Signal Processing Supports a New Wave of Audio Research

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Signal Processing Supports a New Wave of Audio Research

John Edwards

Spatial and immersive audio mimics real-world sound environments

In an era of ubiquitous video, audio is often relegated to a secondary role. Yet electronic audio in all of its various forms is now staging a strong comeback as listeners, increasingly dissatisfied with the output of highly compressed audio files and streams, seek higher sound quality on all types of fixed and mobile platforms.

Signal processing is largely responsible for taking audio in all of its forms to new levels of quality. On the cutting edge of audio research is spatial audio, or ambisonics, a technique that takes a dimensional approach to sound, mimicking the way people hear in real life. By channeling the characteristics of sound as it travels through space and time, ambisonics envelops listeners inside a threedimensional (3-D) audio sphere that makes recorded music sound startlingly natural in whatever setting it’s used.

Virtual performances in the cathedral

Visitors to the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris in early 2017 had a good chance of hearing what sounded like live music being played, even when there were no musicians on site. What they were actually hearing was a recording of a live concert held several years earlier at the cathedral. With the assistance of several computer models based on the live performance, along with highly detailed room acoustic simulations, “Ghost Orchestra Project” researchers were able to present what amounted to a virtual recreation of the live performance.

Researchers reproduced a performance of the 19th century opera La Vierge (The Virgin) using computerized acoustical data, enhancing the experience with computergenerated virtual navigation. The 3-D visualizations were created with immersive architectural renderings that guide the viewer through the complex acoustics of the medieval Gothic cathedral (Figure 1). 




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