Adobe Premiere Pro CC (2016)

12. Sweetening Sound

Lesson overview

In this lesson, you’ll learn about the following:

• Sweetening sound with audio effects

• Adjusting equalization (EQ)

• Cleaning up noisy audio


This lesson will take approximately 60 minutes.


Audio effects in Adobe Premiere Pro CC can dramatically change the feel of your project. To take your sound to a higher level, leverage the integration and power of Adobe Audition CC.

Getting started

You’ll find many audio effects in Adobe Premiere Pro CC. These effects can be used to change pitch, create an echo, add reverb, and remove tape hiss. You can set keyframes for effects and adjust their settings over time.

1. Open the project Lesson 12.prproj.

2. In the Workspaces panel, click Audio. Then click the menu adjacent to the Audio option and choose Reset to Saved Layout.


Sweetening sound with audio effects

Ideally, your audio would come in perfectly. Unfortunately, video production is rarely an ideal process. At some point, you’ll need to turn to audio effects to fix problems. In this lesson, you’ll try a few of the most useful effects in Premiere Pro.

Image Note

Expand your knowledge about audio effects in Premiere Pro by experimenting. These effects are nondestructive, which means they do not change the original audio file. You can add any number of effects to a single clip, change settings, and then delete them and start again.

Not all audio hardware plays all audio frequencies evenly. For example, listening to deep bass notes on a laptop is never the same as listening on larger speakers.

It’s important to listen to your audio using high-quality headphones or studio monitor speakers to avoid accidentally compensating for a flaw in your playback hardware as you adjust the sound. Professional audio-monitoring hardware is carefully calibrated to ensure that all frequencies play evenly, giving you confidence you’ll produce a consistent sound for your listeners.

Premiere Pro offers a variety of helpful effects, including the following:

• EQ: This effect allows you to make subtle and precise adjustments to the audio level at different frequencies.

• Reverb: This can increase the “presence” in the recording with reverb. Use it to simulate the sound of a larger room.

• Delay: This effect can add a slight (or pronounced) echo to your audio track.

• Bass: This effect can amplify the low-end frequencies of a clip. It works well on narration clips, particularly for male voices.

• Treble: This effect adjusts the higher-range frequencies in an audio clip.

Adjusting bass

Adjusting the amplitude of the lower frequencies can improve the overall sound of a male voice. In this example, let’s try this with an announcer’s voice.

1. Open the 01 Effects sequence.

2. Play the first clip in the sequence, Ad Cliches Mono.wav, to get familiar with the sound. It sounds OK but would benefit from a little more low-frequency power.

If clip names aren’t visible, click the Timeline Settings button (Image) and make sure that Show Audio Names is selected.

3. Browse the Audio Effects folder in the Effects panel and look for the Bass effect.

4. Drag the Bass effect onto the Ad Cliches Mono.wav clip on the Timeline. Note that the Fx icon on the clip changes color to indicate that an effect has been applied.


5. Open the Effect Controls panel.

6. Increase the Boost property to add more bass.


Experiment using different values to increase or decrease the presence of bass until you hear a sound you like. Be sure to pay attention to your overall audio levels because an adjustment of this kind can change the volume of the clip. You may need to use the Audio Clip Mixer panel to maintain proper levels.

Adding a delay

A delay is a stylized effect. It can be used on an announcer’s voice to add drama, or it can be used to create a feeling of space using stylized echoes.

1. In the Audio Effects folder in the Effects panel, locate the Delay effect.

2. Drag it onto the Ad Cliches Mono.wav clip.

3. At the bottom right of the Effect Controls panel, there’s a button to play the audio for the clip and a Loop Play button (Image). Turn on the Loop Play option and click the Effect Controls panel play button to hear the Delay effect. By default, there’s an echo that’s offset by a second. You can leave the clip playing this way while you experiment.

4. Try adjusting these parameters:

• Delay: The time before the echo plays

• Feedback: The percentage of echo added to the original audio to create echoes of echoes

• Mix: The relative loudness of the echoes

5. Press the spacebar to stop the playback.

When selectively playing audio, using the button at the bottom of the Effect Controls panel, any audio adjustments you make will automatically create keyframes. This handy shortcut can speed up working on audio but we don’t need the keyframes you just created for now.

6. Click the Stopwatch icons for the Delay, Feedback, and Mix controls in the Effect Controls panel to remove the unwanted keyframes.

7. Enter the following values to get a classic stadium announcer effect:

• Delay: .250 seconds

• Feedback: 20%

• Mix: 10%


8. Play the clip and move the sliders to experiment further.

Lower values are a bit more palatable, even with this over-the-top audio clip. A subtle effect is usually more pleasant for listeners. Remember, your audience is likely to be much less tolerant of bad audio than of bad images.

9. Remove the Delay effect by selecting it in the Effect Controls panel and pressing Delete or Backspace.

Adjusting pitch

Another adjustment you can make is pitch. This is a useful way to change the overall tone of a sound. By altering the pitch, you can change the energy level, apparent age, or even gender of a speaker.

1. In the Effects panel, locate the PitchShifter effect.

2. Drag the PitchShifter effect onto the Ad Cliches Mono.wav clip.

Image Tip

Quite a few audio effects have these kinds of additional interface elements.

3. In the Effect Controls panel, click the Edit button next to the Custom Setup properties to show the parameters for the effect.


A floating panel opens.

4. Adjust the knobs to try different values. Try wildly different pitch settings, from –12 to +12 semitone steps, and try switching Formant Preserve on and off. The Formant Preserve option maintains the timbre of the original sound, which you may or may not prefer for a particular clip.

5. Back in the Effect Controls panel, there’s a button to the right of the effect name that looks a little like the regular Reset button. It’s actually a menu with a list of presets for this effect. Click the button to see the options.


6. You don’t need to close the floating panel to use the presets. Try some now, and notice the changes they make to the floating panel settings. When you’re finished, close the floating panel.

Adjusting treble

Earlier you applied and adjusted the Bass effect to modify the lower frequencies of an audio clip. To modify the high frequencies, use the Treble effect.

Treble is not simply the Bass effect in reverse. Treble increases or decreases higher frequencies (4000 Hz and greater), whereas the Bass effect changes low frequencies (200 Hz and less).

1. Drag the sequence playhead so it’s over the second clip in the Timeline panel (Music Mono).

2. Play the second clip to get familiar with its sound.

3. In the Audio Effects folder in the Effects panel, find the Treble effect.

4. Drag the Treble effect onto the Music Mono clip.

5. Increase the Boost property to add more treble.


Increasing the treble can give your audio more clarity. Experiment using different values until you get a sound you like.

Adding reverb

Reverb is similar to the Delay effect but is better suited to musical tracks. It can simulate the way a sound would be perceived in different types of rooms. It works particularly well for pieces that feature a strong guitar but can be used on just about any clip. It’s a powerful effect that can give life to audio recorded in an acoustically flat room, which is a room such as a recording studio with minimal reflective surfaces.

1. In the Effects panel, locate the Reverb effect.

2. Drag the Reverb effect onto the Music Mono clip.


3. In the Effect Controls panel, click the Edit button for the Reverb effect.


4. There’s a Presets menu at the top of the pop-up interface. Try a few of the presets and notice the effect they have on the values below the control knobs.


5. Experiment with the seven control knobs, which allow you to make the following adjustments:

• Pre Delay: The apparent distance the sound travels to the reflecting walls and back.

• Absorption: How much of the sound is absorbed (not reflected).

• Size: The apparent relative size of the room.

• Density: The density of the reverb “tail.” The greater the Size value, the greater the Density range (from 0% to 100%).

• Lo Damp: Dampens low frequencies to prevent the reverb from rumbling or sounding muddy.

• Hi Damp: Dampens high frequencies. A smaller Hi Damp setting makes the reverb sound softer.

• Mix: The amount of reverb.

Image Tip

The Reverb effect is a Virtual Studio Technology (VST) plug-in. These are custom-designed audio effects that adhere to a standard set by Steinberg audio. The creators of VST audio effect plug-ins want them to have a unique look and offer some specialized audio effects. There are many VST plug-ins available on the Internet. If you are using a Mac, you can also use Audio Units plug-ins.

Adjusting EQ

If you have a good amplifier or car stereo, it probably features a graphic equalizer. The EQ controls go beyond simple Bass and Treble knobs and add multiple sliders (often called bands) for greater control over the sound. There are two kinds of equalization effects in Premiere Pro: the EQ effect, which has five bands, and the Parametric EQ effect, which offers a single band (but can be combined multiple times).

Image Note

In the next exercise, use the suggested numbers for guidance, but feel free to experiment with different settings. Your taste and speakers may vary.


The EQ effect in Premiere Pro is similar to a traditional three-way EQ (low, mid, and high). This effect has three mid-frequency controls for even greater accuracy. This is a useful effect to smooth out a sound and emphasize (or deemphasize) part of a track.

1. Open the sequence 02 EQ. This sequence has one musical clip.

2. Locate the EQ effect in the Effects panel (try using the Find box at the top of the window), and drag it onto the clip.

3. In the Effect Controls panel, click the Edit button for the EQ effect to view the pop-up interface.

4. Play the clip to get familiar with its sound.

5. Select the check box to activate the Low frequency filter.

6. Set the Low frequency to 70 Hz to change the affected area, and lower the gain to –10.0 dB. This decreases the intensity of the Bass.


7. Play the sequence to hear the changes.

Take a look at the graph at the top of the EQ effect interface. The left edge represents amplitude adjustments in decibels. The bottom edge represents frequencies. Notice the shape of the line. It represents all the adjustments you’re making to the audio. You’re not just adjusting the 70 Hz frequencies. The curve of the line means adjustments are made to other frequencies, often producing a more natural sound.

Let’s refine the vocals.

8. Select the check box to activate the Mid1 frequency filter.

9. Set its gain to –20.0 dB and adjust the Q factor to 1.0 for more transition on the EQ adjustment.


The Q adjusts the sharpness of the line curve. The higher the Q, the wider the curve.

10. Play the sequence to hear the changes.

11. Select the check box to activate the Mid2 frequency filter.

12. Set its frequency to 1500 Hz and its gain to 6.0 dB. Adjust the Q factor to 3.0 for more transition on the EQ adjustment.


13. Play the sequence to hear the changes.

14. Select the check box to activate the High frequency filter, and set its gain to –8.0 dB to lower the highest frequencies.


Image Tip

If your audio meters are not displayed, you can access them by clicking Window > Audio Meters.

The overall volume is too high for the intended output level, and the audio meters show that the level for your file is too loud.

15. Lower the Output slider for the effect to approximately –3.0 dB. This adjusts the overall output level.


Image Note

Avoid setting the volume too high (the Peak meter line will turn red, and the peak monitors will light up). That can lead to distortion.

16. Play the sequence to hear the changes.

These are dramatic changes intended to illustrate a technique. In general use, you’ll usually make more subtle adjustments.

Parametric EQ

If you want to go beyond five frequency range adjustments, the Parametric EQ effect may meet your needs. You can select only one frequency range with the Parametric EQ, but you can use it multiple times and select a different frequency each time. This lets you build as complex an equalizer as you need in the Effect Controls panel.

Image Tip

Another way to use the Parametric EQ effect is to target a specific frequency and either boost it or cut it. You can use this effect to cut a particular frequency, like a high-frequency noise or a low hum.

1. Open the sequence 03 Parametric EQ.

2. Play the clip to get familiar with its sound. Then select the clip in the sequence and look in the Effect Controls panel.

There are seven parametric EQ effects applied to the clip, but they all have the Bypass option enabled, meaning the effect is not applied. The effects are arranged from low frequencies (at the top of the list) to high frequencies (at the bottom of the list).

3. Deselect the first Bypass check box for the first Parametric EQ effect.


Image Note

Listing all the attributes of all the audio effects in Premiere Pro is beyond the scope of this book. To learn more about audio effects, search Premiere Pro Help.

4. Play the sequence to listen to the change.

5. Continue deselecting the Parametric EQ Bypass check boxes one at a time, and listen to the changes in the audio track after each one.

The overall audio level is likely to become too loud as you add more and more of these Parametric EQ adjustments. Enable the Bypass check boxes for effects you have already listened to.

Audio Plug-in Manager

It’s easy to install third party plug-ins. Choose Edit > Preferences > Audio (Windows) or Premiere Pro > Preferences > Audio (Mac OS). Then click the button for the Audio Plug-in Manager.

1. Click the Add button to add any additional directories that contain AU or VST plug-ins. AU plug-ins are Mac only.

2. If needed, click the Scan for Plug-ins button to find all available plug-ins.

3. Use the Enable All button or the individual enable check boxes to activate a plug-in.

4. Click OK to commit your changes.

Cleaning up noisy audio

While it’s always best to record perfect audio at the source, sometimes you can’t control the origin of the audio and it might be impossible to re-record it. You may find you need to repair a bad audio clip. Premiere Pro has versatile tools for fixing common audio problems.

Highpass and Lowpass effects

The Highpass and Lowpass effects often work to improve a clip, used together or independently. The Highpass effect is used to remove all frequencies that fall below a certain frequency (think of it as letting all audio frequencies pass through if they are higher than the threshold you set). The Lowpass filter is the direct opposite. It only allows frequencies below the specified Cutoff frequency.

1. Open the sequence 04 Noise Reduction.

2. Play the sequence to get familiar with the sound quality.

There’s a clear hiss and a low hum that sounds like electrical interference.

3. In the Effects panel, locate the Highpass effect and drag it onto the clip. This effect allows audio over a particular frequency to pass through—and be audible.

4. Play the sequence.

It is probably thin because the Highpass threshold is set too high. Too many frequencies are removed.

5. Make sure the clip is selected and, in the Effect Controls panel, adjust the Cutoff slider to a lower value.

You can make adjustments while the clip plays to hear the result in real time. Play with the value to minimize some of the lower-frequency noise in the background. A setting around 160.0 Hz works well.

6. In the Effects panel, locate the Lowpass effect and drag it onto the clip.

7. Play with the Cutoff slider for the Lowpass effect. A setting around 5000.0 Hz works well.


Experiment with different values to familiarize yourself with the way these two effects interact. It’s possible to remove the audio completely by setting the two effects to overlap frequencies. Pull down some of the higher frequencies that are making the recording sound “tinny.”

Multiband Compressor

The Multiband Compressor effect offers independent control over four different frequency bands. Each band typically contains unique audio content, making this a useful tool for audio mastering. Additionally, you can refine crossover frequencies between bands. These will let you adjust each band independently.

1. Open the sequence 05 Compressor.

2. Play the sequence to hear the audio. It sounds fine but has quite a lot of sibilance—high frequency sounds produced when speakers pronounce strong s’s and f’s.

3. In the Effects panel, locate the Multiband Compressor effect and drag it onto the clip.

4. In the Effect Controls panel, click the Multiband Compressor Edit button to view the detailed controls.

A new window opens.


The Multiband Compressor effect has a number of presets.

5. Click the Presets list at the top of the Multiband Compressor window, and try some of the presets to get a sense of the impact this effect has.

6. From the Presets list, choose De-Esser. This automatically pulls down some of the higher frequencies.


7. Listen to the audio to hear the results.

It’s better but could have a little more punch.

8. Click the Solo button for Band 2 (the orange one).


9. Start audio playback so you can hear results.

10. While the audio plays, drag the white vertical audio crossover markers to refine the mid-frequency band, that is, the range of frequencies controlled by the second band.


11. At the bottom of Band 2 there are a series of numerical controls. You can click and drag these, just as you would click and drag the blue numbers you see in the rest of the Premiere Pro interface. Experiment by reducing the threshold and increasing the gain settings to give the vocal more consistent intensity.


12. Disable the Solo switch on Band 2.

13. Experiment with the crossover markers, threshold, and gain controls. Close the panel when you’re finished.

The Multiband Compressor can add power to audio without raising the peak level. This makes it easier on your audience’s ears without losing impact.

Notch effect

The Notch effect removes frequencies near a specified value. The effect targets a frequency range and eliminates those sounds. The effect works well for removing power-line hum and other electrical interference. In this clip, you can hear the sounds of fluorescent light bulbs buzzing overhead.

1. Open the sequence 06 Notch Effect.

2. Play the sequence and listen for the electrical hum. You may need to turn up your speakers.

3. In the Effects panel, locate the Notch effect and apply it to your clip.

4. Adjust the Center setting to target the frequency to be removed. If you expand the Center controls by clicking the disclosure triangle, you can use a slider.

Power-line hum tends to be at either 50Hz or 60Hz. In this case, it’s 60Hz, so choose that.

5. The Q adjustment allows for extra frequencies to be selected, around the chosen frequency. The higher the Q setting, the more precise the selection. In this case, you can set the Q setting to the maximum, 10.

6. Play the sequence to hear the result.

It’s common for power hum to occur at harmonic frequencies. This means you may have interferences at 50Hz, 100Hz, 150Hz, and so on, or at 60Hz, 120Hz, 180Hz, and so on. It sounds like there’s at least one harmonic frequency in this example.

7. Repeat the process, adding the Notch effect to the clip, and configuring it. This time, set the Center setting to 120Hz.

8. Listen to the sequence again.

Even though the interference was at precise frequencies, this made it difficult to take in the vocals. Now it’s removed, and everything sounds much clearer.


Image Note

A 60Hz or 50Hz hum can be caused by many electrical problems, cable problems, or equipment noise. The frequency varies because of the different electrical systems used around the world.

Removing background noise with Adobe Audition

Adobe Audition offers advanced mixing and effects to improve your overall sound. If you have Audition installed, you can try the following:

1. In Premiere Pro, open the sequence 07 Send to Audition from the Project panel.

2. Right-click the Noisy Audio.aif clip in the Timeline and choose Edit Clip in Adobe Audition. A new copy of the audio clip is created and added to your project.


Audition opens, along with the new clip.

3. Switch to Audition.

4. The stereo clip should be visible in the Editor panel.

Audition shows a large waveform for the clip. To use Audition’s advanced noise reduction tools, you need to identify a part of the clip that’s just the noise so Audition knows what to remove.


5. Play the clip. The beginning contains a few seconds of just noise, which is perfect for making a selection.

6. Using the Time Selection tool (the I-bar tool in the toolbar), drag to highlight the section of noise you just identified.


7. With the selection active, choose Effects > Noise Reduction/Restoration > Capture Noise Print. You can also press Shift+P.

If a dialog appears informing you that the noise print will be captured, click OK to confirm.

8. Choose Edit > Select > Select All to select the entire clip.

9. Choose Effects > Noise Reduction/Restoration > Noise Reduction (process). You can also press Shift+Control+P (Windows) or Shift+Command+P (Mac OS). A new dialog opens so you can process the noise.


10. Select the Output Noise Only check box. This option allows you to hear only the noise you’re removing, which helps you make an accurate selection so you don’t accidentally remove too much of the audio you want to keep.

11. Click the Play button at the bottom of the window, and adjust the Noise Reduction and Reduce By sliders to remove noise from the clip. Try not to pull down much or any of the voice.


12. Deselect the Output Noise Only check box and listen to your cleaned-up audio.

13. Sometimes noise reduction results in distortion in vocals. In the Advanced section, there are a number of controls for refining the noise reduction. Experiment with the following:

• Reduce the Spectral Decay Rate option (this will shorten the delay between reducing noise and allowing it to be heard).

• Increase Precision Factor (this will take longer to process but improve results).

• Increase Smoothing (this will soften the adjustment from no noise reduction to full noise reduction based on an automatic selection of specific frequencies).

• Increase Transition Width, which allows some variation in level without applying full noise reduction.

14. When you’re happy with the results, click the Apply button to apply the cleanup.

15. Choose File > Close, and save your changes.

16. Switch back to Premiere Pro, where you can listen to the cleaned-up audio clip.

The Loudness Radar

If you are producing content for broadcast, it’s likely you will be supplying media files according to strict delivery requirements.

One of those requirements will relate to the maximum volume for the audio—and there is more than one approach to this.

A popular modern way of measuring the audio level for broadcast is called the Loudness scale, and there’s a way to measure your sequence audio using this scale.

You can measure the Loudness for clips, for tracks, or for whole sequences. The precise settings you’ll require for your audio should be given to you as part of your delivery specifications.

To measure the Loudness for a whole sequence, follow these steps:

1. Switch to the Audio Track Mixer (rather than the Audio Clip Mixer). You may need to resize the frame to see all the controls in the Audio Track Mixer.

The Audio Track Mixer allows you to add effects to tracks, rather than clips, and the Master output track is no exception. Unlike the Audio Clip Mixer, the Master track is displayed in the Audio Track Mixer, and this is the part of the interface you want.

2. At the top of the Audio Track Mixer, on the Master controls, you’ll find spots for a number of effects. From this list, choose Special > Loudness Radar.


3. The effect appears at the top of the stack, with controls at the bottom.


4. Right-click the Loudness Radar effect in the Audio Track Mixer and choose Post-Fader.


The Fader controls on the Audio Track Mixer adjust the audio level for the track. It’s important that the Loudness Radar analyzes the audio level after any Fader adjustments because otherwise adjustments made with the fader are ignored.

5. Double-click the name of the effect at the top of the interface to get access to full controls.


6. Press the spacebar to play, or click Play on the Program Monitor. During playback, the Loudness Radar monitors loudness and displays it as a range of values illustrated in blue, green, and yellow (there’s also a peak indicator).

The goal is to keep loudness generally within the green band on the Loudness Radar, though what that level will be depends on the standard you are working to, and this will be defined by your broadcast specifications.

You can change the levels indicated by the various bands in the Loudness Radar by clicking Settings. You can also use a preset, based on widely used standards, by choosing the Preset menu.


For more information about the Loudness Rader, see Premiere Pro Help.

Review questions

1. To change the tone of an audio clip without changing its duration, which effect would you use?

2. What’s the difference between the Delay and Reverb effects?

3. Name three ways to remove background noise from a clip.

4. How does Premiere Pro protect your media files when sending work to Adobe Audition, which rewrites audio files as required while working?

Review answers

1. The PitchShifter effect can modify the apparent pitch or energy level for a clip while still maintaining sync with a video clip.

2. Delay creates a distinct, single echo that can repeat and gradually fade. Reverb is a more complex effect that creates a mix of echoes to simulate a room. It has multiple parameters that take the hard edge off the echo you hear in the Delay effect.

3. You can use a Highpass, Lowpass, Multiband Compressor, and Notch effects within Premiere Pro, or you can send the clip to Adobe Audition to use its advanced noise reduction controls.

4. Premiere Pro produces duplicates of all media to be worked on in Adobe Audition, so your original files are safe.