Back when I was a student, there was a hefty list of audio issues that could not be repaired. It was either do it right or face a re-record, which cost quite a bit of time and money. Slowly, this list has shrunk, and these days, you can salvage a fair bit without having to start over.
There’s always a cost for poor prep, though, which usually comes in the form of audio artifacts. These are the undesirable audible sounds introduced into your recording from heavy plugin processing. Before I begin, I want to stress these tools are not always a 100% fix. Getting the best quality possible at the recording stage will always be the optimal approach rather than the dreaded “fix it in post”.
That said, sometimes the world can throw you a few curveballs (or, hard walls!), and we don’t always get it right. So here are a handful of dialogue de-reverb tools that can improve the quality of a roomy recording.
Just before we dive into the testing and recommendations, though, what exactly is this reverb that we’re trying to fix?
What is Reverb?
The answer to the “What is reverb?” question gets a whole article to itself. A quick summary, though, is that the “reverb” you hear in a recording is the result of sound reflecting off of hard surfaces in your recording environment. Of course, most folks don’t really care about the science of acoustics, they just want to eliminate excess reverb as best they can. Unless they’re testing de-reverb tools for a roundup, that is…
Here is my test recording in its raw form:
I recorded in a larger bathroom that is full of glass and tile. You can clearly hear the sound of my voice reflecting off of all the hard surfaces! As you can imagine, it would make for a pretty poor listening experience.
So, can any of these de-reverb tools work their magic on it?
Just before we crack on, a quick heads up that we use some affiliate links to de-reverb tools in this roundup. We’d earn a small commission should you choose to buy through them, though never at any cost to yourself!
I’ll be giving Dx-Revive a bit of special attention since it can do more than just remove reverb, and is a newer tool on the scene! Dx-Revive from Accentize can:
spectral patch conference call audio
repair clipped audio
restore absent frequencies
I am using the standard version for this test. It’s a one-knob tool. The knob determines how much processing the plugin does. I wouldn’t push it past 50 as, in my testing, I found it can introduce artifacts if you’re not careful.
The only other con is that it is CPU HEAVY. Accentize is upfront about this on their website, and advise on which DAWs are compatible. For this reason, dx-Revive works best if you use it clip-by-clip rather than as a plugin insert. You can use it as a plugin insert, but you need a much powered-up processor and RAM to avoid CPU overload issues. There is a trial version for both standard and pro versions.
However, this is the first plugin I’ve used that can make Zoom call audio sound less “zoomy” with minimal effort. Is it perfect each time? No, but it has saved me hours in repair/restore time!
I could counteract most of the artifact issues by using the low setting with multiple processing passes and/or in combination with other tools for the best results. In some scenarios, throughout my preliminary testing, it performed well. The most common issues, when used by itself, were overly boomy or “odd” sounds in the higher end. Once I got a handle on how this tool behaves, it became a regular in my toolset.
Accentize is clear on their site that this machine-learning tool does not upload or share any audio processed. Everything stays private and local to your machine.
2. Clarity Vx-De-Reverb
Next up, we have Clarity Vx-De-Reverb from Waves. This plugin is mostly a one-dial, one-dropdown menu and one-slider tool. From a menu, you pick what type of voice work you’re treating, like singing or VO, and the algorithm adjusts accordingly. The slider affects the “presence”, which smooths out the high frequencies.
So, how did this de-reverb tool work on my sound sample?
Overall, it performs well. From my testing, it ran into artifact issues in the high end that could make the voice sound “brittle”. A little bit of the high-end frequency reflections of the room reverb occasionally peek through.
Waves does not say, specifically, whether or not your audio is used for training the AI for this software.
3. GOYO/Supertone Clear (Beta)
At the time of writing this article, this tool isn’t quite available for purchase. GOYO was available as an open beta and will cease function on Dec. 1st, 2023. All we know is that, in November 2023, GOYO will be rebranded as Supertone Clear upon its official release.
Supertone Clear is a multi-purpose tool that can:
In my test, a little bit of the room’s reverb squeaks through near the end, but the same was true of every other sound sample at that point.
Overall, GOYO is CPU-heavy. It is unclear if the final release addresses this issue. However, it’ll be worth trialling before purchase based on the beta performance. It does a decent job of removing noise and reverb from a voice recording.
This is also a machine-learning tool. On Supertone’s website, they state that no audio processed is used for algorithm training or stored on their end.
4. RX De-Reverb
RX De-Reverb has been around for a while via the RX Editor. This tool is now available across every version of RX. RX De-Reverb’s UI is a little more involved, in that you need a bit more understanding of audio to get a full grasp if you need to adjust manually. It does have a “Learn” feature to learn the reverb profile – much like traditional noise reduction tools, which need to learn the noise profile.
RX De-verb performs similarly to the other de-reverb tools I have tested above. However, it’s not for sale by itself. You need to purchase a version of RX to gain access.
The UI may be a put-off for those unfamiliar with audio, but great for those who like precision control. I have used RX De-Reverb less in recent years as it’s easy to introduce artifacts, even at lower-setting processing. But this depends on a case-by-case scenario – like most things when dealing with audio.
Conclusion: Budget-Friendly De-Reverb Tools for Podcasters
There are a lot of de-reverb tools on the market and hopefully you’ve found one that suits in this roundup. From my testing, Dx-Revive and GOYO have been my newer favorites, and the ones I’ve added to my workflow recently. I favour multi-purpose software, but any tool listed above will do the job. Just keep in mind the need to watch out for artifacts as no perfect tool exists (not yet, anyway). However, these de-reverbers can do what was considered impossible only a few years ago.
Each of the tests was conducted with processing using only the featured tool. Currently, none of them are a “process and done” method. For best results, you’ll still need to combine tools, but each one listed is a great first step and a major time-saver!
Finally, remember that prevention is always better than cure, so try to optimize your podcast studio for the best possible results!