How SoundPimp works

SoundPimp contains ingenious technology that works in the digital domain and becomes effectual when listening to stereo or surround audio on loudspeakers. It’s manner of operation is granting the listener a more pristine, exact and enjoyable listening environment. SoundPimp brings the listener closer to reality than ever before.

In the market, there is a flooding of audio-manipulative technologies for computer audio. Everything from equalizers to phase manipulators are available, some of them perceived perhaps as counterproductive in the long run due to artificiality, becoming ultimately a candidate for the off-button.

SoundPimp audio enhancer is not one of these, because it is based on indisputable and error-corrective algorithms with the dedicated purpose of so-called crosstalk cancellation. Unfortunately, crosstalk is nothing but a fundamental weakness of stereo loudspeaker systems.

The cause & effects of crosstalk, and the remedial operating principle of SoundPimp, are all easy to grasp. Follow the below outline of the recording and playback process, and it will be evident why SoundPimp produces a cleaning-up effect that is beneficial to most good-quality audio streams.

Recording sound

Traditionally, recording sound is done with a pair of stereo microphones positioned approximately at ear distance

Figure 1

In a live listening environment, the ears and the hearing sense is feeding the brain with exact and extremely complex audio information for interpretation by the brain, occasionally paving the way for truly enjoyable experiences filled with beautiful artistry.

That is to say, most people will not cry from a nice smell floating in the air, but may burst to tears from the audible impressions of a grand concert! Sound is indeed emotional in nature, and so we would like to capture artistic events and hear them again in non-live settings, on our stereo gear and as natural and true to the original as possible.

In a recording session, two microphones are used, one for left (L) and one for right (R). Such pair of microphones is often positioned at ear-distance and even in a position similar to the ears, were we present. The exceptionally wide stereo perspective of the Louis Armstrong recording in demo no. 1 was probably created this way.

This configuration is obviously an attempt to capture a lifelike and realistic sound that the ears and the brain will recognize during playback as an exact copy of the original sound. For simplicity, the sound “information” that is perceived by the left and right microphones is denoted L and R.

L and R will always differ due to different angle and distance to the source. This means that L is absolutely unique to – and destined for – the left ear only, and likewise of course; for R and the right ear. The brain then combines L and R as two sound vectors, thus creating spatial impressions that are very important elements of the perceived realism in the playback.

Technically speaking, the recording equipment combines L and R as the two stereo channels destined for playback.

 

Playback

The traditional setup for playback of audio streams on stereo loudspeakers

Figure 2

During playback, the loudspeakers have the task of transmitting the sound flow the “last mile” to the ears. At first glance, this may seem an easy task. As can be seen in figure 2, the left (L) speaker will transmit the sound to the left ear, and the right (R) speaker will do ditto for the right ear. All is well.

Right ?

Unfortunately, no. This last mile is quite a challenge even for the highest quality audiophile loudspeakers. Speaking of audio realism, it is a much easier task to be a receiving microphone than to be a transmitting stereo loudspeaker pair.

For a whole set of non-linear reasons, this last mile is a mission almost-impossible. In addition to the obvious sound flow described in figure 2, there is a much unwanted defilement going on, causing those loudspeakers to be in a predictable predicament. The most severe cause preventing a natural an lifelike audio experience is the crosstalk effect.

There is trouble in the air in Playback City, literally speaking. Read on.

 

The crosstalk

The crosstalk effect when playing back audio streams on stereo loudspeakers

Figure 3

Figure 3 is the same as figure 2, but now the crosstalk effect has been added. Let’s take a closer look at the flow of audio energy to the listener:

As stated above, the left ear is clearly receiving all the energy L from the left speaker, however, the left ear is also receiving – in full – all the energy R from the right speaker, so that the sum of the received energy is L + R. The same of course is true for the right ear that will receive R + L.

This is crosstalk and it is basically counterproductive to our aim, which is to reproduce reality.

Why ?

In the description of the recording process, it was stated that the left ear will expect only the information captured by the left microphone, nothing was supposed to be received from what was captured by the right microphone. Nothing at all ! Still it happens, as R and L respectively.

Not that it is impossible for a skillful recording engineer to take advantage of the crosstalk “channel” and create interesting effects, but regardless, crosstalk is basically counterproductive, causing diminution of the playback experience compared to the original live setting.

In order to prove the very existence of crosstalk for yourself, try the mechanical barrier crosstalk cancellation test. It can be done in seconds and is explained here.

 

The crosstalk effect of traditional stereo

Listening to a normal pair of stereo loudspeakers, there is always crosstalk present, and it can have a devastating effect on the listening experience, in particular when the L and R audio streams are very different. A large portion of the information received by the ears is then counterproductive, causing the brain to work overtime in attempts to filter out the faulty information. Some well known crosstalk effects:

- Everything becomes less “musical”, more mechanical and “electronic”, compared to the natural timbre of a live listening session. There is no doubt that one is listening to a playback audio stream.

- Lack of spatial and holographic impressions, including but not limited to unclear localization of the sound sources, be it instruments, voices or whatever.

- Center channel cancellation; resulting in a “black hole” in the sound between the loudspeakers. This effect is an important reason for the introduction of a center channel in surround systems, an attempt to avoid mono dialogues to partly cancel out.

- Ear fatigue as the brain is working overtime to compensate and counteract the erroneous information received via crosstalk.

- A general “coarseness” in the sound that becomes very evident when SoundPimp is turned on.

There is a lot to say on this subject, read in more detail about crosstalk effects.

 

SoundPimp is the remedy

SoundPimp is the remedy, namely a crosstalk cancellation tool for all types of computer audio. It recursively modifies the audio stream in such a way that the two loudspeakers will start to work mutually in tandem to cancel each others contribution to the crosstalk. It means that SoundPimp is the electronic version of the mechanical barrier for crosstalk cancellation, they both produce the same result, SoundPimp being perhaps a tint more practical. Compare those two methods and hear the verification!

The main component of SoundPimp is High Definition Stereo (HDS), an ingenious technology in software that opens up for a more exact and natural sound than traditional stereo. Sonic improvements are most often audible as a general refinement. While stereo tends to limit the soundstage in between the 60 degree loudspeaker angle, SoundPimp is definitely stepping past this artificial boundary, literally filling the room with a holographic and ambient soundstage, full of natural timbre and life-like sound. It represents a major step forward in the modern listening experience, be it from a combination of small speakers connected to a mobile phone, a laptop, or from exclusive stereo gear.

Properly configured SoundPimp will magically remove almost all crosstalk and may create spellbinding audio realism, even from built in laptop speakers. Not that such speakers all of a sudden will start to produce realistic bass levels, but never the less, there may be immensely pleasing sensations of musicality, because the listener becomes embraced with a holographic soundstage containing those “golden overtones” that brings real life to the experience.

On more exclusive stereo equipment, SoundPimp may be a little revelation at its best; the final answer to the quest of endless audiophile investigations. And as always, the better the stereo gear, the stronger the benefits.

Try SoundPimp on your own equipment, perhaps starting out with a pair of laptop or computer speakers.

 

SoundPimp is intended for loudspeakers only

Because crosstalk is non-existent or neglectable on headphones, there is no crosstalk error to correct, and hence the combination of SoundPimp and headphones is not valid, normally causing strange artifacts in the soundstage.

So turn off SoundPimp whenever using headphones.

From this follows that use of headphones as replacement for loudspeakers is indeed an alternative remedy for crosstalk. Actually, lack of crosstalk is one major reason why it is possible to perceive and enjoy increased clarity and musicality on headphones. Things calm down. However, there is an important snag with headphones,  namely that the sound stage is seemingly coming from within our head, which is not realistic at all. Here SoundPimp offer a step forward in perceived realism because the soundstage will appear to be in front or on the outside, surrounding the listener, exactly like real life circumstances!

Also read about SoundPimp audio enhancer used with binaural recordings.

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