How to Improve a WAV File to Understand Speech


Professionals who clean audio files of recorded music often spend thousands of dollars on specialized software for the job, but if you only want to improve the quality of a recorded phone conversation or interview, there’s no need for expensive equipment. You can improve the clarity of speech with three or four audio tricks using free software, even if the WAV sounds noisy, hissy or merely needs a volume boost. With some amplification, equalization, noise reduction and compression, you’ll be able to hear the message loud and clear.

Things You'll Need

  • Mac or PC
  • Audacity
  • Download and install Audacity, a free audio editing program available on Mac and PC.

  • Open the WAV file you want to clean up in Audacity and look at the sound wave as it appears graphically. If it looks narrow, choose "Amplify" under "Effect" in the Audacity menu and increase the volume until it reads -.02 in "New Peak Amplitude."

  • Click "Equalization" under "Effect" in the menu, find 5000 Hz in the equalization line and give it a small boost. This boost adds presence to speech and makes words easier to understand.

  • Highlight a noisy or hissy part of the WAV where there's a pause in speech, then select "Noise Removal" from "Effect" in the menu. When the window comes up, click "Noise Profile." The window will disappear, so choose "Nose Removal" once again and select "Remove Noise."

  • Click "Compressor" under "Effect" in the menu and set the threshold at -12, the ratio at 2:1 and the attack at 0.2 seconds. Select the normalize button if it's not on, and click “Okay.”

  • Click "File" in the menu and select "Export As WAV" to create your new clarified WAV file on your hard drive.

Tips & Warnings

  • Highlight the entire file or the part of the file you wish to change before you select "Effect."
  • Listen to the WAV file after every step and if you like what you hear skip to Step 6.

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  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images
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