Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Can You Hear the Difference? Audio Diffmaker Can

Audio DiffMaker takes the concept of “hearing is believing” to a new level. This software takes sound samples from various audio sources via your computer’s soundcard and analyzes their differences. Basically it creates two waveforms of exact amplitude, aligns them chronologically, then subtracts one from the other. If there’s no difference in the audio signals being compared, then you’ll hear nothing. If there is a difference then you’ll hear that difference. Simple – right? Although this is a deep program with far more options than I care to deal with during my initial trials, the interface is simple, intuitive, and the program worked well for me from my first try.

I compared two CD players – a portable RCA from 1990 and my Pioneer Elite, and I did hear a difference. I also compared two methods of connecting my Dell Mini 9 laptop to my amplifier – one through the laptop’s headphone jack, and another through a USB audio midi interface. The difference here was barely audible, but enough to make me wonder which is a better choice. If you hear no difference – which is a likely outcome, then there is no audible difference between sources. If you do hear a difference, it becomes a little more complicated.

I won’t bog this post down with details, because the documentation included with Audio DiffMaker is quite good, but suffice to say there are ways of fine tuning the program and analyzing your results which help you understand what you are hearing and why.

For instance, I could hear a significant difference between the RCA portable CD player and my Pioneer Elite, but does that difference mean that one is better than the other? That’s where the audio analysis part of this program comes in handy. It can produce curves based on the samples and, well. . .that’s about as far as I’ve gotten. Hey, I’m not an audio engineer, just a guy who likes to tweak his systems :) More to come as I explore this program deeper.

Please, if you are more adept to understanding this program and have some input – please leave a comment or send me an email. There’s not much on the Web regarding this program, and anything we can generate here will help me, our community, and anyone else who finds these posts looking for more information. – Thanks!

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