Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Editing Out Loud Background Noise with Adobe Audition

This morning I had an opportunity to attend a memorial service for Vietnam Veterans at Kansas State University, conducted by the Air Force ROTC detachment at KSU. Since starting the “Sounds of My World” blog a couple months ago, I’ve been enjoying ambient audio recording in different settings. Just as my Photo 365 blog project has helped me be more thoughtful and aware of photographic opportunities each day, my sound blog has done the same thing for potential audio recording moments. Earlier today I shared two audio recordings from the Veteran’s ceremony and one from the KSU – OU Football game we attended this afternoon:

I made a longer recording during the ceremony of the actual proceedings, but unfortunately the speaker was much quieter than the cadet who recited the poem and didn’t speak very close to the microphone. As a result, background noise from a nearby heater / air conditioner was VERY loud and distracting in the audio recording I made. I needed to find a way to remove it.

Back in 2007, when I attended MacWorld in San Francisco, I saw a brief demo in the Adobe booth of Adobe Audition software. I remember it vividly, because the person conducting the demo showed how the software can be used to remove the sounds of a loud fire alarm in a file in which people were conversing in low tones. It was AMAZING and really made a big impression on me.

Besides Adobe Audition, the other software program I’ve heard about for background noise removal is Music and Speech Cleaner by iZotope. It’s a $20 software program for Mac, which Bob Sprankle mentioned and recommended in his August 25th podcast. Tonight I didn’t want to purchase new software, but I did need to see if I could clean up this audio file. I opted to download and install a preview version of Adobe Audition for Mac.

I searched online for video tutorials about noise removal using Adobe Audition, and found two I used: This video from Jason Levine from 2009 (on Vimeo) and a video from Pogolink from 2006 (on YouTube). Even though both videos are for previous versions of Audition, the basics here are the same:

  • Find a portion of the audio file which JUST includes the noise you want to remove
  • Try and highlight only those portions of the audio file which contains those portions
  • Use the Effects tool for Noise Removal to delete those portions of audio from your file

I have tried to use Audacity software (free) for noise removal in the past, but I’ve never had great results with it. A MAJOR difference between Audition software (which IS expensive, it retails for $349) and Audacity is the ability to view and modify the spectral frequency display of an audio file, shown in the screenshot below.

I’ve also used The Levelator software (free) in the past to boost and “even out” the amplitude of recorded audio files. This evening, Adobe Audition worked great to edit my 11 minute recording to a shorter (cropped) 8 minute version, adjust the amplitude so the clapping wasn’t too loud and the rest of the audio was louder, AND remove a good bit of the background fan noise from the file. I posted the final version on my sound blog on the post, “Honoring our Vietnam Veterans.”

The final result is not a perfect sounding audio file, but it’s HEAPS better than the original which was barely audible and pretty bad because of background fan noise. Since I’m still (officially) a doctoral student till the end of the term, I’m going to check into an academic license for Adobe Audition. I’ve known for years it has great noise reduction potential, but tonight was my first opportunity to give these a try personally. I’m very pleased and impressed with the possibilities it offers.

Have you had success with noise removal procedures with audio editing software in the past? Please share any tips or recommendations you have. As much audio recording as I do these days, I’m sure this is a skill I’m going to want to hone further in the months ahead!

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One response to “Editing Out Loud Background Noise with Adobe Audition”

  1. Audrey Carrio Avatar
    Audrey Carrio

    Hello Wesley,
    I am a student at the University of South Alabama majoring in Secondary Education and I am currently in Dr. Strange’s EDM 310 class. I have to admit I didn’t know much about computers or technology before this class. I have never used any of the programs you discussed in the post but it was very informative, and if i ever need to this post will be a great reference. Your other blogs sound so interesting too. A photo blog and a sound blog seem like they would be so much fun! Thank you for the post!