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A Second Opinion On DartPro98:
A Software Review by Read G. Burgan
Published In RADIO WORLD December 8, 1999:

DartPro98: Second Opinion
Read G. Burgan

Carl Lindemann reviewed DartPro98 in the Nov. 10 issue of RW.  I have a different opinion about this product.

Things are either good or bad as compared to better or worse things. This is as true of software as it is of anything else. DartPro98 is indeed a “good” digital restoration software, but in my opinion, when compared to other currently available PC-based software, it is not the “best” -- particularly in the two most important areas: declicking and broadband noise reduction.

When DART was first released in 1995, I was one of the first to use it and to review it (RW: 9/6/95 “Digital Noise Eliminator for PC”). Since then, I have followed DART’s upgrades with interest (DartPro; DartPro32; and DartPro98). Each has brought new features that has improved the product.

The heart and soul of the original DART was “Declick”, an algorithm that removed impulsive disturbances. DART was one of the first companies out of the starting gate with a declick program for the PC. Until then such programs were the province of the MAC world.

I immediately incorporated DART into my digital production work, and was grateful for a tool that could remove more pops and clicks in a few minutes than I could manually remove in a week or more.

But since that time a number of companies have produced declick software and in today’s world of digital audio processing, the current algorithm(s) used by DartPro98 are not nearly as effective for some kinds of digital restoration. I work a lot with electrical transcriptions from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, each with a wide variety of music and talking.

When working with programs that feature talk, DP98’s declick algorithm can produce distortion unless set for minimum declicking. Unfortunately this leaves an unacceptable number of pops and clicks. Other declick software applied to the same material removes a substantially larger number of impulsive disturbances without adding distortion.

DartPro added a broadband noise reduction tool -- a welcome addition to the program’s arsenal of digital restoration tools, and DartPro98 has refined the tool by adding a means of graphically displaying and adjusting the noise print.

But even with these improvements DP98 lags behind the competition. The newest versions of other broadband noise reduction software that I have tested consistently remove a greater amount of noise from the same material with fewer artifacts and less time and energy to achieve the results.

Since declick and broadband noise reduction tools are the core of any digital audio restoration software, this presents a serious lack. Other tools add to the program’s versatility, but for anyone involved in vinyl restoration, the final results are only as good as the declick and noise reduction algorithms.

DP98 adds support for Direct-X plug-ins for the first time, but even here the program falls short. DP98 could not access any of the presets of the plug-in's I tested, requiring the manual resetting of the various parameters for each plug-in.

One other problem has characterized DART from it’s inception: a clumsy Graphical User Interface. I have used a number of PC-based digital audio editors over the years, and DART’s is by far the most difficult to use. Cursor movement is controlled by a menu that includes such choices as Play all, Play window, Play from cursor, play local, etc. Zooming in or out requires clicking up and down on two parameters: Resolution and multiplier.

The interface is workable, but serious digital audio work requires the ability to zoom in and out rapidly and to move quickly from one place in the WAV file to another. Time is money and DP98 requires far more time and energy to navigate than do other comparable digital audio editors.

My recommendation is that the producers of DP98 update their declick and noise reduction algorithms to match or exceed that available in comparable software and then repackage them as Direct-X plug-in's that can be used with any PC-based digital audio editor.

If they want to continue offering an entire digital audio restoration package, they should give serious consideration to completely revamping their onscreen display.

As it stands, is probably sufficient for those who want to casually restore LP's that are in fairly decent condition and don’t require a lot of attention. But for professional restoration of very noisy recordings, there are other programs available that can do a better job.

-- THE END --

Read Burgan is a free lance writer and a former public radio station manager who can be reached at (906) 296-0652 or through e-mail at rgb@bresnanlink.net.