The Best Noise Reduction Plugins on the Market

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Even after sampling the noise profile and going through the extra step of setting the threshold and NR range before hearing any improvement, Z-Noise’s default settings just aren’t what they should be. You’ve got to play with the attack and release times to even approach the kind of results that RX2 and MR Noise deliver before any futzing. Even once it was set to the best of its ability, I found that Z-Noise couldn’t scrub out quite as much interference as was possible with comparable settings in RX2 or Mr Noise.

At $500 and up for the single plugin and $1,100 for the entire Restoration package (Native), it’s hard to recommend Z-Noise with so many great alternatives out there – except as a welcome value-add to a larger bundle of some of the better-realized Waves plugs.

Hums, Clicks, Crackles, Pops and Plosives

These kinds of noise-reducers can do a great job of reducing broadband noise, but they’re practically useless for reducing intermittent noises like clicks, crackles, pops, plosives and clipping. They can also be pretty rotten at reducing the high-level hum caused by ground loops, amplifiers and electric guitars, which often occupy the same frequency ranges as the program material you’re looking to preserve.

Waves X-Click

Waves X-Click

Waves’ X-Click and X-Crackle did a commendable job of taming many high-level transient sound-bursts, as did the de-noising and de-crackling modules from iZotope and Wave Arts. Each of their packages also included a hum-busting processor that essentially notches out a set of frequencies, such as 60Hz and all the harmonics above it, perfect for taking care of ground noise.

(For those of you who only need a hum reducer, the most cost-effective option is probably McDSP’s NF575 hum filter for only $130 Native, and as a welcome addition to their bundles. But similar results can be had with any bank of simple notch filters and little bit of setup.)

Until very recently, pops and plosives were usually best taken care of by hand, through the judicious use of high-pass filters and gain rides on tiny snippets of audio. To this day, the biggest problem automated processors have with these low low-frequency aberrations is not with eliminating them but with identifying them in the first place. Specialized tools are now available from the cutting-edge developers at Cedar and even as part of Wave Arts’ specialized noise reducer package, Dialog, that help clean up these problem areas without effecting the surrounding audio.

Izotope takes a unique and especially transparent tool for removing plosives and intermittent interferences in RX2: next-generation Spectral Analysis. So far, they’re the only company I know of that has included this type of feature in a DAW-based noise-reduction plugin.

Spectral Analyzers

Today’s spectral analyzers are a whole new class of multi-function audio tools. They do more than just provide visual feedback of the frequency distribution, essentially allowing the user to “unmix” audio tracks by zooming in and removing tiny portions of the source sound.

One of the earliest and most powerful consumer-facing spectral analyzers has been Sony’s SpectraLayers, which takes a Photoshop-like approach to audio.

3D view of an alto sax part in SpectraLayers

3D view of an alto sax in Spectral Layers

With SpectraLayers, you can zero in on a single sound out of many embedded in one file (say, an ambulance siren among chirping birds, a honking horn in the middle of a stretch of dialog, or an out-of-tune horn in a music mix) and extract it to its own “layer,” separate from the main mix. From here, you can effect it in isolation, extract it from the surrounding the material, or remove it completely.

SpectraLayers is powerful, but it works only as a standalone app. RX2’s spectral functionality might not be quite as exhaustive as that of SpectraLayers, but it’s supremely user-friendly, and comes embedded in a DAW-based plugin and offers great new tricks for routine noise reduction.

Encounter a pop or plosive? Reach out, grab just the frequencies that are affected and mute them. Need to delete an intermittent word, click, squeak or breath but don’t have any room tone? RX2’s spectral “replace” function erases the offending sound and automatically fills it in with surrounding tone. No copying or pasting needed.

For the first time, these new types of processors allow us to effectively remove discrete noises that occur concurrently with our desired audio: phones ringing, sirens blaring, birds tweeting, horns honking.

These are tools that would have seemed like audio science fiction a generation ago.  Although no noise reducer may be able to fix every problem, the processors around today have transformed once-impossible jobs into everyday realities.

I just hope my clients don’t learn to take them for granted. As sophisticated as these tools get, the most surefire way to end up with clean and impressive audio still remains “recording it that way to begin with.”

Justin Colletti is a Brooklyn-based audio engineer, college professor, and journalist. He records and mixes all over NYC, masters at JLM, teaches at CUNY, is a regular contributor to SonicScoop, and edits the music blog Trust Me, I’m A Scientist.

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  • Dylan Smith

    Great post. For embedding photo galleries! This one works fast and simple It collects images from social events also scans social networks and collects publicly available photos. Good for enriching your website content hassle-free.

  • ashoke


    When using software amp & cabinet simulation and playing live, there is a lot of noise playing hi gain metal guitar. Is there any way to tame that real-time?


  • TrustMeI’mAScientist

    A simple noise gate will usually do the trick there. Many (if not most) amp sims will have one built right in.

  • Schorsch

    For audio restoration, I found Izotope RX2 pretty good. My experience with the products from wave are rather “meh” – but recently I came across the “ACON restoration suite” and found their digital noise removal VST plugin *excellent*. In fact I prefer it now over izotope RX2 and all others as probably the best broadband noise removal plugin I have tested. Very good results, no artifacts and no latency and very good adaptive mode which doesn’t cause any delays such as Izoptope RX2. Right now I am using this plugin in a chain using Vsthost to remove fan/AC noise from my microphone. The entire suite also only costs $99. You might want to test this one because (in my opinion) it beats many other noise removal plugins.

  • Syn-Fi

    i’m still using Bias sound soap on OSX Mavericks. I have found leaving Dolby NR off, on the source device and processing all NR offline works best

  • Syn-Fi

    Looks like Bias ‘sound soap’ are back in some form via : They have iOS plugins.

  • busterdog

    iZotope is good.
    I found DeClick usefull for removing interferance from power supply.
    DeClip is only plugin this type that actually works.
    Both RX3 denoisers have good interface and work pretty good.

  • Tommy


  • David

    not mentioned in the article is AconDigital’s Restoration Suite ($100). I use it on Logic Pro X.
    I record voiceovers on the road from hotel rooms, and Acon’s Denoiser allows me to record damn-near-booth-quality VO tracks using a condenser mic in an untreated hotel room with the A/C and fridge running!! No more pillow forts or blanket tents (which don’t really work anyways).
    I’m beyond satisfied with the result. you can sample the noise, then “freeze” the profile which locks it in — so CPU load is reduced after that.

    Additionally, Acon has a De-reverbator that I use in conjunction with the Denoiser to take out room flutter echoes that happen as you speak. (another $100).

    You do have to play around with the knobs to get it set up right, or you can introduce weird artifacts. But finding the sweet spot is not difficult. I was set up the first time within 5 mins just playing with the knobs.

    All of that gets you to 95% perfect (plenty good enough for auditions), and the remaining 5% can be addressed with mic and voice technique, or covered up with music beds, etc….
    I’m jazzed about it.

    And one other thing: Acon lets you share your license on both your studio computer and your traveling laptop.

    Dave Saunders.

  • Prat Hansen

    a little update to the article. Recently there appeared new app and adobe plugin Noiseless by macphun – works great, removes noise, fixes images