Step 5: Refine Your Recordings
Once you’ve captured the audio, you can take advantage of your software’s editing tools to greatly enhance the quality of your recording. Here are several common polishing chores:
Delete the Dreck If your tape of a concert begins with a few minutes of audience murmuring, delete it.
Like most audio editors, Amadeus II displays your recording as a waveform—a visual representation of sound. (For an overview of the Amadeus II interface, see “Editing Audio in Amadeus II.” ) To delete part of the recording, simply drag your mouse across that section of the waveform and then press the delete key.
Divvy It Up If you’ve recorded a mix of songs, you might want to split your single recording into separate files. That way, you can make each song or section a separate track on an audio CD or on your iPod. This approach also gives you the freedom to optimize each section individually.
If silence separates the songs in your recording, Amadeus II can do the dividing for you. From the Selection menu, choose Generate Marks. In the resulting dialog box, activate the Search For Silences option, and then click on OK. The program will locate silent portions and create a marker at each one. If it misplaces a marker, click on that marker and choose Delete from the Mark dialog box. When you’re satisfied, go to Selection: Split According To Marks, and then tell Amadeus II where to store the files. (I recommend creating a folder to hold all the files.)
If your recording doesn’t contain silent passages, you can create the markers by hand: position the insertion point where you want a marker, and then press the M key. (You can also create markers on-the-fly by pressing M during playback.) Once you’ve positioned all the markers, use the Split According To Marks command to divvy up the file.
Create Fades If you’ve always kicked yourself for missing the first several seconds of that live concert, here’s your chance to minimize the evidence—you can transform that jarring start into a gradual fade-in. Highlight several seconds of audio at the beginning of the file, and then choose Effects: Fading: Fade In. You can also fade out the audio by selecting the end of a song and choosing Effects: Fading: Fade Out.
Change the Pitch Perhaps you made a recording with a portable deck whose batteries were dying. As a result, the audio now sounds sped up—as if the announcer had just inhaled helium. Amadeus II makes it easy to fix such problems. The program lets you adjust pitch and playback speed independently. Just choose Effects: Change Pitch And Speed, and then lower the Pitch slider.
Remove Hiss Tape hiss is a common problem with cassette recordings, and Amadeus II can help. Choose Effects: Denoising: Suppress White Noise. Click on the Preview button, and drag the slider to the right until the hiss begins to disappear. Be careful not to overdo it; too much hiss removal will muffle the audio.
Amadeus II has additional noise-reduction options that you can apply to problems such as hum and scratchy records; however, I find these tools cumbersome. If you need these kinds of repairs, I recommend using SoundSoap, from BIAS, or CD Spin Doctor, from Roxio (see “Magnetic Makeovers” ).
Step 6: Import Audio into iTunes
Once you’ve refined your recordings, add them to your iTunes music library so you can burn them to CDs, copy them to your iPod, or use them with the other iLife programs.
All the programs I’ve mentioned create uncompressed AIFF (Audio Interchange File Format) files. Although these files accurately preserve all the audio data, they’re also relatively large, making them impractical for everyday use. To save disk space, you should create compressed versions of your final recordings in MP3, AAC, or Apple Lossless format before importing them into iTunes.
The AAC format is the most efficient of the three, but MP3 has the advantage of universal compatibility. Apple Lossless retains your audio’s pristine quality but creates the largest files (for more details, see “ iTunes Encoding Strategies,” Digital Hub, September 2004.)
To convert the recordings, open your iTunes Importing preferences and choose the format you want to use. When you’re done, hold down the option key and choose Convert To from the Advanced menu. In the dialog box that appears, double-click on the files you want to import. iTunes will create a compressed version of each file and import it into the library.
After you’ve imported your recordings, use the Song Info command (Command-I) to enter details about the songs—song titles, performers, and so on.
If you’d like to create audio CDs from your restored audio, you should use the uncompressed AIFF versions. That way, you won’t sacrifice any sound quality to audio compression.
Step 7: Archive Your Work
When you’re finished, you’ll end up with multiple copies of each recording: the original version that you imported, the version that you edited, and any compressed versions that you created in iTunes.
To free up some disk space, burn the original, unoptimized versions to audio or data CDs and delete them from your Mac. If you’ll mainly be working with the compressed versions in iTunes, you should also consider archiving the uncompressed, edited versions—you may decide you want to encode them in a different format later.
To preserve your old tapes, rewind them and store them on their short edges (upright, as you would shelve a book). Keep them away from heat, excessive humidity, and, most important, magnetic fields.
The Last Word
Just like old photos, movies, and videos, audio recordings bring back people and places from the past. They’re worth preserving—and the sooner you turn them into bits and bytes, the sooner you’ll halt their inevitable decay.
[ Contributing Editor Jim Heid grew up in his dad’s recording studio and is gradually restoring hundreds of old reel-to-reel and casette tapes. He’ the author of The Macintosh iLife ’04 (Peachpit Press/Avondale Media, 2004) and its companion Web site. ]Does your audio sound like you recorded the Chipmunks? Try adjusting Amadeus’s Pitch and Speed sliders.Before importing your files into iTunes, specify what format it should use to compress the audio. iTunes will create a new, smaller file while leaving the original untouched.