Multimedia files can be full of superfluous sound—hum, rumble, hiss, crackles, and pops. Until recently, effectively removing this unwanted audio required professional tools that could cost thousands of dollars. But BIAS’s SoundSoap Pro offers professional-quality audio restoration in an easy-to-use and relatively affordable ($599) plug-in package.
SoundSoap Pro is the professional sibling of BIAS’s $99 one-button audio-cleaning program, SoundSoap (
; August 2003). Unlike SoundSoap, which can be used either as a stand-alone application or as a plug-in for other audio applications, SoundSoap Pro is available only as a plug-in. It supports the VST, RTAS, and Audio Units formats; no TDM version is currently available.
From within BIAS’s Peak 4.12 audio editor, we tested SoundSoap Pro on a 78-rpm phonograph recording; a video file recorded with a cheap, hissy microphone; and a video clip shot at a nearby airport with jets roaring in the background. The program easily removed the antique album’s pops and crackles and significantly reduced its hiss without wiping out the high frequencies. It performed just as well at removing the cheap mike’s hiss while retaining the quality of the speaker’s voice. With the airport clip, we had to tweak individual frequencies to avoid a flanging effect, but we eventually removed much (though not all) of the engine drone while leaving the narrator’s voice sounding natural.
SoundSoap Pro consists of four intuitive modules: Hum & Rumble, Click & Crackle, Broadband, and Noise Gate. BIAS suggests that you use the modules in that order—first eliminating the most-obvious problems, such as hum and pops, and then attacking broader ranges of noise. (Of course, you don’t have to use a module if you don’t need it.) We found that this workflow was very easy.
The Hum & Rumble and Click & Crackle modules couldn’t be more intuitive: you simply turn them on and then use sliders to zero in on the offending material.
To use the Broadband module, you select a portion of the file that contains the noise you want to remove, click on the Learn Noise button, and start playing the file; the plug-in then creates a filter that eliminates the noise. The Learn Noise feature cleaned much of the noise from our phonograph and cheap-microphone recordings. We had to do more work to filter noise from particular frequency ranges in our airport video (you can make adjustments within 12 frequency bands).
The final module, Noise Gate, is designed to eliminate any sounds that fall below a certain volume threshold. You might, for example, use it to eliminate soft intakes of breath in a narration track.
SoundSoap Pro lets you save and load presets and capture and recall as many as four configurations you’ve created. A Noise Only feature lets you hear only the noise you’ve removed—useful for determining when you’ve removed too much of the good audio.
SoundSoap Pro performed well from within BIAS’s Peak. BIAS says the app is fully compatible with Apple’s Logic Pro 6 and Logic Express and with MOTU’s Digital Performer 4; its full interface also appeared for us from within Apple’s GarageBand and Digidesign’s Pro Tools LE 6.4. We wish that its interface were available in all Audio Units-compatible applications. In programs that don’t support plug-ins with custom interfaces (Apple’s Final Cut Pro, for example), you have to use a series of nonintuitive sliders to control the plug-in.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
SoundSoap Pro combines powerful noise reduction with an easy-to-use interface, and it costs significantly less than other professional solutions, such as Waves’ $1,200 Restoration Bundle. If you need to scrub the noise from your files without getting soaked, a dab of SoundSoap Pro may be the audio cleaner you need.SoundSoap Pro’s easy-to-use interface has a main pane (top) that shows the module currently in use. The smaller panes (bottom) let you switch between the four modules.