Frequently Asked Questions
If you can't find the answers you need in our service descriptions pages, hopefully you can find some more information here. But if the worst comes to the worst, and you still need answers, please ask us using our Feedback form, or give us a call at any time on Freecall.
A. Our standard services (which include data recovery, information separation, noise or flaw removal, cover scanning, and full digitisation) start from around AUD$45.00 per album, tape, video, film spool, or document folder. Basically, if it's a single album, single video, or single roll of film, we'll abide by our standard pricing.
For specific and current pricing information, please refer to our pricing page.
We're not in the get-rich-quick business, nor do we wish to be taken advantage of - so prices may vary, especially with photographs (in other words, don't bother putting your entire family album in one plastic bag and expect digitisation of hundreds of photos for $35.00!).
Especially with audio recoveries, we provide incredibly sophisticated, world-leading audio editing facilities, and as it can take literally days to recover badly-degraded recordings for a few minutes' worth of audio, it would not be logical nor reasonable to expect us to provide this level of expertise for nothing more than a minimal compensation! However, we always take time to examine recordings and documents first, and we will always inform you before starting if we identify some problem or issue that may result in excessive editing time.
Most of our customers have some idea of the quality of the recording they supply to us, and if there's any chance of confusion, we'll bring it to your attention before everything turns into a slanging match!
A. The nature of our business means that the results of our work can be quite subjective. What we consider "acceptable" or "reasonable", you may consider to be rubbish. If this kind of unfortunate incident happens, in every case, we will try to provide you with what you consider an acceptable (or better yet, fantastic!) result.
In other words, if you find a click or pop on an audio recording we've worked on, or a flaw on a digitised photo or document, just call us to let us know you've found a problem, and we'll fix the problem and provide you with a new copy (at no additional charge), or we'll explain in clear language why we are unable to repair the problem, and if possible, we'll suggest an alternative option.
In every case, we will endeavour to meet or exceed your expectations. This is especially true for our so-called "standard" services (which, to be fair, are far more sophisticated than most other "specialised" service offerings)
We are lovers of music, all kinds of music, and regardless of whether we personally enjoy a particular artist or film or image, we always endeavour to provide a standardised, professional, and reasonable service, no matter what the content. Hey, we're not prudes!
However, if the underlying media is flawed beyond recovery, or there are other physical or practical reasons why we may be unable to meet your requirements, we will always contact you first to explain the problem, what can be done about it, and what you can expect from us. After all, that's only common courtesy!
A. That's a really good question. (Go away)
Seriously, this is one of our biggest beefs (beeves?).
In some cases, the commercial re-release of a vinyl album on CD (especially if the material has been properly digitally re-mastered) is sometimes as good as (or, rarely, better than) the original recording. In that case, you'd be mad to pay us for a different copy of the same material!
Sadly, this isn't the case with most commercial CD re-releases of vinyl (or earlier) albums recorded before about the mid-70s. Many of these CD re-releases are just awful - we've lost count of how many commercial CDs we've heard where you can clearly hear the stylus hitting the lead-in groove of the record, or (more inexcusably) talking or laughter that's leaked from the mastering booth into the CD recording. And there's just no justification for clicks or pops or stutters on a commercial re-mastering, but they're there in a shockingly large number of these recordings.
There's a lot to be said on the subject of the other problem CD re-release, the "Piggybank Release" (as we call these little nightmares).
These can be identified by the tinny, reedy, thin sounding replay, where no equalisation has been applied; or else the bass knocks holes in your walls and you can't hear the vocals; or the mid-range has been boosted to the point where your ears bleed - and the rest of the instrumental or backing vocal is left to fend for itself in a muddy haze of badly unbalanced channel mixes. It's like karaoke for the terminally stupid.
Oh, the record companies just love these releases - they cost almost nothing to produce (they sure as hell don't seem willing to pay for a producer or engineer to match the original recording production settings!), and most people will pay just as much for one of these awful recordings (because it's "on CD!") as they would if the record company wasted all that money on a recording engineer who knew an instrumental spatial position from an MP3 tag.
In that case, and especially where vinyl recordings have never been re-released, and the only copy you have is scratched or warped, or just a bit over-played, we can definitely provide you with a better-sounding recording than the bargain bin box.
In most cases, the sound quality of the recording you get back from us beats even correctly-recorded commercial re-releases. And if you have a specific requirement for a preferred equalisation setting (to suit a particular playback environment or specific equipment), or for 7.1-channel upmixes, we can accommodate that too.
Either way, you'll get way more enjoyment out of $45.00 than $7.50!
A. We go to great lengths to ensure that the final recording will play in just about any player. However, older players or worn or damaged players will obviously have problems playing any recordings.
We try to ensure (as far as technically possible) that the CD (or DVD) will work in old players, car players, portable equipment, and just about any other player you may have. Of course, this assumes your player is in full working order, and has no modifications to bypass or contravene existing technical media standards. This means Playstations and other toys that have been imported or modified may not play the media we provide. Unfortunately, that's your problem, not ours. Sorry!
We only use premium quality recordable media, media-compatible inks, and our mastering and recording processes ensure that what is put on the CD, stays on the CD.
A. It depends. How long is a piece of string?
If the CD/DVD we provide to you is handled correctly, stored properly, and not left in the sun or on top of a furnace or put in a microwave oven or chewed by Cujo, then you can reasonably expect the media to last for at least 10 years. Some manufacturers claim 50 years or more, but that's, um, unlikely, unless they've tested it in the TARDIS or they know something the rest of us don't...
In practice, although we use only premium quality media, we don't have any control over changes the manufacturer may make in the production of that media, whether by accident or design.
We should point out that current CD and DVD recording technology relies completely on the stability of organic dyes to preserve the digital recording. Whether these dyes will last for 10 years, or 50, or a thousand years, we honestly can't say with any reliability. We can guess, but that's about it.
What we can tell you is that if you make a digital copy of the media before the lifetime of the dye is exceeded, then that copy should last another X years (assuming recording technology continues to improve), and so on. And, because you now have a digital copy, it is extremely unlikely that any information could be lost during the copying process.
We do everything possible to ensure that the digital copy we provide to you will last at least as long as the manufacturer guarantees, and contains all the information needed to recreate the copy perfectly if needed.
A. Yep. Anywhere in the greater Melbourne metropolitan area (this includes Sunbury, Melton, Geelong, and the Peninsula) is fine by us. Or you can post or courier items to us, or drop them in yourself!
Obviously, international and overseas customers (Cocos and Christmas Islands, Fiji, New Zealand, and so on) will need to package and post the recordings. We would suggest 'sandwiching' LPs between tough cardboard layers and using a good-quality padded post pack. For detailed instructions on packaging various recordings, check out the Shipping section on our pricing page.
A. Good question. Next?
Copyright is a bitterly complex and technical issue. Basically, it boils down to this:
If you own the original recording or image, and you can present that to us (which is pretty much implied in our service requirements - i.e. no item, no service), we are entitled to make one, and only one, copy of the original item for your personal use. The copy we make is covered by the original article's copyright agreement - which means you are specifically not permitted to copy it further, publish it, or broadcast it in any way in contravention of the original copyright.
Audiography complies in principle and practice with all copyright laws and digital amendments in Australia, and we will endeavour to comply in every respect with national and international copyright treaties and obligations in all other countries.
What this means is that by law, we can make one, and only one, permanent copy of an original item, as long as we provide that item and it's digital replica to you, and we then remove any other intermediate or working image permanently from our system. If you break or lose the copy we provide to you, you must furnish us with the original again in order for us to recover and recreate the digital copy.
We do not keep any copy of any client data on any of our runtime or backup systems.
In addition, the copy we provide to you has all legal copyright mechanisms intact, and is always clearly labeled as a legitimate copy made for you and only you. This means that some player mechanisms may be unable to play the copy - in which case, unless we've made a mistake in the recovery or mastering process, you may need to use a different player. (Please see the compatibility question for more information).
If you ask us to recover or copy an unlabelled recording that appears to be copyrighted material that you are unable to prove you own the copyright to, be it cassette tape, CD, video, or DVD, we are unfortunately unable to assist you. This includes MP3, AVI, OGG, and any other lossy or lossless computer recording.
A1. Don't even think about it. See the copyright question for clarification.
A2. If you are a law-enforcement official or government agency, and you can authorise and provide independent and verifiable legal authority, we will of course be willing to assist in any way required by law.
For access to copyrighted material currently on our systems, you will of course be required to provide the appropriate reference to the 1968 Copyrights Act and/or the 2000 Digital Amendments, together with a warrant for the material.
For access to other material, please contact us beforehand and we will make arrangements to provide all lawful information.
A. This is a really good question. (For a technical answer to this and other issues, see our Wear and Tear page).
Basically, we can eliminate some noises without affecting the actual recording of interest. This is especially true for noises that are very different to the underlying audio. However, some noises are very similar to the recording itself, and we can't just 'get rid of' these noises, because if we do, we'll also remove that part of the original recording!
For example, most 'clicks' and 'pops' fall into the fairly easily removed category. They are very large (compared with the rest of the recording), they are quite short, and there's usually enough recorded sound "around" them to be able to reconstruct the sound that they replaced. It's a lot like seeing a dark spot on a scanned photograph - on a plain background, the spot stands out, but it can easily be "cut out" and replaced by nearby pixels so to all intents and purposes, it can't be seen anymore.
We need to emphasise here that in nearly all cases, we can remove the sudden noise without affecting the original audio content. So there's no 'missing' recording, or silence - the underlying audio is restored, although it is changed somewhat by the process. However, since these types of noise are usually less than a thousandth of a second long, the results can't be distinguished, even by the best amplifiers and speakers. Anyone who tells you different is trying to sell you something!
The second type of noise can be incredibly difficult to remove without damaging the audio content we're trying to preserve.
This second type of noise is typically a hiss or "grinding" that is usually caused by wear and tear of the disc or tape. In vinyl records, this noise is created within the record groove itself. It's usually caused by repeated playing of the record, and is made far worse by grit and dirt getting caught between the needle and the record.
Since a vinyl record reproduces sounds by moving the needle up and down (and left and right, see the photograph at left), when the recording is worn, there's nothing to move the needle; so instead of a nice musical sound, you hear only the grinding of the needle against the record.
This noise is especially noticeable when playing back high frequency recorded sounds - for example, when someone says (or sings) 'S' or 'TH', or during complex sounds, like orchestral playing. Of course, since these types of sounds (or frequencies) are recorded on the disc, they need to move the needle very quickly up and down and left and right - it's kind of like playing sandpaper. So these sounds are not only most affected by wear and tear, they are much more difficult to 'clean up'.
Tape players use a very different mechanism for recording sounds, but repeated playing of a tape will cause very similar problems - the lubricated film protecting the tape wears out, then the tape head starts scraping against the recording medium, and that's like driving along a highway holding your hand on the road!
To completely remove this type of noise from the original recording, without noticeably affecting the original recording can be done, but unfortunately not by us using our standard services. It takes many hundreds of hours of computer time to correctly identify the noise, separate it from the recording, and reconstruct the original recording. Unless we have access to the master tapes, it's effectively impossible to do.
A. There are two ways to remove noises from audio recordings - hardware (also called 'in-line' filters) and software.
The advantages of hardware filters (which are always some combination of resistors, capacitors, and inductors, in various "L" or "T" configurations, sometimes attached to a small amplifier) are that they are relatively easy to set up to "catch" various noises and undesirable effects. They are also (usually) fairly cheap, and they usually have a consistent effect on the audio signal that can be compensated against.
The problem with using only hardware filters, is that they always affect all the audio signal in some way. Vendors of these products will state categorically that they only suppress such-and-such a frequency, or that they "split" the signal in some way so that the rest of the signal is unaffected, and various other reasons why you should part with your cash and stick their little grey box between your turntable and your amplifier.
In most cases, and particularly with extremely well-designed devices, like the "Disk Doctor" designed by Silicon Chip magazine, they do have an effect on bad noises coming from your turntable, and can in some cases even eliminate really bad noises from some really bad recordings, so they aren't a complete waste of time and money.
Unfortunately, component manufacturing being what it is, the components used in the vast majority of such devices have some appreciable (although usually small) tolerance. Some, unfortunately, have massive great "tolerances" that must be specified at a particular temperature, humidity, and air pressure! Having said that, even the finest, hand-carved metallised polyester capacitive films, lovingly potted in military-grade epoxy, with hand-turned connecting wires, and individually hand-placed in a Nobel-prize winning configuration by third-generation Swiss watchmakers will affect all of the audio signal to some measurable extent.
The problem isn't that these devices don't work - it's that they do work, but not always the way you'd expect! For someone who just wants to hear a record again, and doesn't mind (or can't hear) the distortion left behind by these devices (for example, if the CD is played through typical PC speakers, or $9.95 earbuds from a consumer electronics store), the hardware answer is probably going to be acceptable.
For the rest of us, where it's important to be able to distinguish the string section from the horns, or to be able to hear the background chatter on a live album, or where we're trying to preserve as much of the original recording, as closely as possible to what's actually left on the disc or tape, hardware filtering on its own just doesn't cut the mustard.
But (and here's the really important bit) : neither does software! That's why we use both hardware and software to tailor our recordings. (No, we don't use (and therefore we can't specifically recommend) a commercially available hardware filter).
Using the software and hardware equipment that we do, we can not only actually distinguish different frequencies, but we can distinguish between different instruments on the same recording! To be sure, using software filters and noise reduction can affect more than we expect - this is the main problem with most of the free and popular "click eliminators" and "scratch filters" that are on the market. While their 'presets' and "sound configurations" work with some recordings, they don't work at all with other recordings!
So we've selected, and use, a particular software package that, together with our recording hardware configuration, allows us to apply all the filters and modifiers we want, where we want them, and in the order we want. The filters we use are all completely configurable, so not only can we apply the same filter in a different way, we can apply the same filter on a very different recording, and still tune the filter accordingly! It sounds like nerd heaven, but what it means is that when we find a particular combination of noise suppression that works really well on one recording, we can 'fit' it to a completely different recording, say one that nothing else works on. This is fun for us, and the results work for you.
Everyone has a pet - a pet peeve, a pet theory, a pet name. We're no different. But we've tried all the sound pets available, and we've made our own pet, a sort of cat-mouse-tiger-rhino, that lets us get the most out of your recordings and in to your ears. We call him "Harvey"...
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