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In the media industry, great strides have been taken in optimizing the quality of audio delivered with streamed services. From multichannel surround sound to simulated binaural audio, the realism and immersive experience on offer is astounding. At the same time, the drive to ever-thinner flat-screen Smart TVs limits audio engineers from providing the full-bandwidth experience the source audio deserves.

For many, the solution is to augment or replace the internal speakers with an external speaker system. This is often, for aesthetic reasons, a compact device known as a soundbar containing an array of smaller speakers with associated equalisation and DSP (digital signal processing) to optimise the frequency response. They can even provide virtual surround sound effects by aiming some of the active elements at the ceiling or walls to add height or width to the sound field.

How to Test

microphone array in line to measure the frequency response, left-right balance and harmonic distortion

Microphone Array

Issues with optimising the response of the sound bar and balancing all the speaker elements is a challenging task. By using a measurement microphone array the frequency response, left-right balance and harmonic distortion can be characterised. 

hand of a man holding an HBK acoustic camera to test soundbar buzzes and rattles

Acoustic Camera

Another issue common to sound bars are buzzes and rattles caused by structural excitation of the soundbar at high sound pressure levels. Locating the source of these distortions can be difficult. An acoustic array, such as the HBK Acoustic Camera, can be used to visually pinpoint the exact location of the offending component, helping designers to troubleshoot design issues faster.

man's hands touching an HBK HATS (Head and Torso Simulator) Type 5128-C, High-frequency ear simulator Type 4620, which accurately reproduces the human hearing experience

HATS

The perceived audio experience is best performed in a representative home environment and measured using an HBK HATS (Head and Torso Simulator), which accurately reproduces the human hearing experience. The sound can also be recorded for playback in a jury test to allow objective evaluation of the quality and comparison to other speaker systems, for example, to rank a system against competitors.

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