Insight on Vista's Microphone Array Technology

Makes recording studios obsolete

By on 26 Sep 2007, 14:19 GMT
Microsoft promises that Windows Vista is more than capable of delivering a solid audio capture experience to the level where a professional recording studio is no longer needed. The essence of such a task lies in taking a holistic approach, and delivering consistency throughout the complete life-time of the audio signal in order to avoid degradation of quality. And of course that there's a variety of variables impacting the recording, from room acoustics, including reverberation and background noise, as well as the basic electrical interference produced by the system's components. The simplest alternative to dropping a few thousands dollars on a professional sound equipment and locking yourself in a recording studio is none other than a copy of Windows Vista in combination with a microphone array.

"Simply stated, a microphone array is two or more microphones used at the same time to capture sound. Windows Vista supports microphone arrays that consist of two or four microphones. During sound capturing, the microphone array software searches for the speaker's position and aims a capturing beam in that direction. If the person speaking moves, the capture beam will follow the sound. It's like having two highly directional microphones: one constantly scanning the workspace measuring the sound level, and the other pointing to the direction with the highest sound level; that is, to the person talking. In addition, the higher directivity of the microphone array reduces the amount of captured ambient noises and reverberated sound," revealed Richard Fricks, Program Manager, Windows Sound Team.

Windows Vista will process the different microphone signals and in this manner will determine the exact position of the source of sound. Of course that the immediate result is a cleaner capture of the sound and a higher quality of the recording. But Vista will not stop at the level of microphone array processing. The fact of the matter is that the operating system will perform additional steps, including Acoustic Echo Cancellation; Stationary Noise Suppressor; Automatic Gain Control and Wideband quality sound capture and processing. These are all aspects of the Digital Signal Processing, delivered by the operating system.

"The real strength in Windows Vista for improving microphone capture quality, however, is not just its microphone array technology. Windows Vista integrates its Microphone Array technology as part of a complete end-to-end strategy. This strategy starts at the microphone and covers the audio signal all the way up to the application. Approaches that do not consider this can find that the high-quality signal it produced can quickly be negated by problems that occur later in the path", Fricks added.

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