Harman's Signal Doctor to cure compressed music, restore original sound

Signal Doctor will eventually be available as a mobile app

Audio technology company Harman International today announced software that automatically analyzes and upgrades the audio quality of all types of compressed, digitized music to restore the sound as it was originally recorded by the artist.

The technology, called Signal Doctor, will be available in a number of new Harman consumer products and in new Harman-branded automotive audio systems this year. The announcement was made at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

According to Harman, an original recording can lose up to 90% of the audio content when it's compressed into an MP3 or streaming music file format. Signal Doctor can restore the missing audio content in order to return the music to its uncompromised, original format, the company said.

Compression often blends the music into a mono experience. Sound Doctor restores the stereo sound... and musical depth or ambiance," said Phil Eyler, general manager of Harman's Global Automotive Audio Division. "It does also improve low bit rate speech files in satellite radio."

Signal Doctor is based on HTML5, Java and CSS, which is the best coding for cross platform application development, Eyler said. "That's the inherent benefit of this technology. All platforms we're launching this on at CES will be able to use it," he added.

The new software adjusts the amount of audio correction it applies based on the quality of the input signal. For example, while it will add no correction to a CD-quality signal, Signal Doctor will add a heavy dose of correction to the most compressed signals.

"Signal Doctor adjusts the quality of the music based on the signal. A mildly compressed signal gets light correction where a low bit rate MP3 streaming audio file gets heavier treatment," Eyler said.

Signal Doctor also removed "artifacts" or sounds that are added by electronic devices during the compression process, such as echoes.

The Signal Doctor software works automatically, discovering compressed audio files without user intervention. According to Harman, Signal Doctor does not blindly add equalization, bass boost, or other effects that alter the intended listening experience. Instead, Harman developed a predictive model that recreates the lost information based on the existing compressed content.

"It restores crisp detail and clarity of high frequency sounds like cymbals that can be muddied in compressed sources; it sharpens dynamic sounds like percussion instruments that can be smeared or dulled by compression; it takes a flat, compressed vocal and brings back the intimacy of the original performance," the company said in a statement. "It rebuilds the stereo image that is often compromised by compression, creating a natural, wide soundstage."

Signal Doctor is available as a fully integrated feature within a range of Harman home and multimedia products, and available for auto makers to offer in Harman in-vehicle branded audio systems.

"Initially, it will not be an add-on that can be purchased separately. The technology itself has already been ported into c-code-based and assembly-based processors and can be integrated into either the audio amplifier or the vehicle head unit," a Harman spokesman said.

Harman is also exploring options for creating and distributing Signal Doctor as a mobile app, the spokesman added.

Signal Doctor will be available this month in some Harman home and multimedia audio products, including the new JBL Authentics Series wireless home entertainment sound systems.

This article, Harman's Signal Doctor to cure compressed music, restore original sound , was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Lucas Mearian covers consumer data storage, consumerization of IT, mobile device management, renewable energy, telematics/car tech and entertainment tech for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

See more by Lucas Mearian on Computerworld.com.

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