Noise reduction can a be crucial part of music production.
In a perfect world, we’d have noiseless and buzzless audio signals galore. But if you’re sampling vinyl, or are forced to record in less than stellar environment, you need something in your audio toolkit that’s got your back.
So in this guide we’ll take a look at some of the best noise reduction plugin software for music producers on the market.
Quick answer: iZotope RX 6 is the top choice for sure.
The rest of this guide will look at these and other plugins more in depth, so you’ll be able to make the right choice for what you need.
Let’s take a closer look 🙂
Table of Contents
- Noise Reduction Plug-In Buying Guide
- 7 Best Noise Reduction Plugins to Use
- Final Thoughts – Which to Get?
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Noise Reduction Plug-In Buying Guide
What is a Noise Reduction Plug-in?
Like the name suggests, noise reduction plug-ins essentially reduce or eliminate noise from audio material. They do this by using different algorithms and modeled circuitry. These software tools, like the one we’re about to talk about, eliminate things that you’d rather not have in your music production, like background noises, electrical interference, ground buzzes, clicks, hums, and crackles from the source audio.
How Noise Reduction Plug-ins Work
Noise reduction circuits employ different methods for eliminating noise. Here are some of what they include:
- Spectral noise gating or Fourier analysis – This detects the spectrum of tones that comprise the background noise and reduces their volume levels.
- Manual threshold setting – This sets the threshold for each individual band and reduces their level independently. Meaning, if a sound is below the a certain threshold (like environmental sounds), then it will be cut out during the “silent” portions of a recording.
- Graphical noise reducers – Samples the noise profile and creates a frequency-dependent threshold that varies across the harmonic spectrum. Provides control over multiple variables.
- Spectral analysis – Breaks up sound into different frequency ranges, allowing the removal of specific bands.
Features to Look for in a Noise Reduction Plug-in
As with all plug-ins that have the potential to significantly affect the quality of the sound, transparency is one of the most desirable properties to look for in a noise reduction plug-in.
Although you want your plug-in to effectively remove the noise—or at least reduce it to such a degree that it is no longer apparent—you don’t want to compromise the overall quality of the audio.
Low-latency is also a must as noise reduction is a very CPU-intensive process. When applying noise reduction to several tracks of audio, you might find that some of them will lag as your CPU struggles to cope with the load. This can lead to phasing, loss of sync, and other issues.
Sufficient control over the various parameters is also a good quality to have in a noise reduction plug-in. However, don’t discount the benefits provided by automation, particularly with regard to identifying and detecting noise prints. In some cases, the auto-detect circuitry of a good noise reduction plug-in can be far more effective at pinpointing noise than your ears.
Choosing the Best Noise Reduction Plugin for Music Production
When choosing a noise reduction plugin, a good rule of thumb is to decide on one that offers a good balance between ease of use and control.
Although you will want the ability to get under the hood and tweak the various settings to your content…
…. there will be times when you simply want to “set-and-forget” the controls. Y
ou should therefore choose a great sounding noise reduction plug-in that allows you to get as detailed or as simple as you need.
With that same, let’s take a look at some of our options.
7 Best Noise Reduction Plugins to Use
iZotope RX 6
The iZotope RX 6 suite has a tremendous amount of functionality and versatility in a set of essential studio tools that meet the highest standards for quality. There are actually several noise reduction plug-ins included in the bundle, which along with a host of audio restoration tools, provide you with everything you need to shape your sound to perfection.
Even with so many cutting-edge features, all the plug-ins in the RX suite remain remarkably easy to use. Whether you like plumbing the depths of your sound or you are the “set and forget” type, you could expect great results every time.
Specs and useful features
- Powerful yet straightforward and intuitive interface
- Task-based modules let you hone in on specific areas
- Built-in processors for essential production tasks
- Enhanced options for experienced users
- Multiple workflow options
The reviews of iZotope RX 6 are overwhelmingly positive, with most users praising its ability to eliminate considerable amounts of broadband noise without introducing artifacts.
Ease of use seems to be the most endearing characteristic of the plug-in apart from its sound. Although plenty of control is provided for the various parameters, many users didn’t feel the need to go beyond the basic settings. It is perhaps a testament to the sound and functionality of the iZotope suite that even with so many “power” features available, it is still pretty easy to find your way around. Most processes can even be automated, reducing the guesswork needed to get great results.
The noise reduction plug-in bundled in the iZotope RX 6 suite is every bit as capable and as fully-featured as all the other plug-ins in the pack. Although power users will definitely appreciate the wealth of features and the precise degree of control available, you don’t have to dig too deep in order to get great results. The interface is remarkably easy to use and to navigate around in, and the quality of the sound is absolutely impeccable.
Sonnox Oxford DeNoiser
“Surgically-precise” noise reduction is what the Sonnox Oxford DeNoiser specializes in, and there not that many tools better than this in that arena. It has a lot of useful features that enable you to clean up even the most problematic audio, like an integrated de-hisser, continual input analysis, and even a Freeze Mode that samples chunks of audio containing just noise.
The Oxford DeNoiser is also capable of preserving the quality of the original recording with a useful post-processing “Warmth” control.
Specs and useful features
- Separate sections for de-hissing, noise detection, and noise removal
- High-resolution display of input signal and noise profile
- Frequency bias curve allows for the fine-tuning of noise threshold and reduction
- Mid-side mode
- Warmth control for restoring audio warmth after processing
- Make-up gain facilitates A/B comparison
Most users agree that the Sonnox Oxford DeNoiser packs a lot of bunch a slick and easy-to-use package. The plug-in’s ability to automatically adapt to a varying noise floor is one of its most useful features, although it is possible to set the bias for the detected noise curve to a precise degree.
One other feature that many users appreciate is the “Warmth” control that sweetens the sound after processing. Overall, the Oxford DeNoiser seems to have made a favorable impression, although some users advise using it in moderation in order to avoid introducing unwanted sonic artifacts.
Sonnox’s track record of producing outstanding plug-ins at reasonable prices is well known, and the company upholds that tradition admirably in the Oxford DeNoiser. Offering the ability to get as simple or as detailed as you like, the DeNoiser is just as capable of delivering quality results quickly as it is at allowing more intensive tweaking and parameter fine-tuning.
Waves W43 Noise Reduction Plug-in
The Waves W43 draws inspiration from the legendary hardware noise reduction unit, the Dolby Cat43, a classic film processor noise reduction from the 1970’s. Like its predecessor, you can expect professional results from the W43 in a highly intuitive user interface.
Of course, a host of modern features is also provided, enabling you to target and eliminate noise to a remarkably precise degree.
The W43 is part of the Waves suite of “Intelligent” plug-ins, which utilize DSP in order to differentiate noise from the audio signal.
In the case of the W43, the threshold can be set independently for multiple bands, giving you total control over the noise reduction process.
Specs and useful features
- Easy to use
- Zero latency
- Multiple instances possible
- 24-bit/192kHz resolution
The Waves W43 is especially lauded for its four fixed frequency bands that provide a good range of noise reduction options. Many users feel that the plug-in is a worthy successor to the hardware unit that inspired it, citing the Waves W43’s high-quality noise reduction capabilities.
Of all the noise reduction plug-ins available under the Waves banner, the W43 may be the one that provides the most bang-for-the-buck. Now that it is priced more reasonably, adding it to your studio toolkit is practically a no-brainer. For the money, you get a very versatile and great-sounding noise reduction plug-in that comes with a host of useful features.
Antares SoundSoap 5
Antares SoundSoap is a standalone app and a plug-in that works in a variety of hosts. Originally manufactured by BIAS, it has since been made part of the Antares line of audio processing tools, which include the notorious “Auto-tune.”
Now in its fifth iteration, SoundSoap has garnered considerable praise for its simplicity and high-quality results.
Specs and useful features
- Improved hum removal algorithm
- Audio metering
- Automatic noise detection*
- Ability to set noise location*
- Video waveform display *
- Enhanced media controls*
- Support for FLAC and MP3*
- Full bypass facilitates A/B comparison*
- Reset control*
A common thread in user reviews of the SoundSoap 5 is how easy and straightforward it is to use. Users report being pleasantly surprised at how effective the plug-in is at eliminating noise, even with a seemingly modest set of controls.
Unfortunately, although SoundSoap 5 is a pretty capable noise reduction plug-in by most accounts, the fact that most of its best features are available only in the standalone app limits its usability somewhat.
Antares SoundSoap 5 is a pretty impressive plug-in that suffers from one serious flaw: most of its best features are available only in standalone mode. This really is lamentable, as noise reduction is generally better applied to individual tracks and stems rather than entire mixes. If not for this misstep, the excellent algorithms and precise control provided would warrant a more favorable ranking.
Z-Noise is only one of the many noise reduction plug-ins marketed under the Waves banner. Boasting of a new proprietary algorithm, this one aims to eliminate background noise from recordings without inducing artifacts or compromising audio quality.
Part of the Waves “manual” plug-ins collection, Z-Noise requires you to specify the noise print to be targeted, after which you can hone in on the offending frequencies with the threshold and band controls.
- Specs and useful features
- Improved “musical” algorithm
- Dynamic noise profiling
- 5-band EQ
- Extract mode for creating noise profile from any audio
- Real-time operation
- Preserves low frequencies
- Improves high frequency detail
- Reduced time domain sensitivity eliminates “smearing”
- True broadband processing
Most reviewers of the Waves Z-Noise mention the plug-in’s ability to reduce noise while retaining high-end detail and low-end clarity. The absence of “smearing” is definitely one of the plug-in’s biggest strengths, and many users appreciate the ability to eliminate noise without reducing the punchiness of the source audio.
That being said, some users did feel that the Z-Noise isn’t quite as effective as other plug-ins in terms of eliminating more severe noise.
Waves Z-Noise is quite a capable and versatile solution to most noise reduction needs. It isn’t quite as easy to use as other plug-ins in the Waves lineup, although that comes as no surprise given its extensive features and capabilities. And although it isn’t as effective as removing noise as other more recent offerings, it does provide excellent value for the money.
Accusonus ERA Bundle
Well this is the noise reduction plug-in of the bunch, providing you with the ability to reduce noise via a single knob control, which is pretty unique. The ERA-N actually provides a surprising amount of flexibility even with its modest controls, with the automatic noise profile estimation especially useful at pinpointing problem areas. Used in conjunction with the five frequency presets, the ERA-N is quite effective at removing noise in different frequency ranges.
The bundle also includes the ERA-D, which provides “intelligent” noise reduction capabilities in a dual-channel configuration, along with the reverb reduction features of the ERA-R.
Specs and useful features
- Enhanced de-noise algorithm
- Five spectral presets for focusing on specific frequency bands
- Automatic noise profile estimation
- Single knob noise reduction
Ease of use and simplicity seem to be the biggest draws of the Accusonus ERA Bundle, going by the overall tone of the user reviews of the plug-in. Users especially seem to appreciate the modest-yet-effective set of controls that consist only of a single knob and a couple of settings.
Although it may be too simple for those that require more control over certain parameters, users generally agree that the ERA Bundle makes it possible to get great results quickly.
The Accusonus ERA Bundle is a surprisingly capable set of noise reduction plug-ins that gives you get great results with minimal effort. Although there are lower-priced solutions that provide results of comparable quality, there is no denying the ease of use and simplicity of these plug-ins.
Waves NS1 Noise Suppressor
Also part of the Waves “Intelligent” range of plug-ins, the Waves NS1 Noise Suppressor is equally at home in the studio and on stage. Those that don’t want to bother with the extensive controls of other noise reduction plug-ins will definitely appreciate the single-fader interface of the NS1, as it provides all the control needed for most basic tasks.
Despite its simplicity and modest features, the NS1 is quite effective at removing noise without causing warbling, unwanted modulation, or other artifacts. It also imparts no latency whatsoever, allowing you to patch it into any audio track without having to worry about losing sync.
Specs and useful features
- Simple-yet-effective noise-reduction
- Intuitive single-fader design
- Attenuation gauge for monitoring noise removal
- Suitable for cleaning up audio from a wide variety of sources
“Simplicity” is also a common thread in many user reviews of the Waves NS1, with the single fader interface garnering praise for its effectiveness and ease of use. Users report simply being able to turn the fader up to just before the artifacts set in, easing back a bit, and getting acceptable results. Like even the most fully-featured plug-ins however, subtlety is key in using the Waves NS1 to maximum benefit.
As far as noise reduction plug-ins go, the Waves NS1 Noise Suppressor is about as simple as they come. Although it has only a single fader, it still manages to deliver performance that equals–and even surpasses–that of its higher-priced counterparts.
Final thoughts – Which to Get?
The iZotope RX 6 is truly the Big Daddy of audio restoration tools, and its noise reduction components meet the highest standards for usability, flexibility, convenience, ease of use, and sound. In fact, this could very well be the only noise reduction plug-in worthy of discussion, if not for the excellent qualities of the other plug-ins in this roundup.
Tied for a close second are the Waves W43 and the Sonnox Oxford DeNoiser, which both provide excellent bang-for-the-buck. Even though these don’t come close to the features and functionalities of the iZotope RX 6 suite, they are definitely deserving of a place in any studio.
Special mention has to be made of the Antares SoundSoap 5, which is a pretty serious piece of noise reduction technology. As impressive as it is however, the fact that most of its best features are available only in the standalone app forces us to shave a few points off its final score.
As for the Waves Z-Noise and the Waves NS1 Noise Suppressor, these definitely aren’t slouches by any means. Even though they have both been surpassed by more recent offerings, they could still be of some use for general noise reduction tasks where surgical control isn’t absolutely necessary.