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At a recent performance, one of the vocal microphones was connected poorly and the sound recorded (example) contains some noise. As far as I can tell it's basically a lot of clicks as the connection is cutting in and out.

I have a recording of the main output from the mixer, as well as a direct out for the problem microphone (and a few other channels). Unfortunately it was a once-off performance so this recording is all I have to work with.

Most of the time, the singer using this microphone was a backing singer. For these songs, I'm planning to remove the sound from the problem microphone altogether. However, I don't have individual recordings for all of the channels. My current plan is to mix the main recording with an inverted copy of the problem channel. Is this likely to work? Or is there a better alternative?

However, on one particular song, this singer was the main (solo) singer. On this one I'd like to clean up the sound as much as possible while keeping the actual vocals. Is this feasible, and if so what would be the best approach? I've tried a couple of things without success:

  • The noise removal plugins that I've seen need a noise profile to compare against. Unfortunately the nature of the problem means I don't have any samples of "just" noise for this.

  • Audacity's click removal effect doesn't detect any clicks for some reason even at its most sensitive.

  • EQ doesn't seem to work as the noise is broad frequency.

To complicate things, my budget is very limited, I'd rather avoid spending anything if it can be avoided. I do own a copy of Reaper already.

  • Were there any effects on the vocals in the mix? And what was the bleed from the venue like into the mic? – David Boshton Feb 25 '15 at 15:39
  • @DavidBoshton No there weren't any effects. There wasn't a great deal of bleed, the stage sound can be heard underneath the vocal but it is quite quiet. – just me Feb 26 '15 at 12:01
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Audacity has a noise removal plugin.

My advice is to try removing that track from the mix by inverting. Can't hurt, and if you've got it on it's own it's not going to take a great deal of time.

As far as the lead part goes, you've got issues. If click removal didn't work you may need to do some manual removal of those noises. Apply noise removal to it anyway and see how it goes; the algorithm's pretty clever.

You have all the tools you need. You just need to now get your hands very, very dirty.

It's basically going to be one of those things that will take time. That's why most of the posts on this kind of topic result in answers of the form "Re-record, it'll take less time", but as that's not an option for you, you have a journey to go on. Let us know what you try.

  • Thanks for the answer, sorry for the delay but things have been busy. I've taken another look and although I still can't seem to get Audacity's noise removal plugin to help very much, I've had some success with the repair plugin. It's a slow process and not perfect, but it is definitely improving things. Inverting the backing vocals also seems to be working, again it's not perfect (can't get the level just right) but it does significantly reduce the volume of the clicks. – just me Mar 12 '15 at 22:03
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what would be the best approach

I would manually remove the clicks from the lead vocal track by zooming way in and muting as little as possible to get rid of the click. If the clicks aren't super loud, and depending on the volume of the other tracks, reducing volume on the clicks until they are imperceptible may yield better results.

I'd then apply some reverb to the track to blend out the mutes. If there are enough other sounds going on this can work to great effect.

If the clicks occur too frequently or at too many crucial vocal parts, or there's not enough other material going on to help mask the edits, then audio restoration may not be possible.

In that case, if the backing tracks are great, then I'd consider bringing in the singer and re-recording the vocals.

It may say live, but it's all illusion anyway.

  • Thanks for the answer, good suggestion about the reverb, I'll give that a try once I've removed the clicks. Might be a while though as there are lots of them. – just me Mar 12 '15 at 22:07

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