Absentia DX to sum it up. Produced by respected Hollywood sound supervisor and field recordist Rob Nokes and priced as low as $49. Originally designed to work editing dialogue for feature films, my first thought was: “can this work on field recordings?” How well does Absentia work with sound Field Recordings? Will it improve troubled field recordings laced with buzz or noise? Does it have potential to rival iZotope RX’s noise reduction software at a tenth of the price? Can “Absentia DX” serve as “Absentia FX?” In today’s post we will find out. In this “my penny’s worth” article, we’ll see if a dialogue noise reduction tool can be hacked to help master damaged sound effects captured in the field.

Introduction to Absentia DX

Absentia DX, or ABDX, is noise reduction software designed to fix three types of audio problems in dialog recordings:

  • Hum.
  • Broadband noise.
  • Ticks.

It works as a no-nonsense batch processor: select folders or simply drag and drop files, folders, or entire volumes onto the app. It will then chug away and repair the audio, either replacing the old files or creating new ones as you prefer. It does all this while preserving existing metadata, too. The drag-and-drop workflow is a compelling way to apply processing to a massive amount of sound files. Now, it’s important to note that the app doesn’t aim to be a one-stop replacement for every audio problem infecting your tracks. Instead, ABDX is meant to diminish mundane, lowest-common-denominator labour. The idea is that by removing the most common problems, the app allows an editor to focus their expertise on repairing the trickiest audio problems instead of wasting time on low-skill issues.

So, what did we discover by using ABDX to repair field recordings? (Remember that ABDX is meant for straightforward dialogue cleaning tasks, not heavy sound fx processing per se.)

  • ABDX removes low-level ringing, buzzing, or whining problems effortlessly. It identifies harmonics and removes them cleanly and transparently.
  • Complex, gnarly buzz is challenging for the software to tackle.
  • It removes a slight amount of hiss or noise from non-complex sounds. It works best on noise that is shallow and thin.
  • Processing attempted on complex files with thick noise can contribute aliasing or artefacts which sounds like a rapid cycling sound.

Overall, I find that the Hum Remover tool is worth the price of admission in itself. For processing field recordings, I could see it being useful for a simple “fire-and-forget” first pass of cleaning simpler, less complex sound effects: drop the tracks on the app at the end of the work day and in the morning focus on more diligent noise removal work after the easiest problems have been already removed.

Nokes says that was in line with what he expected. After all, the settings are made so quality is preserved for one specific type of sound: isolated human speech. That said, he shared with me a tantalising fact: an advanced version is in the works to help with other types of sounds.

The upshot? For $49, Absentia DX costs less than most plug-ins on the market and is a worthwhile purchase for to take a first stab at removing hum, buzz, ringing, and slight hiss from sound effects recorded in the field.

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