Dr Miguel Blanco Galindo
Academic and research departmentsCentre for Vision, Speech and Signal Processing (CVSSP).
My research project
Microphone arrays for spatial audio object capture
I am currently pursuing a PhD within the S3A project which aims to bring the next generation of spatial audio to people's homes, in partnership with the Universities of Surrey, Southampton, Salford and the BBC Research. As part of the PhD, I am investigating different ways to capture 3D sound by examining various microphone array designs and signal processing techniques. The outcome of the doctorate is expected to have an impact on how spatial audio is recorded for the project and potentially for future content creation. This will result in an enhanced reproduced experience in the users' living rooms.
Microphone arrays, beamforming, spatial audio, recording techniques, room acoustics
Frequency-invariant beamformers are useful for spatial audio capture since their attenuation of sources outside the look direction is consistent across frequency. In particular, the least-squares beamformer (LSB) approximates arbitrary frequency-invariant beampatterns with generic microphone configurations. This paper investigates the effects of array geometry, directivity order and regularization for robust hypercardioid synthesis up to 15th order with the LSB, using three 2D 32-microphone array designs (rectangular grid, open circular, and circular with cylindrical baffle). While the directivity increases with order, the frequency range is inversely proportional to the order and is widest for the cylindrical array. Regularization results in broadening of the mainlobe and reduced on-axis response at low frequencies. The PEASS toolkit was used to evaluate perceptually beamformed speech signals.
Room Impulse Responses (RIRs) measured with microphone arrays capture spatial and nonspatial information, e.g. the early reflections’ directions and times of arrival, the size of the room and its absorption properties. The Reverberant Spatial Audio Object (RSAO) was proposed as a method to encode room acoustic parameters from measured array RIRs. As the RSAO is object-based audio compatible, its parameters can be rendered to arbitrary reproduction systems and edited to modify the reverberation characteristics, to improve the user experience. Various microphone array designs have been proposed for sound field and room acoustic analysis, but a comparative performance evaluation is not available. This study assesses the performance of five regular microphone array geometries (linear, rectangular, circular, dual-circular and spherical) to capture RSAO parameters for the direct sound and early reflections of RIRs. The image source method is used to synthesise RIRs at the microphone positions as well as at the centre of the array. From the array RIRs, the RSAO parameters are estimated and compared to the reference parameters at the centre of the array. A performance comparison among the five arrays is established as well as the effect of a rigid spherical baffle for the circular and spherical arrays. The effects of measurement uncertainties, such as microphone misplacement and sensor noise errors, are also studied. The results show that planar arrays achieve the most accurate horizontal localisation whereas the spherical arrays perform best in elevation. Arrays with smaller apertures achieve a higher number of detected reflections, which becomes more significant for the smaller room with higher reflection density.
Multi-point approaches for sound field control generally sample the listening zone(s) with pressure microphones, and use these measurements as an input for an optimisation cost function. A number of techniques are based on this concept, for single-zone (e.g. least-squares pressure matching (PM), brightness control, planarity panning) and multi-zone (e.g. PM, acoustic contrast control, planarity control) reproduction. Accurate performance predictions are obtained when distinct microphone positions are employed for setup versus evaluation. While, in simulation, one can afford a dense sampling of virtual microphones, it is desirable in practice to have a microphone array which can be positioned once in each zone to measure the setup transfer functions between each loudspeaker and that zone. In this contribution, we present simulation results over a fixed dense set of evaluation points comparing the performance of several multi-point optimisation approaches for 2D reproduction with a 60 channel circular loudspeaker arrangement. Various regular setup microphone arrays are used to calculate the sound zone filters: circular grid, circular, dual-circular, and spherical arrays, each with different numbers of microphones. Furthermore, the effect of a rigid spherical baffle is studied for the circular and spherical arrangements. The results of this comparative study show how the directivity and effective frequency range of multi-point optimisation techniques depend on the microphone array used to sample the zones. In general, microphone arrays with dense spacing around the boundary give better angular discrimination, leading to more accurate directional sound reproduction, while those distributed around the whole zone enable more accurate prediction of the reproduced target sound pressure level.
Microphone array beamforming can be used to enhance and separate sound sources, with applications in the capture of object-based audio. Many beamforming methods have been proposed and assessed against each other. However, the effects of compact microphone array design on beamforming performance have not been studied for this kind of application. This study investigates how to maximize the quality of audio objects extracted from a horizontal sound field by filter-and-sum beamforming, through appropriate choice of microphone array design. Eight uniform geometries with practical constraints of a limited number of microphones and maximum array size are evaluated over a range of physical metrics. Results show that baffled circular arrays outperform the other geometries in terms of perceptually relevant frequency range, spatial resolution, directivity and robustness. Moreover, a subjective evaluation of microphone arrays and beamformers is conducted with regards to the quality of the target sound, interference suppression and overall quality of simulated music performance recordings. Baffled circular arrays achieve higher target quality and interference suppression than alternative geometries with wideband signals. Furthermore, subjective scores of beamformers regarding target quality and interference suppression agree well with beamformer onaxis and off-axis responses; with wideband signals the superdirective beamformer achieves the highest overall quality.