Next-generation hi-fi: deepening the musical experience

Feb 01, 2008
Next-generation hi-fi: deepening the musical experience
Remote controlled music par excellence. Photo: Semantic Hi-Fi

Large-scale digital music distribution is bringing about a profound revolution in the way we ‘consume’ music. The market is still in flux, but it is very clear that the hi-fi systems of the future will be significantly different to what we see today, say European researchers.

With the advent of compressed music files (MP3) and easily accessible internet file exchange and download services, consumers are increasingly turning to personal mini-databases of music files (iPod, MP3 players) for their musical enjoyment. The CD market has already taken a hard knock and many predict its imminent demise. The hi-fi market is also suffering with sales decreasing steadily every year.

In the future, the boundaries between the stereo system, computer and the television will become more and more blurred, but how the various functions will combine, and what new ones will emerge, is still ‘a work in progress’.

The Semantic Hi-Fi project explored the possibilities opened up by the digital revolution and paved the way for the next wave of hi-fi, including a number of new features likely to change fundamentally the way we listen to and interact with music.

“Music is no longer limited by a fixed format. Network-based distribution has freed music from the limits imposed by these formats and opened a whole new range of possibilities which will encourage greater interaction with musical pieces,” says Hugues Vinet of the French music and acoustics research centre, IRCAM, which coordinated the project.

Introducing the active listener

The working prototype of this next-generation hi-fi, produced by the EU-funded Semantic Hi-Fi, incorporates a number of new functionalities to help promote a more interactive listening experience.

Using either a hand-held, touch screen remote, or the touch screen display on the central unit, the user will, for example, be able to visualise the structure of a piece through a graphic display which will enable them to navigate smoothly within a piece and even to modify elements of the musical composition: slow the tempo down, speed it up, modify the relative weight of different instruments in the piece, or remove them altogether…

Some of the results of the project have already been incorporated into new products. Project partner, Native Instruments, used many of Semantic Hi-Fi’s features for its ‘Traktor DJ Studio 3’ DJ software solution, hailed as one of the market leaders in its field. The prototype developed by the project also incorporated many of these ‘professional’ tools into a home system accessible to all music lovers.

“The hi-fi of the future will make sophisticated software tools for professional musicians available to a wider public,” notes Vinet. “Owners of next-generation hi-fi will be able to do more than just passively listen, they will have a tool which also allows them to manipulate music and to create new pieces themselves.”

Hi-fis of the future will be linked up to the internet, and it will be possible to share personal works with others through peer-to-peer (P2P) systems. The project has not overlooked the issue of copyright, either.

“The P2P systems envisaged will respect the songs’ copyrights by only transmitting the information necessary for editing and modifying them,” stresses Vinet.

The ability to extract and display a whole range of information – tempo, key, lyrics, musical score – on a musical piece should also deepen the listeners musical knowledge and appreciation.

Managing your music

One of the challenges of the digital hi-fi will be managing extensive databases of music. It will no longer be a matter of simply grabbing a favourite CD from the shelf but of trawling through a database of perhaps tens of thousands of pieces. Semantic Hi-Fi, which concluded in November 2006, continued the work of Cuidado, an earlier EU-funded project, developing search engines capable of extracting information on musical content and providing tools for the effective management of musical ‘libraries’.

As a result of this work, users of future hi-fi can expect to be able to navigate easily through their collections using search criteria, such as tempo, genre, instrumentation, in addition to the traditional search criteria of artist and title. If you have a particular tune running through your head, but no information on it, you can simply hum the tune into the system’s microphone and it will find it for you!

You can also start from a reference piece and search for those similar to it according to selected musical criteria. You can classify and retrieve your songs by defining your own musical categories from a set of track examples that will be automatically generalised to your whole database. Last but not least, the system computes ‘musical summaries’ that give a global idea, within a few tens of seconds, of the main changes occurring in the pieces (intro, chorus, verses, solos, etc.), thus enabling rapid ‘auditory browsing’.

Many of the results of the project are now available for licensing and several are being developed further within the context on new research projects. Targeted applications include multimedia search engines, music portals, and automatic play-list generation.

Source: ICT Results

Explore further: Technology and data analytics should transform municipal government, professors say

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Wobbling of a Saturn moon hints at what lies beneath

14 minutes ago

Using instruments aboard the Cassini spacecraft to measure the wobbles of Mimas, the closest of Saturn's regular moons, a Cornell University astronomer publishing in Science, Oct. 17, has inferred that this small moon's icy su ...

Protons hog the momentum in neutron-rich nuclei

41 minutes ago

Like dancers swirling on the dance floor with bystanders looking on, protons and neutrons that have briefly paired up in the nucleus have higher-average momentum, leaving less for non-paired nucleons. Using ...

Cosmic jets of young stars formed by magnetic fields

42 minutes ago

Astrophysical jets are counted among our Universe's most spectacular phenomena: From the centers of black holes, quasars, or protostars, these rays of matter sometimes protrude several light years into space. ...

Recommended for you

First-of-a-kind supercritical CO2 turbine

17 minutes ago

Toshiba Corporation today announced that it will supply a first-of-a-kind supercritical CO2 turbine to a demonstration plant being built in Texas, USA. The plant will be developed by NET Power, LLC, a U.S. venture, together w ...

Japan firm showcases Bat-Signal of the future

1 hour ago

A free-floating image created by firing lasers into thin air was unveiled in Japan on Monday, offering the possibility one day of projecting messages into a cloudless sky, as seen in Batman.

Kickstarter suspends privacy router campaign

2 hours ago

Kickstarter has suspended an anonymizing router from its crowdfunding site. By Sunday, the page for "anonabox: A Tor hardware router" carried an extra word "(Suspended)" in parentheses with a banner below ...

User comments : 0