Kill the noise: use an Expander

Loud noise can be a real distraction. It can harm the dialogs in a documentary, it can harm small acoustic sounds. I guess we’ve all been in situations when we needed to do something about that serious noise issue.

Me too. Today for example. I was asked to produce a wide range of sound effects for a Dutch animation film. Some of the sounds which were needed: the sound of a person walking the streets, the sound of a car driving by, the sounds of a person typing a sentence on a keyboard, the sound of a single and double mouse click.

In general my little helper for solving noise issues is the Expander. And I love using Reason’s build in Expander for that.

An Expander works like a “reversed” compressor: instead of limiting the peaks, an Expander will push back the softer sounds and therefore the dynamic range will be expanded. And because of that the noise gets pushed back too. Most Reason users will probably know that the Expander is included on the channel strip of the SSL mixer. You can find it in the Gate section.

For the sound effects I did today I used the Expander to improve some of the sounds. I used it for the typing sounds and for the sounds of mouse clicks. I used my Sony D-50 for these recording. And although the build-in mics are really great, for super critical and quiet sounds like this they might still be a little noisy. But thanks to the Expander I could remove that noise. After processing them these sounds turned out to sound snappy and noise free, just what I wanted.

I also used the Expander for a walking sound I recorded. My baseball shoes didn’t make a lot of foot stepping noises. Making loud steps sounded unreal and I also noticed that when I was recording either an airplane was flying nearby or some other annoying sound was popping up in the background. I decided to see if an Expander would improve this recording and yes it did. It just pushed back the noise between the steps which made the sound of my footsteps more clear. The Expander, although I used a rather extreme setting, didn’t really make the sound artificial at all. No it make it much more realistic.

I’ve uploaded that recording of my footsteps to SoundCloud so you can hear what I’m talking about. The first part is with the Expander and the second half, starting at 0:11, is without the Expander.

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