Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Click Repair

My friend Pete has mentioned to me a couple of times that he thinks it would be interesting if I put together a post, or series of posts, on how to transfer records into the digital domain. I've been reluctant to do so for a number of reasons, the most important being I do not consider myself any kind of expert on the subject. The internet is full of "experts" who can tell you what you should and shouldn't do on any variety of subjects with absolute certainty. I can really only tell you what I've done, and what I think has worked best for me.

One recommendation I can make without any hesitation is that, if you are doing "needledrops" of LPs or 78s, you should give the program Click Repair a try. Click Repair is a reasonably priced "shareware" program written by a mathematician named Brian Davies that uses sophisticated algorithms to identify and "clean" clicks and pops from digitized vinyl and shellac records.

I was initially very skeptical about any program that "automagically" repairs clicks and pops in a recording, assuming that it would necessarily affect other parts of the recording for the worse. But after having tried the program, I learned that with a little experimenting it was not difficult to keep "false positives" (instances where music, not noise, is "fixed") to an acceptably low level, while vastly reducing the amount of clicks, cracks and pops on a recording. The important thing to note here is that Click Repair is not a "filter" that affects the sound of an entire recording, but rather a program that seeks out samples that it identifies as clicks or pops, and "repairs" them. In other words, it basically leaves the music alone. (You can read many more details on how the program works at the program's website).

Below you will find a link to a sample from a copy of Frank Sinatra's In The Wee Small Hours I recently picked up for 25 cents. The record looked a little beat up, but I figured it might clean up nicely. Unfortunately, I was wrong about that, as you can hear in the initial, unrepaired, selection. The raw file is followed by the same selection after having been run through Click Repair. To my ears the results are pretty remarkable. Take a listen and see what you think.

Now, admittedly, I've picked a rather extreme case (an LP that was pretty much trashed) to emphasize what Click Repair is capable of, but I've found that even LPs in reasonably good condition can also benefit from a run through Click Repair (for records that are in better shape you can use a lower sensitivity setting to further minimize the likelihood of "false positives.")

You can demo Click Repair for free for 21 days, after that you will need to purchase a $40 license. I did so happily.

In The Wee Small Hours (excerpt) [click to download]


Peter Hennig said...

The built-in click filters are good for cleaning up those old sing-a-long 45s you had as a kid, but nothing else.

This looks like a much better solution.

Hal Espen said...

I'm a huge fan of Click Repair. It does one thing really, really well, and it leaves the music itself alone. Thanks for the write-up.

GaragePunk66 said...

I swear by Click Repair, I have been using it for years and it works great, I highly recommend it!

Anonymous said...

Incredible program, and well worth the money. A breeze to use, as well.