Audio Restoration Efforts at 20th Century Radio
When the grand project of creating this radio station was first underway, we were immediately impressed with the wealth of radio shows that had been collected and preserved by organizations such as the Old Time Radio Researchers Group (see, however we were almost as quickly disappointed with the quality of many of these recordings.
We found that approximately 40% of the shows were not of sufficient quality to broadcast. Many recordings were garbled so much, the dialog was at times very difficult to understand. Loud 60 cycle hums, constant hisses and pops were prevalent. With some of the recordings, the entire treble range was nearly gone. Footsteps and other foley sound effects were reduced to muffled thuds. In spite of this, it was apparent that many of these shows were the best radio had to offer with regard to writing, acting and directing, thus we were highly motivated find a solution. We decided to employ our professional voice-over studio (see so that we could utilize state-of-the-art DSP technology to effectively raise many of these OTR shows out of the noise and artifacts that no doubt was the result of several generations of re-recording. Alas, it was not possible to get them all back, some were just too far gone, but happily we discovered through careful use of hum removal, noise reduction and other filtering and mastering tools and techniques, most recordings can be brought back to a state that is again worthy of broadcast.
Still however, it is a laborious and time consuming process given that no two recordings (that need repair) are exactly alike. To do the job "right" it is required that custom filter sets be developed for each and every recording in the project. Afterward the computational processing time takes up to 20 minutes per 30 minute show, even though our studio uses an extremely souped-up CPU multi-processor system that is one of the fastest that current technology can offer.
Currently we are working on season 4 of Gunsmoke. To the right are a couple of Before and Afters that may demonstrate the degree to which some of these recordings can be recovered. The finished audio is never by any means perfect, but as the that 'ol jingle goes, "You've come a long way baby." clearly applies to most of the resulting audio.
--- Joseph Maas, station founder 20th Century Radio
Click to enlarge.
Sample: From Gunsmoke episode:
The Squaw

Production note: One of the goals was to revive the flavor of night of this scene. The crickets chirping in the background, the sounds of foot falls on gravel complete with boot spurs ringing with each step. Then finally the feint sound of the Arapaho "death song" and even the camp fire as the two characters approached the mysterious Medicine Lady.

Sample: From Gunsmoke episode:
The Correspondent
Production note: Once again we have a night scene, this time with a signatory howling of wind in the distance. If you are listening to the BEFORE with anything larger than a 3" speaker, you will likely hear a maddening 60 cycle hum that was present all the way through. Regretfully, getting rid of the hum left us with tonal highs that are a little on the thin side. But at least the detail of the horses' footfalls on the gravelly trail, the wind in the distance and even much of the (formerly lost) subtle emotional inflections in the actors' voices have returned.

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