Audio Processing Takes On Many Forms

  • With Michael Grotticelli

Audio Processing Takes On Many Forms

Audio Processing Takes On Many Forms At NAB 2024 By Michael Grotticelli... 

Surveying the exhibit floor at the recent NAB Show in Las Vegas, it was clear that audio processing now comes in a variety of forms to fit different workflows and delivery methods. Solutions, in both hardware and software, range from desktop products to cloud- and AI-enabled platforms that can process thousands of files for multi-channel delivery.

Audio processors have become a vital part of the content lifecycle to help improve quality, add effects or comply with government mandates for loudness levels. In fact, they are the last step before the signal leaves the station or production facility. Common processing techniques include filtering, equalization, amplitude modulation, time stretching, pitch shifting, reverb, delay, compress and more.

Audio over IP (AoIP) and loudness are two major issues broadcasters are now dealing with. For example, there is a requirement to maintain compliance with the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. To satisfy this, local stations might need to overlay audio descriptions of locally inserted information, such as text crawls.

"Loudness control and upmixing are always two popular topics in audio processing for TV," said Larry Schindel, Telos Alliance Product Manager for Linear Acoustic and Jünger Audio products. "With the addition of immersive and personalized audio, loudness control and measurement needs have really expanded, and it is no longer good enough to simply pass a complete mix through a stereo or 5.1-channel loudness control process. When working with immersive and/or personalized audio, there are more channels to deal with, and in the case of personalized audio, the bed mix and the individual dialogs need to be processed independently, and the loudness measured for the various presentations from which the viewer can choose."

At NAB Jünger Audio (part of the Telos Alliance), announced new software updates for its flexAI platform, including AIXpressor and flexAIserver products. 

The new version represents a complete overhaul of AoIP integration - including full support for SMPTE ST 2110-30 and -31 Level A, B, and C as well as Livewire+ live streams - for the AIXpressor, making it an ideal high channel-count AoIP interface. Support for NMOS IS-04 and IS-05 makes both AIXpressor and flexAIserver even more useful in ST 2110-based workflows, including integration with the industry’s most popular orchestration systems. 

On the production and processing front, an improved voice-over automixer ensures dialog is kept in proper balance with other program elements, while Jünger Audio’s latest generation upmixer brings center channel replacement technology to the table. In addition, two new channel strips are now available: A matrix mixer with up to 16 input and output channels to simplify copying and shuffling channels, and a multichannel delay with 16 individual channels and up to 20 seconds of total audio delay.

"AI is currently a hot topic and is really in its infancy," Schindel said. "Many of the initial AI/ML based workflows are designed to improve efficiencies and eliminate much of the repetitive, low-level, menial tasks involved in broadcast. On the audio side, AI is being used to improve and, in some cases, automate routing processes. Examples of this include automating the generation of closed captioning data, language translation, and even unmixing an audio program for additional processing or dialog replacement. This largely works in the file-based domain at this point, but someday these techniques should be able to run in linear real-time programming."

Cobalt Digital exhibited its ARIA AUD4-DANTE product, which includes Audio Production, Processing and Networking. It’s DANTE card in an openGear form factor that offers quad-channel units with up to 12G DANTE/AES/MADI/Embed and De-Embed functions with Frame Sync capabilities. The card also features two gigabit Ethernet ports, a 64x64 configuration, and a full audio router mixer. The DANTE capability is also be available on Cobalt’s 9904-UDX/9905-MPx processing cards for maximum functionality and flexibility.

The ARIA OG-AUD4-DANTE is a 4x channel unit with 12G SDI and DANTE/ AES/MADI that can simultaneously embed and de-embed audio between SDI, DANTE, AES and MADI with flexible routing and mixing. This card also includes a built-in frame sync.

"We are bringing new product to market for today’s broadcasters to allow them to seamlessly transition to tomorrow’s technology," said Suzana Brady, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Sales and Marketing at Cobalt Digital. Falcon X7 is the high end of Axel Techology’s new generation of audio processors and was on full display at NAB 2024. Falcon X7 makes your radio station sound great while enabling you to set up a custom sound identity by choosing the preset that best suits the desired style of your station. It works for FM and DAB, HD Radio, Sirius XM, and the Web. The new processor embeds the New Falcon Platform: a brand new firmware with cutting-edge technology that combines ease of use and high level quality sound. It’s a fully integrated audio processor, MPX generator, RDS encoder, loudness controller & Change Over. 

Falcon audio processors integrate many extra though needful features for the radio workflow: RDS coding (optional) and Stereo Generator or innovative technologies such as DAB and audio over IP. They ensure the highest quality performances and high level audio. They also feature powerful DPSs, 5-bands architecture, dual bands AGCs, 3-bands equalizer, stereo enhancer, speech detector and 5 limiters.

The comprehensive and accurate control of each audio parameter allows to perfectly shape the audio to broadcast unique and exceptional branded sound. There’s even a built-in audio encoder and streamer that can manage two audio streams like an input, can generate an output audio stream.

At NAB the Telos Alliance also showed its new Omnia Forza FM as the latest member of its Forza family of software processors. Like the original Omnia Forza product for HD, DAB, and streaming audio - now branded as Forza HDS - Forza FM serves as a container of microservices that can run on an on-premises COTS server or on a cloud-hosted platform such as AWS. 

Forza FM maintains the same five-band architecture, but its wideband and multiband processing stages have been optimized to meet the unique demands of FM radio. It features the same Frank Foti-designed “Silvio” clipper used in Omnia.11 and includes processing for HD-1 with a built-in diversity delay. The FM stereo generator will feed both µMPX and linear MPX over IP outputs.

Maintaining the same HTML5 UI introduced with Forza HDS, Forza FM makes use of “smart controls” to adjust multiple parameters with a single control. This ensures that less-experienced users can easily deliver a stellar on-air sound to their listeners while still providing the individual controls processing pros expect to fine-tune their audio.

Broadcast Electronics spotlighted tools for voice tracking, ad-libbing on-air, creating a newscast, or getting in on the latest radio applications like podcasting, datacasting, tweeting or Tagging. 

The company’s AudioVAULT FleX is an automation system with built-in audio processing that provides the tools stations need to work smarter and achieve more in a single customizable, expandable and adaptable platform that features multiple modules that work together. It encourages talent to be creative as possible in delivering compelling content, building audience and increasing sales. With all the features you need from an automation system, AudioVAULT XPresso is easy on the user and your budget.

AudioVAULT FleX 10.40 introduces Perfect Timing, designed to keep your station on time, all the time. Perfect Timing uses audio squeeze and stretch, combined with autofill and autodrop to make sure hours or segments end on time. In addition, individual audio elements can be made to play back at a more desirable duration.

This means no more playing :29’s and :59’s Plus, if you use MusicMaster, auto-fill songs will be chosen in real-time, so they will always follow your programming rules and keep you sounding great.

Innovonics featured its family of digital & analog audio processing for airchain, general overload protection and production. From simple audio level control and peak limiting to signature AM/FM "On Air" sound, Inovonics processors make managing audio easy and trouble free.

One such product is the INOmini 223 audio processer, which packs lots of power in a deceptively small package. Its versatile DSP-based design is user programmable to serve multiple broadcast applications - NRSC, AM, FM, SCA, TIS. The unit’s parametric equalizer offers continuous control over the audio signal's frequency content with 3 bands of dynamic compression and selectable crossovers.

The processor also addresses the needs of NRSC-compliant AM broadcasting with a range of cutoff frequencies, TIS (Traveler’s Information Service) advisories, monaural LPFM transmission, and analog SCA subcarriers. A full-range ‘Studio’ mode satisfies mic processing and general production needs.

"The INOmini 223 allows a station to reap the rewards of today’s digital technology thanks to this feature-rich, budget friendly processor," said Bill DeFelice, a broadcast engineer & founder of HobbyBroadcaster.net, an online industry resource.

Orban showed the full range of its new generation audio processors: the new flagship model OPTIMOD 5950 as well as OPTIMOD 5750 and OPTIMOD Trio. OPTIMOD 5950 and 5750 both provide audio processing for FM and DAB+/HD Radio/Streaming and OPTIMOD Trio can be used either as AM, as FM or as Digital Media audio processor. Equipped with a high-resolution touch display and the ability to be controlled remotely via any HTML5 web browser, the compact 1 RU OPTIMODs combine user-friendly operation with the highest quality OPTIMOD audio processing. 

A highlight was the OPTIMOD 5950 in the so-called Super Hi-Fi edition that brings together Orban audio processing and Super Hi-Fi’s AI-powered programming as well as the recently introduced HLS+ delivery technology.

Besides that, the XPN-AM Audio Processor was exhibited, which is based upon an AM-optimized version of Orban’s MX limiter technology. This limiter technology provides a combination of loudness, cleanliness, crispness, speech intelligibility, and coverage.

In addition to its hardware products, Orban also showed new OPTIMOD PCn 1600 audio processing software that can be installed locally or in a cloud-based infrastructure. It is the perfect choice for broadcasters who need a flexible and scalable audio processing solution that does not occupy a lot of rack space. 

At NAB Lawo customers were looking for ways to align audio processing technology with the demand for agility and flexibility. The HOME Management Platform for IP-Based Media Infrastructures was the main attraction.

As part of this, the company showed its HOME mc² DSP app.

"The conventional hardware approach, often characterized by dedicated boxes for specific applications, no longer meets the dynamic needs of modern broadcasting," said Christian Struck,

Senior Product Manager Audio Production, Lawo. "Lawo’s HOME Apps address this need by harnessing the power of modern server technology with a unified approach to audio and video processing on demand."

The server-based, ultra-low-latency audio engine seamlessly integrates with Lawo’s HOME Apps platform, delivering superior audio processing quality with connectivity and scalability. Whether used alongside mc² mixing consoles or as a standalone virtual mixing system, the HOME mc² DSP app helps converge the video/audio production environments, meeting the demands of Lawo’s customers, while maintaining a tight, plannable grip on their expenses.

He added that the HOME platform is as much about workflow simplification as it is about empowering customers to select and configure their resources, complete with the required formats, inputs and outputs, within seconds. More formats and options can be added at short notice thanks to the underlying microservice architecture.

"The HOME platform is as much about workflow simplification as it is about empowering customers to select and configure their resources, complete with the required formats, inputs and outputs, within seconds," Struck said. "More formats and options can be added at short notice thanks to the underlying microservice architecture."