Teensy Spectrum Analyzer Has 170 Channels

While high-fidelity audio has come a long way in the past several decades, a lot of modern stereo equipment is still missing out on some of the old analog meters that were common on amplifiers and receivers of the 60s through the 80s. Things like VU meters don’t tend to be common anymore, but it is possible to build them back in to your sound system with the help of some microcontrollers. [Mark] shows us exactly how to reclaim some of the old-school functionality with this twin audio visualizer display.

Not only does this build include two displays, but the microcontroller is keeping up with 170 channels in real-time in order to drive the display. What’s more impressive is that it’s being done all on a Teensy 4.1. To help manage all of the data and keep the speed as fast as possible it uses external RAM soldered to the board, and a second Teensy audio board is used to do the real time FFT analysis. Most of the channels are sent to the display hosting the spectrum analyzer but two are reserved for left and right stereo VU meters on the second display.

The project from [Mark] is originally based on this software from [DIYLAB] so everything is open-source. While it was originally built for a specific piece of hardware, [Mark] has it set up with a line in and line out plus a microphone input so it can be used for virtually any audio hardware now. For another take on the classic VU meter, take a look at this design based on an Arudino instead.

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Bring That Old Hi-Fi Into The 2020s

It’s a distressing moment for some of us, when a formerly prized piece of electronic equipment reaches a point of obsolescence that we consider jettisoning it. [Jon Robinson] ran into this dilemma by finding the Kenwood Hi-Fi amplifier his 17-year-old self had spent his savings on. It was a very good amp back in the day, but over two decades later, it’s no longer an object of desire in a world of soundbars and streaming music boxes. After a earlier upgrade involving an Arduino to auto-power it he’s now given it an ESP32 and an i2S codec which performs the task of digital audio streaming as well as a better job than the Arduino of controlling the power.

Inside the case is a piece of stripboard with the ESP and codec modules, but there was still the problem of seamlessly integrating it with the amp’s distinctly analogue-era controls. The output from the codec is wired into an audio input – quaintly labelled for a DAT player – and a simple cam on the input selector switch operates a microswitch to select the ESP32.

If you’re dipping your toe in decent audio then an old amp from decades past can make an excellent purchase, but you might wish to educate yourself through our Know Audio series.

Know Audio: Amplifiers And Distortion

As we’ve traced our no-nonsense path through the world of Hi-Fi audio, we’ve started with the listener, understood the limitations of the human ear, and thence proceeded to the loudspeaker. We’ve learned a bit about speaker cabinets and their design, so it’s time to venture further down the chain to the amplifier that drives those speakers.

The sharp-eyed will be ready to point out that along this path also lies the  speaker cables, but since we’ll be looking at interconnects at a later date we’ll be making the dubious and simplistic assumption for now that the wires between speaker and amplifier are ideal conductors that don’t have a bearing on listening quality. We’ll be looking at amplifiers in enough detail to warrant more than one piece on the subject, so today we’ll start by considering in a slightly abstract way what an amplifier does and where it can fall short in its task. We’ll be introducing probably the most important thing to consider in any audio system, namely distortion.

The job of an audio amplifier is to take an audio signal at its input and present the same signal on its output at a greater amplitude. In the case of a preamplifier it will usually be designed to work with high impedances in the order of 50 kΩ at both input and output, while in a power amplifier designed to drive speakers or headphones it will drive a much lower impedance. Commonly this will be 4 Ω or 8 Ω for loudspeakers, and 32 Ω for headphones. Continue reading “Know Audio: Amplifiers And Distortion”

Know Audio: A Loudspeaker Primer

As we’ve started out on our journey through the world of Hi-Fi audio from a strictly practical and engineering viewpoint without being misled by any audiophile woo, we’ve already taken a look at the most important component in any audio system: the listener’s ear. It’s time to move down the chain to the next link; the loudspeaker.

Sound is pressure waves in the air, and the purpose of a loudspeaker is to move the air to create those waves. There are a variety of “exotic” loudspeaker technologies including piezoelectric and electrostatic designs, here we’ll be considering the garden variety moving-coil speaker. It’s most usually used for the large bass or smaller mid-range drivers in a typical speaker system. Continue reading “Know Audio: A Loudspeaker Primer”

Know Audio: Start At The Very Beginning

A lot of our projects make noise. It can be something as simple as a microcontroller driving a small speaker or a truly ambitious Hi-Fi project, but common to all of them is the desire to get that sound out in as audible and high-quality a manner as possible. We’ve been known to make fun of the more preposterous side of the Hi-Fi world at times, but behind it all there’s a basis of solid and provable audio engineering that can be brought to bear on almost any project involving sound and electronics. Perhaps it’s time to devote some time to a series exploring the topic, and what better place to start than the ultimate destination for all that sound. Any Hi-Fi is only as good as the ears of the person listening to it, so in out journey through the world of audio that’s where we’ll start. Continue reading “Know Audio: Start At The Very Beginning”

3D Printed Speaker Uses DSP For Ultimate Performance

Speaker design used to be as much about woodwork as it was about advanced acoustic mathematics. In recent decades, technologies such as digital signal processing and 3D printing have changed the game significantly. Leaning heavily on these techniques, [ssashton] developed a design called Mr. Speaker.

The speaker contains a 3″ woofer for good bass response, and twin tweeters to deliver stereo audio. Using WinISD to help do the requisite calculations on porting and volume, [ssashton] designed a swooping 3D printed enclosure with a striking design. Sound comes into the unit through an off-the-shelf Bluetooth module, before being passed to an ADAU1401 digital signal processing unit. From there, it’s passed to a mono amp to drive the woofer and a stereo one for the tweeters.

To get the flattest frequency response possible and maintain linear phase, it’s all about DSP in this case. RePhase software was used to design a DSP filter to achieve these goals, helping the speaker to produce the desired output. The ADAU1401 DSP was then programmed using Sigma Studio, which also allows the designer to do things such as split outputs for seperate woofer and tweeter drives.

[ssashton] does a great job of explaining both DSP principles and old-school speaker design tricks, from phase plugs to reflections. The use of 3D printed parts to rapidly iterate the design is impressive, too. We’d love to see the final enclsoure get an acetone smoothing treatment to really take it over the edge.

If you’re into serious speaker design and want more, be sure to check out this advanced transmission line design. For those of you with your own builds with some nifty tricks, drop us a note on the tipline.


Gold Cables Really Do Work The Best

As a writer, I have long harboured a dream that one day an editor will buy me a top-of-the-range audio analyser, and I can set up an audio test lab and write pieces debunking the spurious claims made by audiophiles, HiFi journalists, and the high-end audio industry about the quality of their products. Does that amp really lend an incisive sibilance to the broader soundstage, and can we back that up with some measurable figures rather than purple prose?

An Audio Playground You Didn’t Know You Had

An Audio Precision APx525 audio analyser.
An Audio Precision APx525 audio analyser. Bradp723 (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Sadly Hackaday is not an audio magazine, and if Mike bought me an Audio Precision he’d have to satisfy all the other writers’ test equipment desires too, and who knows where that would end! So there will be no Hackaday audio lab — for now. But that doesn’t mean I can’t play around with audio analysis.

Last month we carried a write-up of a Supercon talk from Kate Temkin and Michael Ossmann, in which they reminded us that we have a cracking general purpose DSP playground right under our noses; GNU Radio isn’t just for radio. Once I’d seen the talk my audio analysis horizons were opened up considerably. Maybe that audio analyser wouldn’t be mine, but I could do some of the same job with GNU Radio.

It’s important to stress at this point that anything I can do on my bench will not remotely approach the quality of a professional audio analyser. But even if I can’t measure infinitesimal differences between very high-end audio circuitry, I can still measure enough to tell a good audio product from a bad one.

Continue reading “Gold Cables Really Do Work The Best”