Last Updated: May 28, 2021.
Sound is all around you whether you notice it or not. An alarm clock waking you up in the morning, a smoke detector telling you there’s a fire danger, a car blaring its horn during traffic, and many others could be observed in your surroundings. Its overall quality is described based on its volume, pitch, range, and frequency.
However, other sound producers require the correct balance to function correctly. These are audio, electro-acoustic, and electronic devices such as microphones, speakers, and amplifiers.
If you’ve attended a concert or a conference, you may have noticed there’s always a technical sound team. Their work is to ensure the sound being produced in the events is of the highest quality with minimal distortion and noise. This is done using audio analyzers.
What Is An Audio Analyzer?
Simply put, an audio analyzer is an instrument assessing the quality of audio from musical, digital, and electronic devices. They measure how the capacity at which an electronic audio device transmits a signal. The audio quality metrics are analyzed in various parameters, including harmonics, crosstalk, sound level, frequency response, and gain.
Sound analyzers send a test sound called ‘signal’ to the device being examined, and the operator compares it to the original sound from the device. The operator can tell the quality of the sound if it’s good or bad.
This is the method used to test the sound quality of electro-acoustic devices for use or sale.
Here are some of the standard parameters assessed during an audio analysis:
- Gain: It’s the ratio of the output signal and the input signal in the device being tested.
- Phase: A comparison of two sounds with the same frequency that’s measured in degrees.
- Level: It’s the size of the sound under test. It can be expressed in volts, watts, or decibels.
- Frequency response: It’s the output of the device under test. The purpose of measuring the frequency response in audio devices is to reproduce the input sound while eliminating distortions.
- Crosstalk: This is an unwanted signal appearing in the device under test. It may be caused by capacitive or inductive coupling that’s transferring energy between segments of the circuit.
- Signal-to-noise ratio: It’s the ratio of the required signal quality to the unwanted noises from the device under test.
- Intermodulation distortion: It occurs when more than one signal mixes in a non-sequential mode. The result is the production of new tones usually unwanted and severely distorted. This happens because every piece of audio equipment has the extent of being non-sequential. Some have low levels inaudible to the human ear, but some are high.
In most cases, the analyzers come with a user interface where the parameters measured are displayed. They can also be used together with mobile apps and software. In quality assurance, the results indicate a pass or a fail, which helps in the standardization and enhancement of products.
Types of Audio Analyzers
Sound analyzers are categorized as digital, analog, or converter-based. The difference between analog and digital analyzers is the type of hardware they use.
Analog analyzers use analog filters to measure signals and hardware to generate signals. On the other hand, digital analyzers develop and analyze signals by processing algorithms in the digital sphere.
The converter-based analyzers create and analyze signals in the digital sphere and then use analog to digital and digital to analog converters for input and output.
How Do They Work?
Each audio analyzer serves as an audio generator creating a stimulus for the device under test. The generators are capable of testing both analog and digital signals coming from the device. They’re also responsible for converting the signal into either format.
Here’s how audio analyzers work:
- The device being tested such as the speaker or amplifier needs a stimulus from the analyzer.
- The sound operator then compares the output signal to the original signal emitted from the device.
- Using different parameters, the operator compares the device’s performance with the ideal measure through the sound analyzer.
Qualities Of An Audio Generator
The proper function of an audio analyzer is highly dependent on the generator. The main things you need to look for are its capacity to create a sweep, sine, or multitone sound effect. Other qualities include:
- Balanced and unbalanced output options
- A large frequency and amplitude range
- Alternating current and direct current (AC/DC) coupling
- Low amplitude tests and distortion
Applications And Uses Of Audio Analyzers
Sound analysis is useful in many fields dealing with audio devices such as the music industry and sound engineering. Here are some of the areas where these types of audio equipment are used:
- Testing audio devices: Audio analyzers are capable of assessing an electronic device’s ability to produce quality sound as needed. Operators can test the device’s performance in comparison to the standards. For example, a sound technician can assess a microphone for noise or interferences before a concert.
- Product enhancement: Audio electronic devices keep evolving and are in high demand. Consumers of these products want nothing but the best quality of sound in their devices. To improve the products, developers use audio analyzers to enhance the sound quality to give clean sounds with the least noise or interference.
- Quality assurance: There are standard ratings electro-acoustic devices must meet to be market-ready. Every audio product has a specific set of qualities tested by sound analyzers.
These are some specific audio equipment requiring standardized equipment testing. Here are some of them:
- Electro-acoustic devices: These devices such as amplifiers, speakers, and microphones are used to transmit sound. Sound engineers need sound analyzers to assess the devices’ audio. The parameters checked include signal-to-noise, distortion, frequency response, and idle channel noise. This ensures the sound produced is crisp and clean even in large gatherings or a huge coverage area.
- CD players: The CD audio performance requires the use of software that obtains measurements. The program runs the test sequence automatically and gives out a printed copy of the results. The analyzer also checks the audio parameters such as distortion, phase, noise, intermodular distortion, and crosstalk. Through these processes, defective CDs are detected.
- Car radio: Analyzing radio is focused on ensuring live Frequency Modulation (FM) broadcasts are compliant with the standard protocols. These procedures ensure listeners of minimal noise and interference. Parameters such as crosstalk, noise, and distortion are assessed here.
- Mobile devices: Devices such as smartphones and tablets require testing of the speaker, earphone circuit, soundcards, and microphone before they’re made available for the market. The parameters usually checked are noise and distortion. These devices are used for audio needs such as gaming, streaming, and listening.
Other devices undergoing standardized testing include hearing aids, music mixers, and recorders. Notably, analog analyzers can test different sound environments such as the audio quality while driving.
Problems In Testing Electro-acoustic Devices
Using audio analyzers to test electro-acoustic devices can pose some difficulties. These devices transmit and receive signals through the air, and additional equipment is required. This includes a power amplifier, speaker microphone pre-amplifier, and microphone.
The operator needs to separate distortions from these to get the results from the device being tested. For this, there’s a need to distinguish unwanted signals beforehand. When choosing an audio analyzer, it’s advisable to get the modern models as they have advanced features simplifying the separation and distinguishing processes.
Sound Analyzer Applications
Technological innovations have ensured sound analysis is accessible to those who may need it. Previously, you’d only find specialized sound analyzers in places such as production lines, laboratories, and music studios. They’re bulky, expensive, and used mainly by professionals.
But with the emergence and development of software and mobile apps, many people have access to sound testing now. They function similarly to the audio equipment in labs and studios, but the difference is they aren’t too technical or expensive.
With sound analyzer apps, you can now tune your various audio devices such as car radios, speakers, or home theater accurately. They can also assess the sound level in your devices and inform you if the levels are acceptable and if they require adjusting
An audio analyzer is a tool you need to ascertain an audio device’s output, quality, and capacity. Through this, you’re able to measure and determine various parameters to hone the sound you’re hearing.
Your choice of analyzing equipment should be the one giving the lowest levels of interference, noise, or distortion. In earlier times, audio analyzers had a separate signal analyzer and audio generator.
Now, there are modern models where the features are integrated. This makes it possible to get better sound analysis and high-quality audio.
Moreover, the technical nature of the audio equipment has been left to professional sound engineers while the rest can access the same service through software and apps. This has created a ground for all to test and improve their audio quality and listening experience.
Ultimately, audio analyzers can be used in different settings and devices to test sound and ensure people enjoy what they’re listening to. As technological developments continue, audio analyzers are here to make the user experience more enjoyable.