IZotope: Is the inexpensive “Essentials” version good enough?

On MPU 489, MacSparky and Stephen Hackett strongly recommended iZotope for noise reduction and audio repair for podcasts and audio recordings. But I’m put off by the $1,000+ price tag on the pro version. Is the $120 Essentials version good enough? What do I lose?

My main goal is noise reduction and voice-clarity enhancement on audio recordings of lectures in large rooms with poor acoustics. Does the Essentials version have the same core noise-reduction engine as the top-end version?

My use case primarily involves producing videos edited in iMovie. The videos include one-hour long audio recordings of people making live presentation lectures. Can iZotope Essentials perform its noise reduction on an edited nearly-final mp4 video file that is outputted from iMovie? Or do I need to separate the audio track, export the audio to iZotope Essentials, and then import the improved audio track back into iMovie?

Izotope is the company name. I assume you’re talking about RX7 which sells for ~ $190?

RX Elements has useful, but basic features for podcasts: de-click, de-hum, voice denoise.

However it is missing more extensive repair features like breath control/suppression, de-bleed, de-crackle, de-reverb, de-plosive, de-ess, mouth de-click and more – specifically the things professional podcasts use.

You can see feature comparisons for the apps and links explaining what they do here.

FYI back in April, B&H had a 1-day special on Izotope RX Elements for $9.99. And around Black Friday you can usually get the entire Elements suite for $39 (normally $99)

If you’re interested in starting with voiceover work or getting started with podcasting, you might want to take a look at the ‘podcaster bundle’ Plugin Boutique sells, which includes RX Elements along with a couple of complementary apps, for $159


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I’m going to go against the grain here and suggest that RX is actually quite a poor choice for the majority of people looking to solve this problem, particularly podcasters. It’s akin to recommending Photoshop to someone who just wants to resize an image.

RX is tremendously powerful software, but as a result it’s got quite a steep learning curve to get the most out of it. What ends up happening is that you rely on the (very good) presets, but if the preset isn’t quite right (and it never is) but you don’t have a background in audio post, you don’t know which of the many controls to manipulate to make it better, so you either give up or put up with a result you’re not quite happy with.

Any time I’m asked about this, I recommend people start with a much more friendly tool for noise reduction. Specifically, I recommend Waves NS1, which is literally a single slider that controls a very intelligent adaptive algorithm optimized for reducing noise on spoken word sources. It’s often on sale for $50 or less.

My background is in game audio, music, and post for video work, so I own RX Advanced and a variety of other specialized tools, but for podcast work I almost always just use NS1 because it’s the right tool for the job. I only break out RX when a track needs a lot of audio repair work.

To directly address your question, RX Elements includes the same voice de-noise module as the higher-end tiers, but it doesn’t include many of the other more sophisticated modules like the de-reverb module (for making things sound less echo-y). You mentioned your audio being recorded in a large hall—noise reduction is not going to do much for the echo-y sound, it’ll just remove background hiss/hum. To reduce the sense of space around the sound, you’d need to use the de-reverb module, and frankly it’s extremely difficult to improve situations like that without making everything sound worse. RX is also not the right tool for improving things like perceived “clarity” (a job for an EQ or compressor, or likely both).

Don’t get me wrong, I love RX, I just wish it didn’t get recommended so much in podcasting circles when there are simpler, cheaper, more accessible alternatives available that cover the vast majority of podcasting needs.

As for iMovie, I haven’t used it in quite some time but last time I used it, it didn’t support audio plugins. That means you would be stuck editing the audio in a separate environment that does support plugins (GarageBand, Logic, etc.) and then laying the cleaned audio back under your footage before exporting in iMovie. If you were using Final Cut, you could instantiate RX (or Waves NS1) as a plugin on the audio in Final Cut and do it all from the same environment. If they’ve since added audio plugin support to iMovie then you can use that same workflow there too and save yourself the round trip export dance.

Sorry for the novel, I’m just passionate about audio technology so this is kind of my jam. :slight_smile:

Huge thanks to Bowline and Marius for such helpful (and quick) answers. Yes, I am indeed referring to iZotope’s RX product.

For the past several years, in connection with editing about 400 podcasts for a community podcasting nonprofit, I’ve been using Auphonic Leveler and Multitrack http://auphonic.com/standalone (under $100 each for individual license) I’ve found Auphonic’s products simple to use and effective (especially for mic cross-talk in Multitrack, and background noise reduction and uniform leveling of volume in Leveler). But thanks to your responses, I can see that RX might do more for me if I can master the learning curve.

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I own RX3 Standard, but didn’t want to pay $199 to upgrade to the latest version. (And Izotope typically advances versions on close to a yearly basis, which gets spendy.) That version is missing a lot of features of the current version, and I miss them. But when that RX Elements deal came out in April I picked it up for $10, and it does the job (well, my job at least) for me. I might even pick up the Elements Suite this coming Black Friday…

Waves makes very good products (which they iterate and sell upgrades pretty quickly as well) and might be the price/performance champ at $49.

But RX offers some features that are unmatched, if you need them; Dialogue Isolate (in the $1100 Advanced edition only, alas) is worth the price of admission by itself if you need the feature. I find their products just incredibly effective (if you learn them) and offer value for the price. It’s the industry standard, and if you’re editing lots of podcasts you might find it pays for itself in results yielded and time saved.

If you use Windows boxes and are on a budget, take a look at the free plugins that Reaper offers, specifically ReaFIR.