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Topic: Is there a way to manipulate/remaster 22khz low res audio to sound better? (Read 1421 times) previous topic - next topic
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Is there a way to manipulate/remaster 22khz low res audio to sound better?

This is something I have always wondered. I have some low res audio rips from various videogames and they sadly do not exist in any better quality since for some reason they compressed the audio to hell and back and they are only in 22khz. They obviously sound really dull and awful.

I know that there is no way to magically bring back what is lost and sadly these tracks do not exist in any higher quality either from other game platforms or official OST releases so the 22khz is the stuff we are stuck with in this case.

I was wondering if maybe someone can give the music the impression that it is less compressed such as using various EQs or effects such as harmonic enhancers or a slight reverb on it.

Is there any kind of research done on this topic or does anyone know something? Would be greatly interested in this.

Re: Is there a way to manipulate/remaster 22khz low res audio to sound better?

Reply #1
There isn't much you can do because you're basically further altering and changing the sound in ways that might not be any better.  If something was exclusive to a game console, a lot of times you can make it sound like it came from that console providing you know the inner workings a bit.

You can play with different kinds of interpolation such as using poor quality linear resampling to 44,100 Hz (results are mixed typically) or use a high frequency exciter plugin (results are typically mixed), other times you can apply noise gates to bring down any noise.  You can apply highpass filters to eliminate pops caused by DC offsets that might exist.  You can do some stuff with EQ and compressors or expanders as well.

For the most part I leave it alone unless I'm sure of what the console hardware or any desktop operating systems that originally ran it did when playing such files back.  Cross platform stuff isn't really worth touching unless something was originally developed for one platform and than ported to a different one many years later.

Re: Is there a way to manipulate/remaster 22khz low res audio to sound better?

Reply #2
You can try running the track through Stereo Tool (after resampling the original file to 44.1kHz) with the Delossifier and/or Absolute Highs effects turned on and fine tune it for your liking. It will not necessarily sound better, because its "guesses" the missing high frequency region from the lower, so it's not a magic bullet. But it can enhance the treble a bit, if that's what you're looking for.


Re: Is there a way to manipulate/remaster 22khz low res audio to sound better?

Reply #4
Thanks for all the input. Figured as much. I actually tried Stereo Tool already but the "delossified" output almost always sounded worse than the input. Like way too brassy drums and such. I think this delossification process only really makes serviceable results with MP3 but not these weird custom 22khz codecs from the 90s used for videogames. Interpolation is another thing I tried but it is really hard to say whether something sounds better with it or not and also seems to be really situational. Just because one track might sound slightly better with it, doesn't mean all do.

Re: Is there a way to manipulate/remaster 22khz low res audio to sound better?

Reply #5
Most video game music can be played in foobar2000, and most emulators have the ability to dump WAV files, so your best bet is to just dump the music yourself and throw away the old, bad rips.

Re: Is there a way to manipulate/remaster 22khz low res audio to sound better?

Reply #6
Most video game music can be played in foobar2000, and most emulators have the ability to dump WAV files, so your best bet is to just dump the music yourself and throw away the old, bad rips.

If they already exist that way in game than an emulator or playing them back in foobar2000 will not help.  If it was a chiptune from a really old game console you could re-record it as is the case with cartridge based systems but if it's a compressed file in a proprietary format which is often the case for games on CD-ROM type media, you're sort stuck with whatever it is.  It's not uncommon for some older games to have audio in 22 KHz at all as space on the discs were limited and it had to share space with other game assets.

Re: Is there a way to manipulate/remaster 22khz low res audio to sound better?

Reply #7
Most old games use sequenced music, so technically you can record it at any sample rate, since the source doesn't use samples. You probably won't get much content above 16 kHz though, so 32 kHz sampling may be sufficient for fourth generation consoles and earlier. For fifth generation consoles and later, you may have either CDDA or ADPCM as options, too. ADPCM is commonly 32 kHz to save space, but if you want higher quality than that, you'd have to import the game's soundtrack CD from Japan (assuming it has one).

Re: Is there a way to manipulate/remaster 22khz low res audio to sound better?

Reply #8
Most old games use sequenced music, so technically you can record it at any sample rate, since the source doesn't use samples. You probably won't get much content above 16 kHz though, so 32 kHz sampling may be sufficient for fourth generation consoles and earlier. For fifth generation consoles and later, you may have either CDDA or ADPCM as options, too. ADPCM is commonly 32 kHz to save space, but if you want higher quality than that, you'd have to import the game's soundtrack CD from Japan (assuming it has one).

The original poster is likely dealing with ADPCM type format that is at 22 KHz for which no soundtrack was ever released for and cross platform with the same terrible audio.  There's a lot of games that never get a soundtrack release for one reason or another and the developers are either over-zealous with trying to make files as small as possible without regard that they have the room for files with better sample rates or they really didn't have the room for it and just had to make it fit.

I use 44.1 / 48 KHz for recording of 4th Gen consoles with the exception of SNES (which is the only one I'm aware of that could be mod for digital audio output).  5th Gen consoles offered developer's more choices with newer compressed ADPCM audio formats of the time and were easier to do music for because you weren't limited to doing only sequences or using CD audio if the console had an add-on CD drive.  I wouldn't be surprised if 22 KHz ADPCM was used in some obscure 6th Gen game either as I said some developers just over do it for whatever reason.

Re: Is there a way to manipulate/remaster 22khz low res audio to sound better?

Reply #9
I actually tried Stereo Tool already but the "delossified" output almost always sounded worse than the input.

It's basically HE-AAC's SBR without any steering information available. No surprise it cannot be too decent. It's acceptable if the loss of bandwith is not so severe, eg. with a low bitrate mp3, as you said.

There are some attempts to create "AI upscaling" techniques to do the same to audio as with video, but I'm not aware of any particular project in the wild which you can download and try for yourself. And I'm almost sure the audio corpus it was trained on pretty much determines the kind of genre you can use it in a meaningful way.


Re: Is there a way to manipulate/remaster 22khz low res audio to sound better?

Reply #11
I would guess, anything other than a machine learning approach, would almost always make it worse, not better. And even that, must be carefully trained on similar music genres.
So, pretty much what darkbyte said.
some ANC'd headphones + AutoEq-based impulse + Meier Crossfeed (30%)