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Audio Cleaning Lab

Audio Cleaning Lab a Pirate's Delight

by Jim Bray

If you’ve ever downloaded or created your own music files and listened to them back on a decent stereo system, you may have noticed that the audio quality can be all over the map.

Some files undoubtedly sound fine, while others can sound thin - and others can be full of pops and hisses and other noises that really get in the way of your enjoyment.

Part of the reason is the file compression used to make downloads more manageable. Another is that you never know where from whence these files came - whether compact disc, someone else’s download - or even from the original vinyl record. And if you've recorded your own tunes from vinyl records you may not have noticed that your record collection doesn't sound as good as it once did, whether through age, aging playback equipment, or whatever.

But take heart, pirates of the virtual realm, there’s a product that can help restore that music to its original glory. It won’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but it can correct some of the flaws commonly found in substandard files.

It’s called Audio Cleaning Lab 2004, from Magix, and for the investment of about forty bucks you can remove crackling, hissing, popping and assorted audio gremlins. And a lot more.

Audio Cleaning Lab

Audio Cleaning Lab takes the restoration and remastering process from beginning to end, with an easy to use interface and one stop burning solution that’ll have the heads of the record companies tearing out their hair.

You start by importing your files, downloading them from your hard drive, a compact disc, or from your stereo system and/or turntable. The software gives you a graphic representation of each file, kind of an oscilloscope-type look, then offers you a plethora and a half of options for tweaking them. Besides de-hissing and popping and the like, you can equalize the volumes, so one track doesn’t sound louder, expand the stereo image to create a wider soundstage, and even add special effects that have the potential to completely change the way the original recording sounds.

The latter seems like painting a moustache onto the Mona Lisa, but to each his, her or its own.

Once you’ve worked your digital magic, or wreaked your digital havoc, you can burn the results right to a CD - adding your own track breaks wherever you want.

It’s very easy and very flexible.

Audio Cleaning Lab

I used the product to make a couple of compilation discs with files downloaded from the Internet, mixed with others I recorded from vinyl LP and compact disc. The results were mixed, since the original files' qualities were also mixed, but overall I was happy with how the discs turned out.

I particularly appreciated the ease of use (it's really a no-brainer for the most part), which applies to the whole process. And the final burning process is easier than with most of the stand-alone burning programs I've tried.

Audio Cleaning Lab also lets you timer record Internet radio broadcasts for playback later, play music from your hard drive, or even filter out the vocals on songs so you can substitute your own voice - sort of a "karaoke from Hell" type of thing.

It’s by no means perfect, but it’s pretty neat in an evil type of way.

Features (Manufacturer's info):
Create digitally re-mastered music compilation CD's from your old LP's or cassettes
Rip CD's or input audio from mini discs (appropriate hardware required for mini discs)
Play MP3's from your hard drive with included jukebox
NEW! Timer-record Internet radio - never miss a program!
Build an archive of your own recordings
Burn your data files to CD for fast, secure storage
Restore soundtracks from old videos (AVI)
Fully automatic program guide and intuitive real-time editing
One-click audio cleaning, restoration and polishing
NEW! Automatic volume adjustment (Auto Volume)
Automatic recording: individual tracks identified and selected
Automatic video sound track cleaning (AVI)
Recording function for connected microphones & instruments
At-a-glance overview with enlargeable wave display and visualizer
Fast audio CD burning and autoplay-capable MP3* CD's (burn-proof support, disc-at-once)
Export as WAV, OGG Vorbis, Internet Streaming Format (WMA) or MP3* files

Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.

 

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