What are your must-have Audacity plugins/tools?

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TriciaG
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Post by TriciaG »

A question for veterans that may help out the newbies: What are the tools (built-in, but more especially plugins that you must install) that you consider must-haves?

I'll start, and others may comment or chime in.

1. ReplayGain. This tells you how much you need to amplify your recording to get it near the 89 dB target volume. Instructions here: https://wiki.librivox.org/index.php?title=Measuring_Volume_within_Audacity
I do find its results get me a little low, so I overshoot it a little bit. If it tells me I need to amplify by 0.8 dB, I'll definitely do 1.0 or even 1.5 dB.

2. DeClicker. This will almost miraculously remove the little annoying clicks in the recording, either in the silences or even within words themselves. Forum thread about it is here: viewtopic.php?f=23&t=52753
It's powerful, though, and can remove some T, K, and D sounds, so it must be used sparingly. I use it as I'm editing, to highlight a small portion of recording and remove clicks from that, rather than over the entire file.

3. Limiter. This is already built into Audacity. While the best way to smooth out your vocals (not blast out certain vowel sounds, etc.) is to simply school your reading voice to be more even, this tool is handy for the times when you have spikes that you'd like to dampen down. It's also good to use when you need to amplify, but a spike (or a few) are too high and prevent you from amplifying enough.
I used to use Compressor for this, but it has a weird fade-in effect at the beginning of the track. I've found that Limiter does the same thing without the fade-in.
I use "Soft limit" and have "Limit to" set to -4.0 dB. The rest of the settings are the default. You may need to experiment to determine which setting is right for you. A basic rule of thumb is "lesser is better." ;)

4. Noise Reduction. This one is pretty well-known. You tell it what is "background noise", then have it filter out that background noise to make a cleaner sounding file. It only works on constant noises (white noise). It doesn't clean out door slams, telephone rings, dog barks, etc. :)

These are the four effects I use on every recording. (Well, except for ReplayGain, because I know my volume pretty well by now.)

Anyone else have any must-haves?
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quartertone
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Post by quartertone »

I use De-Clicker and De-Esser plugins on the regular! I make so many clicky mouth noises, but that wonder-plugin does a great job of removing them. Occasionally there are sounds that don't quite get fully eliminated, but I'll take the occasional missed click over a narration full of wet mouth.

The De-Esser plugin is available throught that same forum link, and it works great also. If you A/B compare the audio from before/after plugin application, it might sound ever so slightly like the sibilances are coming through a towel; but again, it's much better than a recording full of harsh sSSs in your ears.

For both plugins, the plugin author recommends sticking with the default settings, and I think it works just great.

One plugin/effect I've found myself using more frequently recently is the High Pass filter. My recording device (Tascam DR-05X handheld recorder) has low cut filter that I can turn on, but sometimes I forget, or it's not quite enough to filter out the low rumble of {distant traffic / furnace / HVAC / etc}. You can set the High pass filter to something like 100 Hz to cut out those rumbles without affecting the voice recording.
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Post by Peter Why »

I go through my recordings beginning-to-end when I'm editing them. For my between-the-teeth whistles, I use Plot Spectrum to get the frequency of the highest spike, then use the plug-in Notch Filter, with Q set to 20 (to narrow the width of its effect) to bring the spike down.

It's surprisingly effective. Its effect is always visible on the Audacity sonogram.

I've alway wondered why the spectrum changes so much after carrying out this process, though.

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Last edited by Peter Why on January 25th, 2023, 2:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
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InTheDesert
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Post by InTheDesert »

I have a series of Audacity macros that make editing extremely fast (about 30% of the total track length for a hard file and about 20% of an easy file with fewer mistakes - this one took about 6 minutes). It also minimizes the number of clicks that need to be made in favor of key presses which saves one's fingers. But it's a multi-pass system so I'm not sure if it would be easy for someone else to set up... And Audacity keep changing their versions and the macro features so I'm not even sure if it would work on the latest version...
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Post by Penumbra »

Filter curve to roll off low frequencies (0db at 100 Hz and above to -30 db at 60 Hz and below)
De-clicker (doesn't almost everyone use this by now?)
Loudness Normalization (-19 LUFS always gets me within a db of 89)
Limiter (limit to -3.5 db; I started using this when recording a book for Audible)
Noise Reduction, although for things like airplanes flying over or the furnace kicking in I just wait until I can't hear it any more and then re-record from where the noise started.

All but de-clicker I use on the entire file; they don't take much time to do. I spend the vast majority of my editing time cutting out goofs and repeats and adjusting timing and pacing. I'm not comfortable with punch and roll so I just record everything as I go and clean it up after. Perhaps this takes longer, but I can stay more focused on the reading if I'm not also editing in the middle of my recording.
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Post by NicoleJLeBoeuf »

All the plug-ins and features I use in my routine have been mentioned (Noise Reduction, De-clicker, ReplayGain) - but I just wanted to do a grateful shout-out to the community for making me aware of De-clicker in the first place. It has been a game-changer for me. On its default settings, run over the whole file, it almost completely removes the "gross wet mouth noises" that were driving me up the wall, without any side-effects on the overall reading--not that I've noticed, anyway! (It also takes a good few minutes, so I've been making some headway on various fibercraft projects while waiting for it to run!)

I have also recently adopted the Punch-and-Roll way, which has streamlined my edit-as-I-go process just that little but vital bit.
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Post by quartertone »

Another feature I've started using is the Spectrogram view. This is available by clicking the dropdown menu above the track's Mute/Solo buttons, and selecting Multiview (or Spectrogram if you only want that view). It shows the frequency content of the audio.

Useful for identifying quiet sounds (low rumble, rustling clothes, dog snoring) that are not readily visible in the "silent" portions of the waveform view.
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Post by stepheather »

quartertone wrote: January 27th, 2023, 9:39 pm Another feature I've started using is the Spectrogram view. This is available by clicking the dropdown menu above the track's Mute/Solo buttons, and selecting Multiview (or Spectrogram if you only want that view). It shows the frequency content of the audio.

Useful for identifying quiet sounds (low rumble, rustling clothes, dog snoring) that are not readily visible in the "silent" portions of the waveform view.
I looked at the linked page and feel like I took a dive into the deep end. What do you do with the information once you’ve identified the sounds?

Thanks,
Stephanie
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quartertone
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Post by quartertone »

stepheather wrote: January 27th, 2023, 11:15 pm
quartertone wrote: January 27th, 2023, 9:39 pm Another feature I've started using is the Spectrogram view.
I looked at the linked page and feel like I took a dive into the deep end. What do you do with the information once you’ve identified the sounds?

Thanks,
Stephanie
:lol: Oh yeah there's a whole lot of crazy manipulation you could do with spectral editing.

I just use it to make sure I'm not cutting into the middle of a very quiet breath sound while I'm Frankensteining the good bits together. Or sometimes I replace the "dirty silence" between my utterances (too many mouth sounds, movement sounds, weird breathing) with "clean" silence taken from the end of the recording.
TriciaG
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Post by TriciaG »

quartertone wrote: January 27th, 2023, 9:39 pm Another feature I've started using is the Spectrogram view. This is available by clicking the dropdown menu above the track's Mute/Solo buttons, and selecting Multiview (or Spectrogram if you only want that view). It shows the frequency content of the audio.

Useful for identifying quiet sounds (low rumble, rustling clothes, dog snoring) that are not readily visible in the "silent" portions of the waveform view.
Interesting. I often use the dB view for that. (Right click on the -1.0 - 1.0 scale bar and select dB. To go back once you're done with it, select Linear.) I'm not sure if one would be better than the other. I've never tried the Spectrogram view.
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quartertone
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Post by quartertone »

TriciaG wrote: January 28th, 2023, 9:11 am
Interesting. I often use the dB view for that. (Right click on the -1.0 - 1.0 scale bar and select dB. To go back once you're done with it, select Linear.) I'm not sure if one would be better than the other. I've never tried the Spectrogram view.
Aha! Well maybe that's what I should be using. I really need to read through the manual at some point..
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Post by KevinS »

I've often wished to see a thread like this one. Thank you.

Me---in no particular order---I use compressor and amplifier, noise reduction, sometimes replay gain, truncate silence, and, rarely, de-esser, and often enough, crossfade clips.

The other stuff is above my pay grade, or just has no use for our purposes.

Oh, and sometimes I adjust the bass and treble when I have to record a section in parts. I try to match the sound of the various parts, but I'm not often all that successful. As I get older, I'm happiest with sections that are just 20 minutes in length. I can get those done in one sitting pretty easily (about 30 minutes of recording---less if I'm having a really good day!)
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Post by TriciaG »

KevinS wrote: January 28th, 2023, 6:40 pmMe---in no particular order---I use compressor and amplifier, noise reduction, sometimes replay gain, truncate silence, and, rarely, de-esser, and often enough, crossfade clips.
How do you crossfade clips? How does that work? (Or was it talked about already, and I just forgot? ha ha!)
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Post by KevinS »

TriciaG wrote: January 28th, 2023, 7:02 pm
KevinS wrote: January 28th, 2023, 6:40 pmMe---in no particular order---I use compressor and amplifier, noise reduction, sometimes replay gain, truncate silence, and, rarely, de-esser, and often enough, crossfade clips.
How do you crossfade clips? How does that work? (Or was it talked about already, and I just forgot? ha ha!)
I sometimes fail to look where I have made a mistake when re-recording a phrase. When patching in the new part, I will sometimes find two words so scrunched together in the original that I can't make a clean paste between them. (it's sheer laziness on my part, but instead of re-recording my edit, I drop it in and am able to heal the distortion/bump/skip with crossfade clips.) It's amazing how the two pieces can be seamlessly joined.

I hope that explains what I do adequately. But starting a corrected section from a clear pause in the original goofed section is the best thing to do.
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Post by philchenevert »

A very useful thread Tricia, thanks. Audacity has so many things built into it that it is easy to overlook or not know about some nifty ones.

1) Keyboard Preferences. This is by far, my most used tool. Not really a tool, but it is the ability to set keys to do certain things. For example I zoom in and zoom out constantly while editing. Setting my pinkie (A key) and ring finger (S key) to do this is means my left hand can do this while my right hand is placing the cursor in the exactly right spot. Any key can be reprogrammed to do what you want it to. And lot s of macros are built in too just waiting for a key to be assigned. So this is my most used feature.

2) Noise Reduction. I use this effect on every recording. I'm lucky enough to have a stable environment and so can use a macro to do this 98% of the time. Again one programmed key stroke does it after I select my sample noise.

3) Analyze - plot spectrum When used on quiet parts of a recording, this lets me 'see' the actual decibel noise level and the exact frequencies that may be causing the hum or problem. Plus it's a nifty graph to look at.

4) Compression - Use this on every edited track before applying Loudness Normalization. On mild settings, it evens out the overall volume nicely for me.

4) Loudness Normalization - Every track I've done in the past 10 months has had this cool effect applied to it before exporting. Without the need for Replay Gain or running it through Checker, this has always resulted in a volume of 89dB, plus or minus a half decibel. I'm still waiting for something bad to happen with this effect because it's just too good to be true. Nothing can be this easy!! Of course I have a macro for this. Actually the macro applies compression and then this effect at the same time while I refill my coffee mug and stretch.

5) other stuff. AutoHotKeys is an external program that I does certain procedures with a key stroke. it's macros basically. Most used is my 'cut out section' that will zoom in, find the zero crossings of the section I've selected, cut it out, zoom out and back up 20milli seconds and play that section for me to hear. I'm sure I could do this with Audacity now but am too lazy to change something t hat works.

I never use DeClicker or Replay Gain.
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How I Always Hit 89dB With One Click https://youtu.be/aSKR55RDVpk
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