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Sound restoration

Related threads:
Digital turntable for vinyl records (32)
Particle physicists rescue rare records (23)
Sound archives decaying (35)
Restoring Old Recordings (4)

Desert Dancer 23 Aug 15 - 08:32 PM
Desert Dancer 23 Aug 15 - 08:27 PM
CraigS 18 Jul 03 - 04:16 PM
GUEST,Arkie 18 Jul 03 - 10:44 AM
Bob Bolton 18 Jul 03 - 07:36 AM
Steve Parkes 18 Jul 03 - 05:23 AM
JohnInKansas 17 Jul 03 - 01:38 PM
George Seto - 17 Jul 03 - 11:25 AM
sian, west wales 17 Jul 03 - 10:54 AM
GUEST,Arkie 17 Jul 03 - 10:30 AM
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Subject: RE: Sound restoration
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 23 Aug 15 - 08:32 PM

An article from 2013 at National Geographic: How Genius Carl Haber Restores Long-Lost Sounds

~ Becky in Hackettstown, for a little while

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Subject: RE: Sound restoration
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 23 Aug 15 - 08:27 PM

The process has been successful, apparently, and he's been doing a lot of work with it.

The Physicist Who's Saving the Music
Carl Haber is working to scan information off the surfaces of antique recordings so computers can allow them to be heard

Wall Street Journal
Aug. 21, 2015 11:04 a.m. ET

Fifteen years ago, while languishing in traffic between Berkeley, Calif., and Silicon Valley, Carl Haber tuned in to a radio interview with Mickey Hart, the former Grateful Dead drummer turned music preservationist. Dr. Haber, a particle physicist, listened as Mr. Hart discussed his concern over historic audio recordings that were deteriorating. "He was talking about how sound recordings are on these fragile materials," Dr. Haber recalls. "So it was kind of a challenge, sort of a plea."

Dr. Haber thought he could help. At the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where he was developing equipment for the Large Hadron Collider, the world's most powerful particle accelerator, he had been using precision optical tools to measure devices that would help to track subatomic particles.

He wasn't looking to apply science to music. "I'd been thinking not of sound recordings at all," he says, "just of using imaging and pictures as ways of extracting information from things, which is something that's very native to physics."

But when he heard the radio interview, he says, "It just occurred to me: If we could turn these sound recordings Mickey Hart was talking about into pictures, we could treat them as large data sets that we could analyze on the computer and extract information from."

Since 2002, Dr. Haber and several colleagues have been able to play back and restore some of the world's oldest and rarest recorded sounds. Using a system of optical probes and cameras that they created and dubbed IRENE—for "Image, Reconstruct, Erase Noise, Etcetera" but also in honor of an early test that they did on a 1950 recording of "Goodnight, Irene" by the Weavers—they can scan and pull information off of the surfaces of antique recordings and create huge images, each several gigabytes in size.

A computer then extracts information from the images, which allows the recordings to be heard. "It's a noninvasive, risk-free way to play things that were either delicate or unplayable," Dr. Haber says.

Some of those delicate things are wax cylinders, lacquer and metal disks, plastic belts and even sheets of tin foil—cutting-edge technology from the past. The sounds that they hold include early, experimental voice recordings made by Alexander Graham Bell and his father in the 1880s.

The IRENE technologies also allow scientists to virtually remove defects from these old recordings—"essentially digging below the noise" for clearer playback, Dr. Haber says, even when the original media are damaged.

Over the years, Dr. Haber, 56, who was awarded a 2013 MacArthur "genius" grant for his audio work, has helped to rescue hundreds of endangered recordings at organizations including the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution. He is now working to scan and save an early 20th-century collection of some 2,700 ethnographic recordings documenting Native American voices and music, held by the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley.

California boasts a wider array of Native American languages than any other state, but some of its indigenous languages no longer have living speakers. The recordings that Dr. Haber and his team are working to preserve will help tribes to revitalize languages at risk of fading, perhaps helping guide correct pronunciation and word usage.

This was the furthest thing from Dr. Haber's mind when he was stuck in Bay Area traffic and listening to the radio back in 2000. But, as he says, "If you don't explore ideas that come up, you don't move forward."

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Subject: RE: Sound restoration
From: CraigS
Date: 18 Jul 03 - 04:16 PM

I remember hearing of a Swiss player which cost around $5000, which was the first device of this type. The objective of the device was to play records which are damaged - ie. will not play (cracked, or wax melted) or give too much noise with a stylus. There are plenty of cheaper alternatives in the "decks which will play 78s" line, starting from around $250 new.

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Subject: RE: Sound restoration
From: GUEST,Arkie
Date: 18 Jul 03 - 10:44 AM

The cost of such a reader was the first thing that popped in my head when I saw the notice on the ARCSList. ARCS is the Association for Recorded Sound Collections and the list is free email postings by folk active in sound restoration. While much of the discussion is far beyond my capability to understand, I have picked up some useful information. Subscribing is pretty simple. I managed it. One can go here if interested.

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Subject: RE: Sound restoration
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 18 Jul 03 - 07:36 AM

G'day Arkie (and Steve Parkes for specific question),

I don't know how much this recostruction "by image processing" advances on the existing (Japanese developed and manufactured) Laser Disc Readers that were cited in a thread a few months back. I followed the link, at that time, starting with an American firm using the device to capture LPs ... at something like US$68 per disc.

The Japanese manufacturer's site said this device could be set to read the grooves just below where the stylus had worn, so the full recorded signal was available for restoration. Their LP only machine was US $6,500, ex Japan (pay your own frieght/customs/delivery) and the machine with specific formulae for all the known variants of (~)78 rpm was US$13,000! ... Maybe not this week! (They also make a specialised washer/vacuum cleaner for discs ... at $1,500.)


Bob Bolton

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Subject: RE: Sound restoration
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 18 Jul 03 - 05:23 AM

Good news! How much will it cost me? Will I ever be able to pay back the loan?!

Just looking through that web page, it seems they are following the grooves and "interpreting" the shapes into an audio with some clever physics/maths rather than simply[!] direcly reading the signal with a "laser stylus" or whatever.

Related thread: Sound archives decaying


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Subject: RE: Sound restoration
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 17 Jul 03 - 01:38 PM

Well worth noting. Maybe we're getting closer to hearing some of those old LOC things that have been too fragile to reproduce by other methods, but getting the budget to do it still scares me.


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Subject: RE: Sound restoration
From: George Seto -
Date: 17 Jul 03 - 11:25 AM

That sounds like that business where they were working with wax cylinders with lasers.

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Subject: RE: Sound restoration
From: sian, west wales
Date: 17 Jul 03 - 10:54 AM

Thanks Arkie. Very interesting!


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Subject: Sound restoration
From: GUEST,Arkie
Date: 17 Jul 03 - 10:30 AM

I became aware this morning of a process being developed in the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Physics Division to extract sound from grooved recordings by image processing. Reconstruction of sound may be a more accurate term. This method of playback would not further damage the record and would actually find sound that might not be picked up by a stylus. It also eliminates any extraneous noise from static, scratches or dust. This work is being done by Dr. Carl Haber who is lecturing Friday, July 18, 2003 in the Mary Pickford Theater, Madison Building, Library of Congress, 101 Independence Avenue, Washington, DC. The time is 10:00 – 11:30 am. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Examples of this process can be heard at

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