Restoring your old tapes / cleaning up the hiss sound

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Here is a quick n dirty guide to 'cleaning up' your mixtapes from back in the day.

Unless your lucky enough to have a near mint copy of a mix, its probably got some hissing on it - most of mine have :eyebrow:

For example CANOs copy of mix factory @ sequins (nice one for the upload matey :wave: ) had a lot of hiss and was very low in volume averaging at roughly -4db. Us humans like things at roughly 0db (thats "zero" decibells). Its just the level our ears find best.

Here is an example of what the mix looked like before it was cleaned up and after it was cleaned up.


As you can see, the wave image on the left is before, and the one on the right is after.

Click on the mp3 below to listen to the example - as you will hear its well worth cleaning up tapes if you think they need it.

Click here to listen

There are quite a few different ways to clean up audio, but this is just "my way" :)

I use the Waves plug-ins bundle, simply because they are "the shit" for this type of thing.
There are many others on the market and even ready made pieces of software designed to restore your beloved recordings.

i do my restoration in the following order.

1. Remove hiss with X-Noise plug in.
2. Normalise
3. Expand/Limit with Waves L1, L2 or L3. (not always necessary)

1. Open your mp3 in soundforge

Open mp3 in soundforge and it will look something like this...


as you can see the spikes average out around -4db, we need to bring this as close to 0db as possible.
but before you do this you should remove the hiss.

2. removing the hiss

Select the waves XNoise plugin as shown below...


Once open you now have to do some careful listening and use the controls i have highlighted below...



This is the level that the xnoise starts removing the hiss at. The higher you have this the more it removes.
Be careful though - you can end up degrading the actual mix if you do too much.


once the above threshold is reached the Reduction determines how much noise/hiss reduction is applied to the music. Again, too much of this and you will start reducing the quality of the music


click on the difference button and the music will be removed and all you can hear is the hiss that XNoise is removing. This is very useful in working out the right amount to set on your thresh and reduction levels.

When you start hearing music with difference mode enabled it pretty much means that your removing too much, so lower the threshold or reduction (use your ears).

bypass tickbox

bypass allows you to hear the audio without the xnoise enabled - a good way to see how it affects the audio file.
tick the bypass box - the hiss returns.

Realtime tickbox

realtime determines whether the hiss is removed as you hear it, or is processed first then sent to your speakers.
if you are not running a professional soundcard in your pc then realtime might be a bit much for your computer. when you change settings it will stutter the sound. unchecking the realtime checkbox will make it run smoother but you wont hear your setting changes instantly.

So, once your happy that youve removed enough hiss, hit the 'OK' button. This applies the hiss removal to your mix file.

Be patient! it could take up to 10 minutes to complete.

3. Normalising the file.

Now that weve removed the hiss we could do with bringing up the volume a bit.
Normalising finds the loudest part in the audio file, and then increases the volume of this loudest part to 0db - and also the rest of the file relatively.
If you dont understand - just do it! It makes sure its as loud as "normally" should be ;-)

You do this by choosing 'Process' from the top menu, then 'Normalize...'

This shows the following section...


Ensure the settings are as above and click OK.

Job Done!

I was going to add a section to this about limiting but will have to do that another time.

also, its not completely necessary or relevant to all situations, so maybe best left out ;-)

Hope this tute helps :thumbsup:

Dr Good Groove

New member
Sep 19, 2005
Good stuff. I have been meaning to transfer and clean up my old box of WBMX and pirate radio tapes for years but never got round to it. I'll probably give it a go after looking at this.


New member
Aug 10, 2006
Pensacola, Florida
Thanks for the tip. I have pleanty of tapes that need restoration. I currently have Microsoft Plus digital media but I've never used it and it doesn't seem to be nearly as good as the program you have, I'll have to check that program out. Thanks again.


New member
Aug 11, 2005
averaging at roughly -4db. Us humans like things at roughly 0db (thats "zero" decibells).

Thougfht my staffy was enjoying my tunes more than usual lol!

Nice one for putting this up, top improvement in sound quality :thumbsup:

I 'found' :eyebrow: z-noise, which looks & acts basically the same thing as x-noise


New member
Mar 30, 2007
Thanks Mate.

This is brilliant stuff. Files I would usually consign to the archives are now listenable.

I have only got a 2 week demo on x-noise though. Will try to sort that out if I can but its a tricky one.

I have found that for hissier issues cranking up the reduction a long way is better. Also checking the bypass (listening to before and after) is great and lets me really find the best settings. I am also saving my presets.

I have also found a light second pass helps with very noisy material.

Its also worth noting that its possible to multi task and work on more than one track at once.

Thanks again.

ps any pointers on my x-noise demo welcome.


New member
Mar 30, 2007
Just found a pretty decent noise reducer for the mac.

Soundsoap 2.

not nearly as useable and slow but does the job ok and the 'enhancer' is good.

Available from all good retailers!

Last edited:
you would need to plug your tape deck into your pc via your soundcards 'audio IN port'

On basic soundcards this is usually a single mini jack input so you would need to get the cable from maplins that goes from red&white phono to single mini jack. These are about 6 quid.

Once you have that sorted you could use Soundforge (which i used in this tutorial) or any sound recording program to record the tape as you play it.

There is a freeware one around called audacity and many others that do a good job.