Dealing With Dirty Audio And How It Affects Your Beats

As a music producer, at one point or another you will have to deal with dirty audio. Most of the time it will be through sampling, but you could also have a problem with certain sounds from your keyboard that need to be fixed.
There are many ways you could clean up your audio, but even with the best tools in the world, you might not be able to fix them.
But you can try.

Always Start With An EQ
The first thing you might think about is to use software to tackle your dirty audio issues. Granted, you might have audio that is full of crackles and pops, which EQ can’t really fix, but still it’s best to start with EQ.
The reason being, the EQ will of course still leave the crackles and pops in your audio but at least it can reduce their effects so they don’t seem so bad. For example, reducing the high end (treble) is enough to make the dirt seem minimal.
But in order to avoid any dirty audio at all, your best bet is to use the cleanest sounds possible. I know a lot of producers will sample from vinyl, which can yield some unpredictable results, but if the sample is really bad then it’s common sense to try and find that same sample in MP3 format.
Maybe Dirty Audio Is Good
Depending on what kind of beat you’re making, dirty audio can work in your favor. Take a look at someone such as DJ Shadow, who works with tons of vinyl. A lot of his beats have that dirty sound and dirty feel, but that’s what he’s known for and it works for him. Actually, fans expect nothing less from him and they want to hear some old dirty, dusty vinyl samples.
This is why even if you don’t have a dirty sample, you could create your own. There are many plug-ins that will simulate dirt on top of your audio, and they sound great. If you’re skeptical about using a plug-in to get dirty audio – how is it any different than using a compressor or tape warm simulator? There is none.
With a dirty audio sound, it can not only make your beats sound grittier, it can also define your sound, which will set you apart from the rest.
Software Is Great But It Might Make Your Audio Worse
The first thing I do after I try to clean up my audio with EQ, is to use a software preset. For example, Adobe Audition has a few good presets that do a solid job at removing clicks and pops, and even hiss. It’s designed so that it’s very simple and straightforward to use, but the problem is how it processes the audio (as it’s supposed to).
What happens is the audio then sounds somewhat muffled and loses its edge. I understand that’s how it processes the audio, but it can greatly impact how your audio will sound. There have been times where I had no choice but to use those presets and even though it got rid of my clicks and pops, it changed how my entire beat sounded, which was not good. Now I went from having a dope sample in my beat, to a beat that needed to be re-worked. Not good.
iZotope has a product called RX. Right now they’re preparing to release RX4, which seems like a much more promising software tool, and hopefully it won’t muffle audio when processing it.
However, Some Audio Just Can’t Be Fixed
Clicks, pops, and hiss are all big culprits for dirty audio, and there are lots of times when no matter what you do, it just can’t be fixed. This is when you have to get creative and try to come up with a better solution.
Here are my tips:
  • Chop the sample and rearrange the clips, creating a new melody.
  • Leave the imperfections in, but remove the big problem ones yourself (requires zooming in and being patient).
  • Produce your beat around the sample. This will force you to make all the other sounds in your beat sound dirty like the sample.
The best trick I use though when I have a problem sample, is I quiet the sample and let it sit in the background, instead of using it as my main sample. This plays into the point of making your beat around the sample, but to a lesser extent.

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