Understanding Audio: What is DSP?

Audio is the bedrock of any successful conference call. Whether you're chatting on a laptop or an integrated conferencing system, you need to be able to hear the other parties clearly, so there are no misunderstandings in a high-stakes conversation. So many variables can detract from a conference call, including background noise, delays, acoustic echo, feedback, and volume fluctuations. Fortunately, the best unified communications tools have a built-in DSP processor, which can remedy most of these issues.

Audio can make or break an important conference, so it's vital to have DSP safeguards that clean up the sound and make it more intelligible. In this guide, we've outlined what DSP technology is, how DSP improves an audio signal in real time, and which products use the technology to improve the user experience.

What is DSP?

Short for "digital signal processing", a DSP system manipulates audio signals to achieve a certain goal. Some DSP systems can work with video and other data as well. For example, a DSP system might include an algorithm that detects a primary audio source and isolates it from any unwanted noise, so that the signal is clearer. Multiple algorithms can be processing the audio simultaneously, depending on the initial signal and the conferencing equipment used. Once the audio signal is processed, it is converted back to analog and sent to the speakers.  

DSP Audio Functions

Here are just a few of the ways DSP can improve your audio signal:

A/D D/A Conversion: A DSP system can convert an analog signal to digital data, process the data in a variety of ways, and then convert it back to analog without affecting audio quality. This allows a user to connect microphones directly into a DSP appliance, without needing a separate device.  

Acoustic Echo Cancellation (AEC): This is usually the first process in a DSP signal chain, and it prevents unwanted echoes. Without echo cancellation, your voice would be amplified on the other party's system ("the far end"), get picked up by their microphone, and then play back again on your speakers. AEC subtracts that audio from the microphone's signal before any echo can occur.

Automatic Gain Control: Next, the DSP system automates and balances the volume throughout a conference, so that the signal never gets too loud or too quiet. This can dramatically reduce audio fatigue.

Gating: Some DSP systems can distinguish between voices and unwanted noise, such as crinkling paper and footsteps. When any noise is picked up by a microphone, the DSP algorithm will "gate" (i.e. deactivate) the mic so that it doesn't interfere with the conference.

Types of Digital Signal Processors (Selecting the Right Solution For the Space)

On a grand scale, DSP digital signal processing can be extremely complex and expensive. However, if you're working in a smaller space with only a few participants, your conferencing device may only require an embedded DSP chip to produce quality audio. Meanwhile, if you're using a large conferencing system with dozens of microphones and speakers, you'll need a standalone DSP appliance to handle the workload.  

Fortunately, Yamaha UC's conferencing solutions can handle DSP in any meeting environment. Whether you're working in a huddle room, a conference room, or a boardroom, we have DSP-integrated systems that deliver incredible audio. For example, the YVC-1000MS conference phone is perfect for medium and large conference rooms, while the YVC-300 and FLX2 phones are ideal for huddle and small conference rooms. Each of these conferencing solutions includes an embedded DSP chip that can run audio algorithms in real time, so that you hear the best possible sound in your current environment.

Download our DSP Audio Whitepaper by filling out the form below for more information on DSP audio and choosing the right solution for your space.