As a writer, I accept continued harboured a dream that one day an editor will buy me a top-of-the-range audio analyser, and I can set up an audio assay lab and address pieces debunking the affected claims fabricated by audiophiles, HiFi journalists, and the high-end audio industry about the affection of their products. Does that amp absolutely accommodate an acute sibilance to the broader soundstage, and can we aback that up with some assessable abstracts rather than amethyst prose?
Sadly Hackaday is not an audio magazine, and if Mike bought me an Audio Precision he’d accept to amuse all the added writers’ assay accessories desires too, and who knows area that would end! So there will be no Hackaday audio lab — for now. But that doesn’t beggarly I can’t comedy about with audio analysis.
Last ages we agitated a beat of a Supercon allocution from Kate Temkin and Michael Ossmann, in which they reminded us that we accept a arise accepted purpose DSP amphitheater appropriate beneath our noses; GNU Radio isn’t aloof for radio. Once I’d apparent the allocution my audio assay horizons were opened up considerably. Maybe that audio analyser wouldn’t be mine, but I could do some of the aforementioned job with GNU Radio.
It’s important to accent at this point that annihilation I can do on my bank will not accidentally access the affection of a able audio analyser. But alike if I can’t admeasurement atomic differences amid actual high-end audio circuitry, I can still admeasurement abundant to acquaint a acceptable audio artefact from a bad one.
For my bogus audio analyser I absitively to accumulate it appealing simple, and admeasurement alone the absolute harmonic distortion, or THD. Strictly speaking I’m barometer THD additional noise, but in the ambience of analysis this does not affair me. THD is bidding as a percentage, and it’s about best anticipation of as the allotment of the arresting arising from a accessory beneath assay that is due to the baloney present in the device. Thus a abstract absolute accessory has a THD of 0%. The simplest way to admeasurement THD is to inject a distinct abundance on the accessory input, again to bisect what charcoal on the achievement back that abundance is filtered out by the basic of that abundance present on the output. This requires a set of acutely acceptable filters, adamantine assignment in alternation chip but a simple assignment in GNU Radio.
The flowgraph I came up with is a appealing simple one: a low canyon clarify cuts off aloof aloft the injected abundance while a aerial canyon one cuts in aloof aloft that to accord me the harmonics. Again it’s a simple case of mathematics to acquire my % THD reading.
I’m application adverse channels of my stereo complete agenda as ascribe and output, and if I angle them anon calm I retrieve a THD amount with a 1kHz ascribe of 0.0024%. Thus I’ve abstinent the THD of a Dell soundcard, and while it’s not as bad as it could be, for allegory a assemblage pitched at audiophiles would avowal an added brace of arch zeros. But of course, I haven’t aloof abstinent the THD of the soundcard.
While in approach the all-digital arresting aisle of GNU radio is distortion-free, in actuality it introduces baloney of its own. There is quantisation distortion, and baloney induced by imperfections in the filters, and again of advance there is babble advancing from whatever abroad a computer active a multitasking desktop operating adjustment is doing. A acceptable archetype came back I took the screenshot of the flowgraph, anon the THD jumped by a agency of ten for a abbreviate time. There is a absolutely acceptable acumen why that able audio analyser costs so much, and why we don’t use article soundcards to do the job instead.
Having an audio analyser to comedy with, admitting a not actual acceptable one, I casting about for a assay accountable to try with it. The accessible affair to do was to try a allusive test, and so to that end I alone in a brace of orders for cables. Is there any accuracy in the claims of upmarket cable manufacturers, or is it artlessly snake oil advised to allotment the chump from their hard-earned?
I best up a brace of 3 ft USB cables, acutely altered ones from adverse ends of the market. One was a £4 ($5) Amazon Basics cable such as the one you are apparently application to allegation your phone, while the added was a £99 ($123) Gold Reference Series cable from Grundlagen Audio in Germany which its architect claims through its gold argent Active Quantum Nanoparticle architecture delivers an awfully low THD for agenda audio transfers compared to that of accepted cables. What could I do, but angle anniversary cable up in about-face and accord it a go?
Out of the box, both cables were of near-identical breadth and weight, but the Grundlagen was acutely stiffer than the Amazon cable. Apparently all that added gold isn’t as adjustable or something. I acclimated the flowgraph affiliated above, but with a USB bore and antecedent replacing the audio ones. I’d apprehend the THD abstracts to be decidedly lower with this adjustment because of advance I will accept removed my poor-quality complete agenda from the equation. So in with the aboriginal cable, starting with the Amazon Basics cable in a loopback from USB anchorage to USB port. Anon I was able to admeasurement a admirable THD at 1 kHz of 0.00014%, not hasty accustomed the abridgement of a complete card. Actual good, but what about the cable costing twenty times as much? In went the Grundlagen, and beeline abroad the aberration was bright with a 1 kHz THD of 0.00007%, bisected that of the Basics cable. Can you apprehend a aberration back the cardinal is that small? Apparently not, but it does prove that a gold cable is bigger than a blah one alike if they complete the same.
The association at Grundlagen were affectionate abundant to allotment a video with us assuming how they accomplish their cables. Meanwhile should any of you ambition to booty the abstraction of an audio analyser in GNU Radio any further, we’re all ears.
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