We’re currently living in the age of digital audio, and in-the-box mixing within a digital audio workstation is commonplace. Plugins are, therefore, invaluable assets for the modern audio engineer.
Though a lot of audio production tasks can be done in-the-box, recording audio with microphones is still very much a requirement in many projects. Depending on the microphone’s self-noise, electro-magnetic interference and the ambient sound of the environment, varying levels of noise will also be recorded.
Noise reduction software is an invaluable tool for reducing and eliminating unwanted noise from our audio signals. In this article, we’ll take a look at what I consider to be the 7 best noise reduction plugins on the market today.
The top 7 best noise reduction plugins for digital audio workstations are:
- iZotope Spectral De-Noise
- iZotope Voice De-Noise
- Waves Z-Noise
- Accusonus ERA Noise Remover
- Acon Digital DeNoise 2
- Cedar Studio DNS
- Antares SoundSoap+ 5
It should go without saying that any “top X” article is subject to bias. I would expect the next person’s top 7 to be different than mine but hope that there would be plenty of overlap.
That being said, I believe these plugins to be the best noise reduction plugin options today. The criteria I used to judge these plugins include the following:
- Sonic performance: how does the noise reduction plugin sound subjectively/objectively?
- Graphic user interface (GUI): how does the noise reduction plugin look when loaded in the DAW?
- Ease-of-use: how user-friendly is the noise reduction plugin?
- Functionality: how many different functions does it serve and/or how many parameters are available for the noise reduction effect?
- Accessibility/compatibility: how easy is it to acquire the noise reduction plugin and what are the system requirements?
Let’s discuss each of the top 7 best noise reduction plugins in greater detail to learn why they made this list.
iZotope Spectral De-Noise
The iZotope Spectral DeNoise (link to check the price at iZotope) is a featured plugin in iZotope’s powerful RX8 “Complete Audio Repair Toolkit”. This particular plugin is part of the RX 8 Standard, RX 8 Advanced and RX Post Production Suite 5 editions.
The iZotope Spectral De-noise is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU, VST and RTAS formats. All plug-in formats are 64-bit only.
The iZotope Spectral De-noise is a powerful denoiser plugin designed to remove stationary or slowly changing tonal noise and broadband hiss from recorded audio signals. It works by learning the noise profile of the audio and then subtracting it, in real-time, from the signal.
Like many high-end denoiser plugins, the iZotope Spectral De-noise excels at removing static (non-dynamic noise profiles). Tape hiss, HVAC systems, outdoor environments, line noise, ground loops, camera motors, fans, wind, and complex buzz with many harmonics can be virtually eliminated from a signal with proper settings.
The Spectral De-noise plugins can be set to “learn” a specified noise profile and remove this fixed profile from the audio signal. Alternatively, and with more processing power, the plugin can be set to Adaptive mode, whereby the noise profile will constantly be changing in real-time to keep up with dynamic noise sources (outdoor environments, traffic noise, ocean waves, etc.).
The Learning Time (lookahead time), Threshold, and Reduction amount parameters can all be controlled by the user.
In terms of performance, there are 4 different Qualities available in the Spectral De-noise plugin. Options A through D get more and more involved with noise reduction (and signal reconstruction) but demand more and more CPU and produce more and more latency to function properly. The Qualities are as follows:
- A: is suitable for real-time operation, acting to reduce musical noise artifacts via time smoothing of the signal spectrum.
- B: more advanced musical noise suppression via adaptive 2D (time and frequency) smoothing. It should be able to run in real-time on most computers.
- C: uses multiresolution operation to maintain signal transients and produced fewer musical noise artifacts. It is a very CPU-intensive algorithm and can only run in real-time on faster multicore machines.
- D: adds high-frequency synthesis in order to reconstruct signal details obscured by noise. It is a very CPU-intensive algorithm and can only run in real-time on faster multicore machines.
In addition to this superb functionality, the Spectral De-noise by iZotope also has adjustable Artifact Control, Smoothing, Algorithm, FFT Size and more. Though CPU-intensive in advanced cases, this software is very powerful and capable of incredible results once learned.
It is a flexible tool capable of fast and easy noise reduction and highly-involved signal reconstruction alike. The Spectral De-noise is fully deserving of a top spot on this list.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the RX specs webpage at iZotope.
iZotope is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Audio Plugin (VST/AU/AAX) Brands In The World.
iZotope Voice De-Noise
The iZotope RX8 Voice De-noise (link to check the price at iZotope) is another featured plugin in iZotope’s powerful RX8 “Complete Audio Repair Toolkit”. This particular plugin is part of the RX Elements, RX 8 Standard and RX 8 Advanced editions.
The iZotope Voice De-noise is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU, VST and RTAS formats. All plug-in formats are 64-bit only.
This superb plugin is focused on removing noise from recorded dialogue and vocal tracks. It offers zero-latency noise reduction to rid background noise and improve the signal-to-noise ratio in voice recordings. It can be optimized for dialogue or music.
This powerful denoiser has an Adaptive mode to adjust to any change in noise floor in real-time, reacting instantaneously to changes in the perceived noise within the signal. This critical mode makes the plugin a pleasure to use in a set-it-and-forget-it kind of utilization.
In addition to the Adaptive mode, this iZotope plugin also has the standard Learn mode to examine a passage of pure noise and use the sampled noise to reduce all similar noise in the signal.
The Threshold and Reduction are adjustable, and the filter type can also be toggled between Surgical (more aggressive) and Gentle (more transparent) modes of operation.
The iZotope Voice De-noise, like the other plugins on this list, excels at removing static (not dynamic) noise from recordings. However, the plugin also does a fantastic job at reacting to more dynamic noise from traffic and other unsteady noise sources.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the RX specs webpage at iZotope.
The Waves Z-Noise (link to check the price at Waves Audio) is a powerful noise reduction tool from one of the premier plugin manufacturers. It is included in Waves Audio’s Broadcast & Production, Diamond, Mercury and Restoration bundles.
The Waves Z-Noise is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.
The Z-Noise plugin from Waves features real-time noise profiling to identify and remove unwanted noise from audio signals. Its innovative transient preservation maintains the wanted signal while its advanced noise reduction programming rids of noise. From ground hum, hiss and computer fans to more dynamic noise, Waves’ Z-Noise will help clean up your recordings without overly affecting the true signal.
This plugin offers 5 bands in its noise profile, reading and reacting to each band individually. Its enhanced low-frequency resolution allows it to clean up low-end noise without overly affecting the wanted signal.
Utilizing the most recent psychoacoustic research and multilevel decision algorithms, the Z-Noise plugin can remove what is considered noise while preserving the sonic clarity of the source. This is particularly true of consistent noise, though the Z-Noise is also well-equipped to deal with more dynamic noise levels.
By properly dialling in the dynamic and time controls, Z-Noise is capable of reducing noise while also preserving the audio quality of the intended signal.
Wave’s Z-Noise is a single-ended noise reduction algorithm, meaning it does not require an encoded original recording. Rather, it will learn or extract the noise profile from the audio signal itself in order to distinguish between noise and signal.
Adjust parameters and monitor the real output or just the noise. Utilize the Adaptive mode to adjust to changing noise levels in real-time.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Z-Noise user manual.
Waves Audio is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Audio Plugin (VST/AU/AAX) Brands In The World.
Accusonus ERA Noise Remover Pro
The Accusonus ERA Noise Remover Pro (link to check the price at Accusonus) is a simple yet powerful noise remover plugin with an affinity for dialogue editing during post-production. It is part of Accusonus’ ERA 5 Bundle Pro, a complete audio restoration solution.
The Accusonus ERA Noise Remover is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.
This noise reduction plugin from Accusonus can quickly and efficiently remove simple noise in audio signals and has the functionality to tackle heavier workloads in dynamically noisy audio.
Beginning with the simple noises, the ERA Noise Remover has a dedicated setting for eliminating tonal buzzing sources (i.e., electromagnetic interference and 50/60 Hz hum).
Related article: What Causes Speaker Hum & Hiss (How To Eliminate Them Both).
For more complex noise profiles, the ERA Noise Remover offers up to 6 independent bands of processing. This allows users to mix and match noise detection and reduction algorithms to suit the noisy audio in question. Remove noise from one band without affecting the other bands at all. Adjust the width of each band to achieve the desired results.
To better monitor the results of the ERA Noise Remover, there is an output option that will only output the removed noise. Though not exclusive to this Accusonus plugin, this seemingly small feature will help users hear how much noise is being removed.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Noise Remover Pro user manual.
Acon Digital DeNoise 2
The Acon Digital DeNoise 2 (link to check the price of the Restoration Suite 2 at B&H Photo/Video) is yet another superb noise removal plugin. This software is included in Acon Digital’s Restoration Suite 2.
The Acon Digital DeNoise 2 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.
Acon Digital’s DeNoise 2 is a superb plugin for ridding of hiss, wind noise, buzz and camera noise. Like any top-performing noise removal plugin, the DeNoise 2 has an adaptive mode for real-time dynamic changed in noise reduction and a “learn” mode, which takes a sample of audio and uses that information to remove similar noise.
This plugin offers dynamic noise profiles in addition to its adaptive mode to provide multiple methods of reducing noise.
The dynamic parameters are fully adjustable, and the plugin does a good job of maintaining signal clarity without adding the typical artifacts that come with many noise reduction technologies. The improved transient detection ensures that transients remain untouched during the noise reduction process.
There are also frequency emphasis filters that can effectively EQ the noise for improved reduction while also EQing the signal itself.
This plugin also supports mid-side processing if you’re ever in need of reducing noise in mid-side signal setups.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Restoration Suite product page at Acon Digital.
Cedar Studio DNS
The Cedar Studio DNS (link to check the price at Cedar Audio) comes in two different plugins, aptly named DNS One and DNS Two. These software plugins have evolved out of Cedar Audio’s industry-leading noise reduction hardware and are certainly among the best of the best noise reduction plugins on the market today.
The Cedar Studio DNS One and DNS Two are compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and come in AAX, AU and VST formats.
Since Cedar brought the DNS1000 to market in 2000, the company has become an industry standard for dialogue noise suppression in film and TV post-production. Technology has come a long way since the company’s beginnings, and now Cedar offers incredible noise suppression audio software plugins with their Studio product line along with their industry-standard hardware.
The plugins are simple but remarkable when it comes to noise suppression.
The Studio DNS One is largely based on the famed DNS1000. It’s super flexible and easy to use. Once the standard for multi-channel post-production in the film, video, and TV industries, the plugin version maintains this reputation and works incredibly well to suppress unwanted noise in audio signals. It can even clean up unfavourable room acoustics and improve the sound from improper mic positioning.
Related article: Top 23 Tips For Better Microphone Placement
The Studio DNS Two is even simpler than the One with only two knobs. It’s based on a superior algorithm that quickly and effectively suppresses noise in dialogue. It’s among the easiest and most accurate noise reduction plugins available for dialogue.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Cedar Studio 8 user manual.
Antares SoundSoap+ 5
From the makers of the famed Auto-Tune comes the Antares SoundSoap (link to check the price at Sweetwater), a standalone noise reduction software that also works tremendously well as an audio plugin in digital audio workstations.
The Antares SoundSoap+ 5 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.
This user-friendly software is super powerful in standalone and plugin applications. It’s an all-in-one de-noise software capable of removing broadband noise, hum, clicks and crackles. It can even fix clipping to restore digital distortion in clipped audio files. This program is a big deal.
When used as a plugin, SoundSoap+ 5 can be adjusted to reduce specified frequency bands of noise to further specify the amount of noise suppression. A multi-band system is in place to adjust the noise suppression of each band while also improving the overall tone/EQ of the signal. The EQ includes a high and low-pass filter to help control low-end rumble and high-end hiss, respectively.
To learn more about high-pass and low-pass filters, check out the following My New Microphone articles, respectively:
• Audio EQ: What Is A High-Pass Filter & How Do HPFs Work?
• Audio EQ: What Is A Low-Pass Filter & How Do LPFs Work?
Hum is controlled easily by selecting the number of hum harmonics removed from the audio. The software also has a useful Track control to adjust the noise suppression based on the overall level of the audio signal.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the SoundSoap 5 user manual.