Audio Enhancement for Aging Media

May 2


Nuuk Larsen

Nuuk Larsen

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Just because media is outdated and virtually unsupported, that doesn’t mean old recordings are lost. Read more about how audio enhancement can help you recover data and audio from outdated media like reel to reel tapes.


Technology is taking us to new places with audio. During lectures,Audio Enhancement for Aging Media Articles conferences, speeches, press gatherings and other types of speaking engagements, the speaker commonly uses complex audio equipment and teams for direct audio enhancement. Meaning – the equipment that is setup at the event provides the cleanest audio both for presentation and for recording.

This extra effort on the front end minimizes the work that audio experts and professionals have to do when packaging recorded audio to other media format for distribution or syndication among news studios, DVD products, etc.

It wasn’t long ago that speakers did not have the benefit of the high quality audio enhancement techniques we use now during presentations and recordings.  Before amplification of audio and recording devices was mainstream, public speakers and those giving lectures had to rely on careful annunciation and voice projection to ensure that everyone in attendance could hear them clearly.

Even with careful annunciation and training in giving speeches, the resulting recordings were limited by the low quality audio technology of the time.  Even with improvement in microphones and recording technology, the audio was still recorded to magnetic tape.

Changing the Way We Hear

Beyond the professional sphere, personal recordings such as audio letters and diaries recorded to analog media can suffer the effect of time.  Important events in family histories can be lost without audio enhancement.  Unfortunately, things like atmosphere, sun exposure, gases, dust and humidity can have a toll on tape media that make it virtually impossible to recover even with audio enhancement.

It is important to note here that audio enhancement is not a magic button, or instant fix for damaged and/or aging audio recordings.  Audio engineers can tackle minor artifact, poor volume in audio and segregation of some noises but it cannot repair badly damaged tape.

To counter this issue, some companies rely on oral history transcription and other forms of professional transcription once enhancement is complete.  These transcripts can provide a written account of the recorded dialogue.  For important audio, this is an effective way to review the audio on older tape without submitting that older tape to continued replays that could severe the media and cause additional damage.

Common Problems Requiring Audio Enhancement

Older media such as reel-to-reels once allowed for recording at different speeds.  It wasn’t uncommon to get an important recording that wound up being recorded at the wrong speed due to mechanical issues and tape deck malfunctions at the time of the recording.  Audio engineering makes it easy to adjust the playback speed of media when moving it to a digital recording.  This keeps the master intact while providing you with a modern format for playback and review.

Beyond playback speeds, audio enhancement can tone down or remove things like buzzing, hissing, humming, electrical interference, ambient sounds (car horns, motor noise, traffic, nature sounds) and variable tones that interfere with hearing and understanding the spoken dialogue of a recording.

Don’t give up on old reel to reel recordings, especially if the data is something important to you.  Audio enhancement and oral history transcription can breathe new life into your old audio formats.