotgun S3 | MIT Z P/C's | updated SDA 1C| SQ Box Touch/Welbourne Labs P/S- Tubes add soul!
  • heiney9heiney9 Posts: 24,148
    tonyb wrote: »
    I'm guessing he just hasn't found that synergy within his system yet.

    Or they are poor recordings with which noting can be done to improve. Sometimes a t ur d is really a tu rd.

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

    Pass Aleph 30 | EE Avant Pre | EE Mini Max Plus DAC | MIT Shotgun S3 | MIT Z P/C's | updated SDA 1C| SQ Box Touch/Welbourne Labs P/S- Tubes add soul!
  • pkquatpkquat Posts: 716
    heiney9 wrote: »
    Or they are poor recordings with which noting can be done to improve. Sometimes a t ur d is really a tu rd. H9
    pkquat wrote: »
    I don't think much more can be extracted. Even if I gold plate it, it will look the same, and likely devalue the gold in that state. The right box and air freshener should do the trick to cover up the bad.

    heiney stated what I was eluding too.

    Its not the room or the system I am trying to fix, its the original recording, quickly engineered with not much care in a shoebox studio, just to be clear. I found sometimes it sounded better when there were added room reflections. While artificial, it added depth and openness to the recording. Given that it is rock, the music is already highly processed. In some cases think of it like trying to make it sound like an a band at an amphitheater vs. on an open back flat bed trailer in an open field. It may not come out rosey, but the right effect may mask the odor and put the stink out of mind, creating a more pleasing experience.

    I can't always take my room and system with me. I do listen to it on the go with headphones. Sometimes I play it through a low-fi setup elsewhere. Digital alteration allows me to take the changes anywhere I go.

    This is only an example, but I think fits. Lets say you have a recording where one track had a decent ground loop 60Hz hum that no one caught, the source tracks were lost, and no studio cares to do a re-release. In a basic system using tone controls to reduce the annoying hum would likely take out too much. An ok equalizer with more bands would get closer, but may not be enough. A parametric equalizer may do better, but a consumer version on a budget could also add unwanted artifacts. Pro-gear may be needed, for me that is not worth it for a sub $10 CD these days. With the digital realm there may be a decent digital equalizer or better yet notch filter that could remove the hum and not add artifacts for free, or a low cost. Some information may still get lost, but less than other methods. The end result should sound pretty good if you are annoyed by the hum.


  • pkquatpkquat Posts: 716
    edited August 2016
    Jabo wrote: »
    pkquat, for free software, you could try audacity and experiment. But I echo H9 in his assessment. If it's a garbage recording, not much you can do.

    https://sourceforge.net/projects/audacity/

    I am aware of them, and am always impressed. I was never able to find a decent setting or plugin though. There are likely patents and licensing keeping some of the features out of shareware. Its been a year and a half since I have played with it. Once I get some other projects finished, I may try and play again.
  • tonybtonyb Posts: 32,479
    When it comes to original recordings, you can't fix what isn't there. You can add gimmicky sound effects, but that just makes them sound worse imho.

    You can subtract from what is there though, but adding whats not, more times than not won't turn out too well.

    A bad recording is a bad recording, you either listen to it as is or find something else to listen too. Not like we are limited on choices.

    I know some people who use programs like Audacity, can't say I was overwhelmed by the sound or even that it made a great improvement. It can take certain aspects of the signal and improve them, but it just draws more attention to the aspects of the signal that are still garbage resulting in an uneven sound.

    Just my take on it, your experiences may differ.
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    Acoustic zen Matrix 2 IC's
    Wireworld eclipse 7 ic's
    Audio metallurgy ga-o digital cable

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  • heiney9heiney9 Posts: 24,148
    One area where I have seen significant improvement is modern remastering of old bootleg tapes. Now in the bootleg world you really only have a dedicated fan’s information or the actual remasterer’s information about the lineage and techniques used. But I have heard some pretty significant improvements using the same bootleg tapes that have been in circulation for years.

    To the best on my knowledge these are painstakingly gone over in a professional or semi-professional studio with someone who has some knowledge of the gear and programs used. In a few instance the transformation is startling.

    But then we are talking about audience recordings made 30 plus years ago many times on cassettes or portable reel to reel and even still the new versions aren’t “audiophile” quality in most instances, but it’s the noted improvement over the original that is apparent.

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

    Pass Aleph 30 | EE Avant Pre | EE Mini Max Plus DAC | MIT Shotgun S3 | MIT Z P/C's | updated SDA 1C| SQ Box Touch/Welbourne Labs P/S- Tubes add soul!
  • mhardy6647mhardy6647 Posts: 26,071
    tonyb wrote: »
    ...
    A bad recording is a bad recording, you either listen to it as is or find something else to listen too. Not like we are limited on choices.
    ...

    Amen.

    As an example, the horrible recording of the early Moody Blues' chestnut "Go Now" springs to mind.


  • tonybtonyb Posts: 32,479
    H9 makes good points. Modern "remastering" can do what the OP wants but that takes more than what any free software program can offer.

    Look for some remastered copies of your bad recordings to download.
    HT SYSTEM-
    Sony 850c 4k
    Pioneer elite vhx 21
    Sony 4k BRP
    SVS SB-2000
    Polk Sig. 20's
    Polk FX500 surrounds

    Cables-
    Acoustic zen Satori speaker cables
    Acoustic zen Matrix 2 IC's
    Wireworld eclipse 7 ic's
    Audio metallurgy ga-o digital cable

    Kitchen

    Sonos zp90
    Grant Fidelity tube dac
    B&k 1420
    lsi 9's
  • mhardy6647mhardy6647 Posts: 26,071
    edited August 2016
    Depends on the quality of the source recordings (raw tracks), though -- I concur that some pretty amazing "restoration" can be done today, but some source material is beyond rescue (e.g., that oversaturated "Go Now" recording linked to earlier). In other words, no miracles on that front.

    I think (well, I'd like to think) that this forum's consensus would coalesce around the notion that the most important consideration (and the "best practice") would be careful and deliberate choice of the most appropriate possible hardware (and/or signal processing s/w, in fairness) to reproduce recordings in the manner in which an individual wishes to hear them.

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