Noise Removal

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Peter 09Aug14: ToDo James wrote by email yesterday "The new text in the manual for 'Remove the noise' should give a suggested order for tweaking the parameters (which should be arranged in the GUI in that order!) and what you listen for as you tweak each one. Exactly what that text will be depends on what is done before 2.0.7 to sort out the effect. I expect it to be almost identical in length to the text that is there now. I think it is possible for an effect like this to have a large number of parameters and be successful, but that does require that a good protocol for adjusting them be planned/thought-out as they are added. Otherwise the parameters are likely to be too coupled and near impossible to set well."
  • Peter 09Aug14: Presumably this will become an easier task once we have Leland's real time stuff released.


FrenchFlagSmall.png Reducción de ruido

Noise Removal can reduce constant background sounds such as hum, whistle, whine or buzz, and moderate amounts of "hiss". It is not suitable for individual clicks and pops, or irregular background noise such as from traffic or an audience.

To use Noise Removal, you need a region in the waveform that contains only the noise you want to remove.

Be aware that it may be impossible to get a satisfactory removal when the noise is very loud, when the noise is variable, when the music or speech is not much louder than the noise or when the noise frequencies are very similar to those of the music or speech.

Accessed by: Effect > Noise Removal...
NoiseRemoval.png

Step 1 - Get Noise Profile

This first step teaches Audacity about the noise you want to remove by identifying the noise floor of the different frequencies comprising the noise.

  1. Select a region of the waveform which contains only noise. A few seconds is sufficient, but a few milliseconds selected when zoomed in will not be enough. If there are very different types of noise in different places in the track, they are best dealt with by grabbing the profile for the first type, removing the noise for it, then grabbing the profile of the next type of noise and removing that.
  2. Click Effect > Noise Removal
  3. Click Get Noise Profile

Step 2 - Remove the Noise

  1. Select the region of waveform which you want to remove noise from, then set the Noise Removal parameters. This is often best done by trial and error, adjusting the sliders and using the Preview button to listen to a few seconds of audio after noise reduction.
  2. Click Effect > Noise Removal:
    • Noise Reduction (dB): Controls the amount of volume reduction to be applied to the noise. Use the lowest value that reduces the noise to an acceptable level. Higher values than necessary may make the noise even quieter, but will result in distortion of the audio that remains.
    • Sensitivity (dB): Controls how much of the audio will be considered as noise, by applying a gain to the noise thresholds obtained in Step 1. Moving the slider rightwards from zero will treat more audio as noise, which will then be reduced by the level set on the Noise Reduction slider.
      With light noise or noise that is very different to the audio, you may not need to adjust Sensitivity. For heavier noise or noise that is blended into the audio, move the Sensitivity slider rightwards from zero, and experiment by setting both this and the Noise Reduction slider to the lowest levels conducive with effective noise reduction. If you still get a little distortion, try adjusting the following two sliders.
    • Frequency Smoothing (Hz): The larger this value the more that the effect considers different frequencies as "the same". If your noise is a single frequency such as mains hum or a high-pitched whistle, then keep this value small. If your noise is more like a hiss, then a larger value will generally be better.
    • Attack/decay time (secs): How quickly noise removal reacts. Use a larger value if the background noise is pretty constant. Use a smaller value if it varies rapidly.
    • Noise:
      • Remove: Select this option to remove the noise from the selection.
      • Isolate: Select this option to keep the noise, making it more prominent by reducing the other sounds in the selection. If you hear tinkly artifacts in the non-noise, this may suggest Sensitivity is set too high. Currently, "Isolate" works best with Frequency Smoothing and Attack/decay time set to zero.

Alternative settings

For heavier noise, the default settings above are recommended, increasing the "Sensitivity" slider if necessary.

For light noise (for example FM hiss or web-stream carrier noise) the default settings in Noise Removal may be a little too aggressive, possibly introducing tinkly artifacts.

  • Noise Reduction (dB): Try setting this to about 12 dB. It will still have an appreciable effect on low level noise, but will reduce the risk of tinkly artifacts.
  • Frequency Smoothing (Hz): Try increasing this a little, typically to around 500 Hz.
  • Sensitivity control (dB): Reducing this can further help to make the effect less aggressive, but may require a lot of experimentation for only slightly better results. For a quick result, this slider is usually best left at the default 0.0 dB.

For critical work it is best to experiment for optimum settings; see this page in the Wiki for further advice on using the settings for this effect.

Steve 23Oct13: As seen on the forum, many users have very noisy recordings and will need to make the effect more aggressive to have an appreciable effect. On the other hand, many users have pretty good recordings and just need a touch of noise reduction. Overall I think the defaults are a good compromise - perhaps a bit too aggressive for some, but not quite enough for others. Importantly the default settings are likely to be in the right ball park for most users.
  • Steve 16Jun14 (from Forum comment): These days I tend to leave it at around 300 Hz unless I hear tinkly artefacts, in which case I'll try pushing it up to around 500.

Tips

After creating a noise profile, CTRL + R or Effect > Repeat Noise Removal will apply Noise Removal.

Removing noise usually results in some distortion. This is normal and there's virtually nothing you can do about it. When there's only a little bit of noise, and the signal (that is, the voice or the music or whatever) is much louder than the noise, this effect works well and there's very little audible distortion. Unfortunately, when the noise is very loud, variable, or when the signal is not much louder than the noise the result may be too distorted.

If you are still having problems the following tips may help:

  • Do any click removal, compression or other effects after doing noise removal, not before. It works best as close to the source of the noise as possible. One exception to this rule is applying the optional Notch Filter... to remove hum or whistle before tackling the hiss.
  • Duplicate your source track before you apply noise removal, and adjust the relative volume of the two tracks to get the best sound quality.
  • If your problem is mains hum or a high-pitched whistle, the use of a Notch Filter... may help. This page on the Audacity wiki outlines the steps. Apply this effect before applying Noise Removal.
Peter 09Aug14: ToDo James wrote by email yesterday "When the effect is fixed the tip in the manual about using a notch filter (for mains hum or whistle) first won't be needed as the noise removal will/should behave perfectly when used as a notch filter. It's quite clear from my tests that it not doing so is the bug Paul talks about."

and he also wrote "I think the tip in the manual about duplicating the track will also become redundant, as I think the 'noise reduction' parameter should be having that effect, when the effect is 'fixed'."

Warning icon When using Noise Removal in Chains the profile is captured as below.
  • If a Noise Profile exists, that Noise Profile will be used. It is often best to capture a suitable Noise Profile before running a Chain.
  • If a Noise Profile does not exist:
    • If the Chain is applied to the current project, the current selection is used to create the Noise Profile. Therefore, other effect commands in the Chain will also only apply to that selection. If an export command is added, the entire file will be exported.
    • If the Chain is applied to files, the first file (all of it) is used to create the Noise Profile. It may be useful to prepare a file containing a suitable Noise Profile and name it so that it is alphabetically the first file of those to be run in the Chain.
For advanced tips please see the Noise Removal page in the Audacity Wiki.

For a more technical explanation of the algorithm used in Noise Removal, see How Noise Removal Works in the Wiki.

Also see Sample workflow for LP digitization which lists some alternative noise removal software that you can use as part of your audio restoration routine.

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