Questioning New Dimensions In Conference Audio

Headset vs Conference PhoneI’ve long had a fascination with spatial audio processing. This was in part why Voxeet caught my attention when the service initially launched. It was over a year before we were able to have them appear on VUC #471 on January 10th.

From that session you may recall that Voxeet offers a binaural conference service. Participants join a conference using a PC smart phone application. They use a stereo headset allowing the client application to provide placement of the individual participants within a controlled sound stage.

Voxeet is interesting. However, it’s not exactly clear what aspect of the service is most compelling. At point of launch they used the Speex audio codec, which allows wideband audio (aka HDVoice.)

In the recent v2 release their PC client has been moved to a WebRTC foundation, leveraging Opus. I’ve done a quick analysis of their updated online demo. Newly fitted with American voices where there were once French accents, it presents 16 KHz usable audio path, suggesting a 32 KHz sample rate. It certainly sounds very good.

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Podcasting: A Killer Application For Binaural Conferencing

Earlier this week a morning’s news dump brought with it something from Shel Holtz of Holtz Communication + Technology, a communication professional and long-time podcaster. He penned some interesting observations about the use of audio on the web in, “Listen up! You may be producing audio sooner than you think.” His post helped cast a new light on my perspective of binaural conference services like Voxeet and Dolby Voice. While I may have some reservations about their use in business, these could be killer tools for podcasters!

I must admit I was tempted to title this post with reference to binaural conference calls “getting rid of the voices inside my head.” That’s the value of the spatial effect, it expands the soundstage such that the call participants seem to be arrayed around one’s head instead of piled up between the ears.

For a podcast that has two more participants binaural conferencing is definitely an improvement over voices in mono. However, to make this convenient Voxeet et al would need to offer local call recording in their client. At present this is not offered, although it is on the Voxeet wish list.

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This is the sort of “3D” that I will not up with put!

3DRemember the opening sequence Sesame Street? Well, this post is brought to you by the number 3 and the letter D…cuz some of you weren’t paying attention all those years ago!

Both Voxeet and Dolby Voice are interesting binaural conference services. However, some of the marketecture being deployed sets off alarm bells in my mind. Despite claims to the contrary, and the echo of such claims by the media, I don’t believe that what they offer is “3D audio.”

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