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Review: Soundness Soundsoap 3 Audio Restoration Software

September 23, 2014

With its simple interface, SoundSoap 3 provides a number of useful noise-reduction features that are easy to use, all at an affordable price.
SOUNDSOAP 3 is the first product from Soundness, a company started by Steve Berkley, co-founder of BIAS, which is best known for Peak, its 2-track editor, and previous versions of its all-in-one audio restoration tool, SoundSoap. The update includes AU/VST/RTAS/AAX plugins (32- and 64-bit versions) as well as a Maconly standalone version ($79 in the Apple store).

Typically, audio restoration software can be complex and intimidating. In contrast, SoundSoap 3’s processing controls are all located in a single window and are designed to allow anyone to quickly dial in reductions of broadband noise, hum, rumble, click, and crackle—the types of things you run across when digitizing a record collection or editing audio in videos and podcasts.

Although not as flexible or configurable as other audio restoration tools, SoundSoap 3 has powerful algorithms under the hood. Moreover, it’s considerably less expensive than other audio restoration software.

Broadband Noise The main screen is simple and clearly labeled. (To get a concise text description of any function, simply hover your mouse over any control or window.) The screen is dominated by two large knobs and a black-and-red circular window, all related to the broadband noise-reducing feature, which is designed for getting rid of steady-state sounds such as hiss, air conditioners, and fans. A standalone version includes a recording option, and offers many ways to share your files.

The software automatically sets its parameters based on the noise detected when you press the Learn Noise button during playback. It’s best to do this at a point when you hear only noise and no source material. Unlike previous versions, the software no longer requires a 2- to 3-second noise sample.

Once SoundSoap 3 has learned the noise, fine-tune the results with the Noise Tuner (threshold) and Noise Reduction (processing-intensity) knobs. Changes are reflected in the graphic, spectragram-like display of the Wash Window, which is split in two: The left side represents the original file with the noise, and the right side, the file after the noise has been removed. The Noise setting of the Noise Reduction switch above lets you hear what is being removed, which helps you determine if you’re processing your source material too much.

I tested these features on a variety of noisy sources and found that the automatic settings were usually very effective. If anything, they provided too much processing—typical with most noise-reduction software—so you’ll often need to fine-tune the processing with the provided controls. (That’s common with all noise-reduction software.)

Click, Crackle, and Hum The Remove Click and Crackle feature mitigates vinyl record-related artifacts, while Enhance is used to add a little high end when needed. The Remove Hum feature, which reduces 50- or 60-cycle hum, works well, but has no option for removing harmonic material above the fundamental frequencies; in some situations, I had to use broadband noise reduction to supplement the hum remover to completely eliminate a more complex noise signal.

The Remove Rumble button engages a highpass filter that cuts frequencies below 40 Hz, which is perfect for eliminating specific turntable artifacts. The Preserve Voice algorithm removes frequencies above the range of the human voice, helping clean up the high end of vocal-only material. All of these processes work effectively and operate independently of the broadband noise settings.

Noise Be Gone SoundSoap 3 lives up to its promise of powerful, yet easy-to-use noise reduction for records, videos, podcasts, and spoken-word recordings, as well as basic music-cleaning applications in your DAW. If you can live with its limited control set, SoundSoap 3 is an excellent value.

Mike Levine is a musician, composer, and producer from the New York area.

SUMMARY

STRENGTHS Good processing results. Easy to use. Concise online help. Low price compared to other audio restoration suites. Plug-in or standalone. Improved Learn Noise feature.

LIMITATIONS Few editable parameters compared to other noise-reduction applications. No harmonic options for hum-removal feature.

SoundSoap 3 $149; upgrade $49; standalone version $79
soundness-llc.com

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