From the Desk of the Audio Editor

Welcome Friends,

   At IHM Media we sometimes receive comments or questions about the audio available on our website, I thought I should devote a little page to familiarize you with the process by which our audio product is produced and edited before it goes on our website.

   Not all of our audio was recorded in the 21st century digital audio recording age. Some of the original recordings date back 20 or 30 years. To produce modern audio product from less than perfect recordings, we begin with  three possible recording scenarios:

   1.) Oh, the wonders of modern technology! Thankfully, whenever we record new audio, we take advantage of special vocal microphones and amplifiers that ensure that the speakers words go in properly, and background noise and hiss stay out. These recordings need little tweaking before they are ready for distribution. The recordings are made digitally, and are kept digital, in order to ensure there is no sound quality deterioration, such as that encountered when you copy audio cassette tapes.

   2.) Speaking of audio cassette tapes, that brings us to the second scenario: Many of our recordings were done back in the days of the audio cassette tape. Though many of the recordings were made with professional recording equipment, there is no way to eliminate all of the noise that was introduced to the original recording because of the moving parts in an audio cassette deck.

   That being said, there are special computer programs that I use with "filters" that can clean up the audio, taking out some of this annoying hiss. Unfortunately, when these filters are used, a little bit of the speech is also taken out. If too much hiss is taken out, the audio sounds unnatural, like the lecturer is in a "fish bowl." Processing these is a constant balancing act. Sometimes, it is best to leave a little bit of the hiss in the audio, to retain the best tonal quality in the speaker’s voice.

   3.) Our third scenario involves a combination of several things. Sometimes, as with many of our earlier recordings, the lecture was given in an informal setting, perhaps with the speaker sitting at a table with others sitting close to the microphone. The equipment used for recording was not of the quality readily available today, and was perhaps not properly set up at the time the recording was made. Audio cassette tapes were used, and often have since deteriorated or been copied. Unfortunately, once a lecture like this is poorly recorded, there is no going back. It is about these recordings that we receive the most comments.

   Fortunately, I do have some very powerful software to correct some of these deficiencies in the original recordings once they are digitalized in a computer. Some of the problems I usually have to work with are: strong background hiss and hum, low volume levels (especially when people in the audience ask questions), and background noise (people tapping the table where the microphone was sitting, or grinding their chair on the floor, etc.). Each individual recording is processed separately, and each one requires a slightly different process to get the best possible result. 

   Though I have been working with these and similar audio recordings for the past eight years, the art of making less than ideal original recordings listenable is one I that am constantly working to refine. Unfortunately, nobody has invented a "magic audio filter" to get rid of all unwanted noise from a bad recording (despite what they show on forensic science dramas). Despite having to “repair” some old audio and consequently offer you some recordings that would be of much better quality were they produced from modern originals, we feel that the information contained on these older recordings is well worth our attempt to improve the quality, and worth your time to listen.

   In all three scenarios, after the entire recording is "filtered" one way or the other, the entire recording is listened-to in order to remove unwanted noises, coughs, hesitations or other anomalies that distract from the lecture. Some of the lectures (for example, The History of Catholic Spain) were given as a multi-subject course (in that case it was given together with Commentary on St. Paul to the Corinthians), and we have taken the time to isolate the respective parts, so that you may choose one subject or the other as it suits you.

  I hope that has helped to provide some insight into the nature of our production process and the resulting effect on the final product offered here.  I can personally attest that the many hours that I have spent listening to these recordings as I have worked on them, has been a great blessing for me. My hope is that they may they be as helpful to you in your quest for learning more about the Catholic Faith as they have been for me!

   If you have any further questions regarding the audio, please feel free to contact me via our "Contact Us" page. Thank you!

Best regards and may God bless you!
David C. Schroth, Jr.
IHM Media Audio Editor