editor's blog
Subscribe Now

Bad Speakers Cast a Bigger Shadow

Let’s face it: a lot of the speakers we have these days are crappy. I know how my laptop sounds; I used to attribute that partly to what I assumed was a cheap sound card (since, why would you put an expensive one in something with crappy speakers?). Later, I retired that laptop for use as a “gateway” for things like Netflix and Pandora, driving into a monitor that also had speakers. And those speakers also sucked.

But when I connected the laptop audio to real speakers, suddenly I got rich sound like I had never heard from a computer (although I’m sure it would have sucked for an audiophile…). In other words, it wasn’t the sound card at all: it was the speakers that transformed music into a tinny mishmash.

I had a conversation the other day about this with Les Tyler, president of THAT Corp., which has a division dedicated to dbx technology for TV audio. They’re trying to address this issue, since no one who makes monitors or TVs (in particular) seems to want to use decent speakers – they’re often not even willing to have the speakers face the audience (what a concept!). It’s a cost thing; video is king; audio is… well, perhaps it’s a throwback to Warner Brothers’ Harry Warner in the ‘20s: “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?”

In case you think they’re going to find a way to get 12”-woofer base out of a 1” speaker, they will assure you that “we can’t change the laws of physics.” But they say that they make bad speakers sound better, essentially by measuring the transfer function of the speakers and then applying the inverse to the sound in a DSP software algorithm.

It’s not quite that simple –the actual inverse transfer function would apparently be huge, so it’s a good approximation. The function is also a function of loudness, and, hence, must operate dynamically to keep the signal from overdriving the speaker.

The solution is split into two pieces: the TotalSonics piece is what ends up in the TV itself, adjusting the sound in real time. Their TotalCal product is used by developers to calibrate the solution to the specific system and speakers. It’s a microphone that measures the sound quality of unassisted sound; those measurements are used to determine the corrections.

There’s one other TV sound problem they’re trying to correct: that of varying loudness levels. This has actually been addressed legislatively through the CALM law that says that ads can’t scream any louder than the rest of the programming. But that only applies to a given channel. Different channels may have different loudness levels. Their TotalVolume solution is aimed at “equalizing” the volume of different channels.

That last bit actually has another application of interest to me. Because my sound goes through an oldish amplifier with a manual volume knob, I find I’m constantly getting up to adjust when changing from one or another movie on Netflix or between audio channels like Pandora, soma-fm, or my local radio station’s stream. I suppose I would be thankful if that getting-up process were the only exercise that got me off the couch, but it’s not, so I’d love some equalization in the laptop. And it is something dbx-TV could do, perhaps in the future. But there’s no specific plan for it yet. Oh well… I can hope…

Leave a Reply

featured blogs
Apr 11, 2021
https://youtu.be/D29rGqkkf80 Made in "Hawaii" (camera Ziyue Zhang) Monday: Dynamic Duo 2: The Sequel Tuesday: Gall's Law and Big Ball of Mud Wednesday: Benedict Evans on Tech in 2021... [[ Click on the title to access the full blog on the Cadence Community sit...
Apr 8, 2021
We all know the widespread havoc that Covid-19 wreaked in 2020. While the electronics industry in general, and connectors in particular, took an initial hit, the industry rebounded in the second half of 2020 and is rolling into 2021. Travel came to an almost stand-still in 20...
Apr 7, 2021
We explore how EDA tools enable hyper-convergent IC designs, supporting the PPA and yield targets required by advanced 3DICs and SoCs used in AI and HPC. The post Why Hyper-Convergent Chip Designs Call for a New Approach to Circuit Simulation appeared first on From Silicon T...
Apr 5, 2021
Back in November 2019, just a few short months before we all began an enforced… The post Collaboration and innovation thrive on diversity appeared first on Design with Calibre....

featured video

Learn the basics of Hall Effect sensors

Sponsored by Texas Instruments

This video introduces Hall Effect, permanent magnets and various magnetic properties. It'll walk through the benefits of Hall Effect sensors, how Hall ICs compare to discrete Hall elements and the different types of Hall Effect sensors.

Click here for more information

featured paper

Understanding Functional Safety FIT Base Failure Rate Estimates per IEC 62380 and SN 29500

Sponsored by Texas Instruments

Functional safety standards such as IEC 61508 and ISO 26262 require semiconductor device manufacturers to address both systematic and random hardware failures. Base failure rates (BFR) quantify the intrinsic reliability of the semiconductor component while operating under normal environmental conditions. Download our white paper which focuses on two widely accepted techniques to estimate the BFR for semiconductor components; estimates per IEC Technical Report 62380 and SN 29500 respectively.

Click here to download the whitepaper

featured chalk talk

AC Protection & Motor Control in HVAC Systems

Sponsored by Mouser Electronics and Littelfuse

The design of HVAC systems poses unique challenges for things like motor control and circuit protection. System performance and reliability are critical, and those come in part from choosing the right components for the job. In this episode of Chalk Talk, Amelia Dalton chats with Ryan Sheahen of Littelfuse about choosing the right components for your next HVAC design.

Click here for more information about Littelfuse AC Protection & Motor Control in HVAC Solutions