I am an early adopted and fan of Jawbone’s Jambox and find myself using it much more than I hoped I would (surprising for a tech gizmo).

I was intrigued by an email promising a 2.0 Jambox firmware update containing LIVEAUDIO, a feature hyped as increasing “depth, detail, and unprecedented spatial realism” to this tiny speaker. (reminded me of old friends at CRE proposing turning stereo boom-boxes into virtual surround sound systems via the magic of crosstalk cancelation and the HRTF)

While they talk about binaural audio I doubt they are attempting the nearfield cross cancelation and the resulting tiny sweet spot needed to deliver the goods.  Or maybe not?

More likely they are performing classic phase delay tricks?

Listening to classical music and some test content LIVEAUDIO definitely dramatically widens the apparent soundstage, but this is not saying much compared to the previously boomy mono-experience (did I usually use the Jambox to listen to Podcasts while working on the house?)

Listening to Bo Gehring’s binaural content (from AAV3) I again hear am impressive sound stage, but I don’t get the true 3D binaural experience (elevation and front/back positioning) that I experience through headphones, and have also experienced with near field monitors employing crosstalk cancelation.  Perhaps I haven’t located the sweet spot?

Please leave a comment or email if you have more information or experiences to share.

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AudioAnecdotes at MakerFaire2001

If  you are in the Bay Area please visit us at the Bay Area Maker Faire today and tomorrow (5/21 – 5/22/11) for our exhibit: Homebrew Audio Synthesizers in a mint can.

We are located in the Fiesta Hall Digital Sound Space (that is the hall with the Tesla Coils, but we are in a side-gallery next to our friends from Stanford CCRMA)

Robert Quattlebaum will be demoing high performance audio synthesis on his mint can sized ybox2 board running the popular 8-core Parallax Propeller micro-controller. He will also be demoing a 10 oscillator modal synthesizer (from AAv3) using a homebrew Atmel AVR based slider box based on Ashley surplus Eq boards created for us by Rob Scott.

Erik Olson will be helping to visual the synthesizer output (as well as analyzing vibration modes of real-world-objects) via his Baudline spectrum analyzer.

Of course we will have all three AudioAnecdotes books available to leaf through, too.  Please drop by to say hello.

Unfortunately it seems as if I may have to sit Maker Faire out this year not quite recuperated yet so please be sure to email me if you stopped by the booth and have any questions!

All source code will be made available on github (more announcements to follow)

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The missing harmonic

A sneak-peak of our upcoming Audio Anecdotes 2011 Maker Faire project: Synthesizer in an Altoids Can.

This is a snapshot of a baudline spectagram of our first test signal.

Notice anything unusual? Why is there a missing harmonic?

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The Audio Programming Book

The Audio Programming Book

The Audio Programming Book from MIT Press by Richard Boulanger (editor of The CSound Book), and Victor Lazzarini. Forward by the esteemed Max Mathews.

A fantastic resource for all C/C++ audio developers. Have heard anecdotally that this book was ~10 years in the making.

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The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood

I just ordered James Gleick’s The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood, and am pretty excited about it. Information theory is so incredibly elegant and ineffable (especially to the students in my DigiPen compression class). It feels as if we are still just scratching at the implications in terms of encoding, transmission, compression, encryption, and perhaps genetics, conscious

ness and the nature of reality, too. I loved reading Gleick’s Chaos, and Genius back in the day. I am hoping this new work will offer some insights into Shannon and the riddle that is Information vs Entropy. Of course I am older and more cynical now than when I first reach Chaos while still in College…

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Rest in Peace Owsley

Rest in Peace Owsley “Bear” Stanley; the world is now a little less colorful place. Perhaps best know as the sound engineer who helped inspire the Grateful Dead‘s infamous Wall of Sound public address system that helped define the sound of live rock shows. Amazing for the early 1970’s the P.A. was powered by over 26,000 watts of amplification and pioneered the use of what is now referred to as the line array. It formed a Wall of speakers behind the band and acted as the band’s monitor so they heard what the audience did requiring custom feedback prevention. The band members sang into one of a pair of out of phase microphones fed to a differential amp. This arrangement canceled the sound of the wall which was common to both mics and passing the vocals.

Owsley also recorded many of the Dead’s live albums,  co-design the Skull and Dancing Bears logos and was also an active proponent of psychedelics.

Check out Owsley’s website which contains many interesting if (because they are) unconventional essays.

Checkout theoryphotos and details of the Grateful Dead’s Wall of Sound.

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Homebrew Audio Synthesizers in an Altoids Can

We just submitted our Bay Area Maker Faire Proposal: “Homebrew Audio Synthesizers in a Mint Can”  Maker #5001.

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Audio Illusions

I recently stumbled across, the father of Audio Scene Analysis, and Audio Anecdotes contributor, Al Bregman’s McGill website and was excited to find in addition to the theory of Audio Scene Analysis, the remarkable audio demos that originally accompanied his classic book

Audio Scene Analysis is the study of how we humans can make sense of the cacophony of  noise we are bombarded by and be able to identify, locate, and focus on individual elements: such as one conversation in a crowded restaurant, or one instrument in an ensemble, while not being confused or distracted by all the other sounds and noise sources.

Al’s research into the perception of sound included creating clever audio sequences whose timing or construction expose hearing in a similar way that optical illusions explore the nature of vision. Additionally they are fun, and can reveal principles that can be applied to, say, make sounds more or less distinct.

Al explores applications of ASA in two articles he created for Audio Anecdotes (after carefully considering the goals and intended audience for our books):

Controlling the Perceptual Organization of Sound: Guidelines Derived from Principles of Audio Scene Analysis (AAv1 pg 35)

Creating Mixtures: The Application of Auditory Scene Analysis to Audio Recording (AAv3 )

Al’s website also an amazing list of  researchers with ongoing investigation of: ASA, Auditory Perception, Psychophysics, hearing, Auditory neuroscience, Biology of ASA, Computation of ASA, Music Perception and Cognition, Speech Perception, Auditory Environments and Architecture, and more topics.

It will take me some time to wade through all of this material; please leave comments on exciting discoveries.

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Baudline for the Mac!

Baudline, the versatile, free(!), audio spectrum analyzer/signal analysis application, is finally available for the mac.  Having an OS X version means I am far more likely to analyze a signal since I no longer have to boot into Linux or Windows to run baudline. While not a native Cocoa app baudline runs fast and updates smoothly using X-Windows on my MacBook Pro.

The baudline website is full of potential applications such as measuring audio distortion (SNR, THD, SINAD, ENOB, and SFDR), the blog contains more explorations, and be sure to try some of the posted mystery signals to have a little fun and learn about the power and application of baudline.

We plan to use baudline at our Maker Faire booth to help demonstrate audio synthesis algorithms.

Post if you can determine the specifics of the signal displayed in the screencapture.

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Thoughts for Maker Faire 2011

Usually I get off to a late start, but this year we are already beginning to brainstorm for Audio Anecdotes at Maker Faire 2011 (May 21-22nd, San Mateo Fairgrounds).


The idea this year is to allow participants to experiment with the various sound synthesis algorithms described in the books: FM, modal, subtractive, granular, physical, etc. Participants will get the realtime joy of exploring the strange and wonderful synth parameter sound spaces, and watch the related waveform and spectral waterfall ala Baudline.

Ideally we would build a knob box specific to each synthesizer along with a fun controller: contact microphone, voice microphone, velocity sensitive keyboard, wind controller, etc.

We intend to use some flavor of micro-controller to provide USB, ethernet, or MIDI interface to some number of optical quadrature encoder pots and interface these to computers running the synth (or perhaps run the algorithms completely on-board). In Maker spirit we will find a way to share the hardware design.

Please let me know if you have suggestions, would like to participate in the booth, or develop the knob boxes and related software.

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