Hardware And Software Reviews
With Waves Native Restoration:
Waves Ltd.ís Native Restoration
Read G. Burgan
For seven long years in the 1970s I agonized with the appallingly poor quality of our National Public Radio signal that came to our studios over a class C teleco line. My frustration was further increased every time I listened to our neighboring NPR affiliate only 100 miles away receiving the same programming over a class A line.
Then literally in a moment, that was forever changed. In 1978 we fired up our brand new satellite receiver and suddenly our listeners were transported from tin can audio quality to experiencing Susan Stamberg seemingly sitting in their own living room or car. It was a heady time.
But after the euphoria died away, we began to see that the 50 to 15,000 Hz network quality was a double edged sword. Now fewer and fewer of the features we submitted to NPR were accepted. The reason? Our studio facility wasnít able to produce a sound quality that met the new network criteria. Features that sounded all right on a land based distribution system sounded down right awful on the new satellite system.
Worse than that, the disparity in technical quality between our own locally produced news and public affairs programs and those of the network became painfully apparent. The muffled sound of teletype machines, noisy air conditioners, clanking steam pipes, the sounds of cars in an adjacent outside parking lot and other building sounds all combined to create an ambiance that seemingly shouted: ďThis isnít as good as the rest of your programming!Ē
In the decades that have followed since that time, the demand for quality sound has only increased. Just being the loudest station will no longer guarantee a listening audience.
Every commercial, public service announcement, news actuality, and sports broadcast we produce needs to have the highest technical quality. And yet often forces beyond our control conspire to undercut our commitment to quality. Buzzing fluorescent light fixtures, noisy air compressors, traffic sounds, ungrounded outlets, etc.
How can we make audio made in the real world sound as if it were produced in the highest quality Hollywood studio? In the past dozen years or so, digital restoration software has provided tools that can remove the unwanted sounds that plague most of us.
But until now, virtually all digital restoration software has suffered from two problems: 1. A long learning curve; and 2. Lengthy processing times.
Waves Ltd. has addressed these problems by introducing a new digital restoration package called Native Restoration that is easy to learn and can process a WAV file very quickly.
Native Restoration is available as a plug-in for either MAC (RTAS, AudioSuite, VST, MAS) or PC (RTAS, AudioSuite, VST, DirectX under Windows 95, 98 or NT), The package contains four plug-ins: X-Click for removing impulsive noise like pops and clicks); X-Crackle for removing smaller pops and clicks and some record surface noise; X-Hum that has eight harmonically linked notch filters that can attenuate ground loop hum by up to -60 dB plus a high pass filter; and X-Noise for removing broad band noise such as record surface noise, air conditioning sound, etc.
I tested Native Restoration on two PCs equipped with Intel P-III processors (650 and 850 MHz) and Windows 98 SR II operating system. I used Sound Forge 4.5 as my native host program.
For the purposes of testing, I used a variety of analog sources including long play records, 78 rpm records, 16 inch electrical transcriptions and reel-to-reel tape. Unlike other restoration software that I use, Waves Native Restoration required almost no learning curve.
I was able to begin the restoration process after only a few minutes of experimentation. Waves has minimized the number of on-screen controls, and the function of each is intuitive.
For example, X-Noise has controls that are similar to dynamic processors. You set the attack and release times and then adjust the threshold and the degree to which you want the noise reduction to take effect.
Since all of the plug-ins can be monitored in real time, it takes very little time or effort to establish the best sounding settings for a particular sound file. In the case of X-Noise, you also create a sound profile by sampling a small amount of the offending noise that you want to remove.
Native Restoration is incredibly fast, and thatís no accident. It was designed to minimize the amount of processor overhead required. As a result, I found that I could remove the pops and clicks from a 20 minute stereo 44.1 kHz WAV file in 1:35, and remove the surface noise using X-Noise in 2:11 for a total restoration time of 3:46. That compares with a total time of 49:23 to do the same amount of work using the restoration package that I normally use.
How does the final sound compare? I found that the WAV files restored by the Waves package were comparable in quality to the package that I have been using daily over the past several years.
Letís face it: Time is money. In this case, Waves Native Restoration software was able to do in a little more than 3 minutes what it took my usual software more than 49 minutes. This means that I should be able to do nearly 12 digital restoration projects in the time that it normally takes me to do one. I say nearly 12 projects, because there is time required to adjust the restoration settings for each particular project.
However, I did find one problem with Native Restoration. The current version saves the settings for the Noise Profile in a proprietary sub menu. Because of this, every time you open the module, you have to either create a totally new noise profile or load an old noise profile from the sub menu. Other DirectX plug-ins generally save their settings in a way that automatically loads the last used noise profile when you open it.
While this is more of a nuisance than anything else, this convention causes a more serious problem. I have created a series of ďstandardĒ noise profiles that I can apply to sound files with similar noise patterns. This allows me to batch process multiple sound files.
I will often transfer several hours worth of material to be digitally restored during the day, and then have the software batch process all the files over night using the appropriate noise profile.
Because of the way that Waves currently saves its noise profile settings, it is not possible to run X-Noise using Sound Forgeís batch compiler. Iím told that this problem will be addressed in a future release.
Nonetheless Wavesí Native Restoration is a high quality digital restoration package that can provide excellent quality digital restoration in a fraction of the time required by most other restoration software and is easy to learn and apply. I give it an A plus and recommend as it quick and easy way to clean up virtually any audio source at your radio station or production studio.
Native Restoration by Waves Ltd. has a suggested retail price of $1200.
Waves 306 West Depot Ave. Suite 100, Knoxville, TN 37917 tel: 1-865-546-6115 fax:1-865-546-8445 http://www.waves.com.
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 email@example.com
Minimal Learning Curve
Easy To Use
High Quality Restoration
Fast Digital Restoration
Noise Profile Parameters Canít Be Saved According To Normal Plug-In Conventions