Automotive Test Sequence Including BSR, Max SPL and Frequency Response

We have a new automotive test sequence to measure Transient Distortion (also known as buzz, squeak, and rattle, Rub & Buzz, or impulsive distortion), Frequency Response, and Max SPL to the suggested measurement methods set out in the AES Technical Committee on Automotive Audio’s recently published white paper on in-car acoustic measurements. The three measurements are incorporated into one overall test sequence, making it fast and simple to run the entire suite of tests. This sequence facilitates evaluation of the committee’s proposals, and also serves as a basis for any similar in-house measurements. The white paper, which may be obtained from the TC-AA, outlines both measurement methods and physical configuration such as microphone and seat positioning in an effort to simplify comparison between vehicles.


In-Car Audio Measurements

Screenshot showing in-car audio measurement sequence final display showing frequency response, distortion and Max SPL

Final display of in-car audio measurement sequence showing frequency response, distortion and Max SPL

This in-car audio test sequence measures the transient distortion (also known as buzz, squeak, and rattle, Rub & Buzz, or impulsive distortion), frequency response, and maximum sound pressure level of a vehicle infotainment system to the methods outlined in the Audio Engineering Society Technical Committee on Automotive Audio (TC-AA) in-vehicle measurements draft white paper.  The three measurements are incorporated into one overall test sequence, making it fast and simple to run the entire suite of tests. This sequence facilitates evaluation of the committee’s proposals, and also serves as a basis for any similar in-house measurements. The white paper (linked above) outlines both measurement methods and physical configuration such as microphone and seat positioning in an effort to simplify comparison between vehicles. This test sequence may, of course, be used with your own in-house physical configuration if adherence to the TC-AA guidelines is not essential.


AES 2022, New York, October 19-20, 2022

At AES New York, Steve Temme will participate in presentations and discussions on ‘In-car audio measurement’ (with Jayant Datta) and ‘Moving beyond traditional measurements’ (with Jayant Datta and Jonathan Gerbet). Exact schedule and timings are yet to be announced.

Measuring Loudspeaker Maximum Linear Sound Levels Using Noise to the AES75-2022 Standard

The AES75-2022 standard details a procedure for measuring maximum linear sound levels of a loudspeaker system or driver using a test signal called M-Noise. This is a complex procedure with many repetitive steps, which makes it time consuming to implement manually. This sequence automates the entire process, accelerating test time, minimizing operator intervention, and ensuring accurate and objective test results.


Automotive Max SPL Measurements

Measuring Automotive Max SPL ArticleIn this short article, Steve Temme discusses measurement of automotive Max SPL, and introduces the efforts of the Audio Engineering Society (AES) technical committee working on automotive audio to standardize the way essential attributes of complex automotive audio systems are measured across the industry. He explains why Max SPL measurements are important, defines this measurement, and describes the standardized measurement procedure suggested by the committee. Test configuration and physical setup is discussed, and example results presented.

Full Article




Full article text:

Measuring Automotive Max SPL
By Steve Temme Listen, Inc.
I am currently a participant in an Audio Engineering Society (AES) technical committee working group on automotive audio. This diverse group of about a dozen worldwide experts has focused on trying to standardize the way essential attributes of complex automotive audio systems are measured across the industry. Three specific measurements have been our initial focus: Frequency Response, Max SPL, and Impulsive Distortion. The committee’s proposals for measurements were presented for feedback at the AES Fall Online 2021 conference in a session titled “In-Car Acoustic Measurements.”

I presented our work on Max SPL Measurements, Hans Lahti (Harman) presented Frequency Response, and Stefan Irrgan (Klippel) presented Impulsive Distortion; the session was chaired by Jayant Datta. Here, I will describe our proposed method for Max SPL measurements.

Let’s start with why this is important. People need to be able to compare how loud an infotainment system can play in a car— manufacturers like to quote this in specifications, and consumers enjoy bragging rights about the sound level of their car stereo. Max SPL is defined as the maximum sound pressure level (SPL) that a car’s infotainment system can reproduce inside the cabin with the windows, sunroof, and convertible top closed. There are many ways this can be measured, but to keep it simple, two different measurements are recommended—overall Max SPL and Max SPL Spectrum regardless of distortion level. The reason we don’t take into account distortion when we measure the Max SPL is because it is difficult to characterize distortion in a modern-day infotainment system—these devices frequently contain much signal processing, and this makes them unsuitable for playing back the sine wave stimuli that are typically used for harmonic distortion measurements.

First, let’s examine the physical test setup. Our proposed test configuration replicates the position of an average person’s head in the driver’s seat using a precisely and specifically positioned six- microphone array in the driver’s seat. The height and the angle of the seat, the positioning of the microphones with respect to the seat, and the height and the angle of the microphones are clearly defined to ensure standardized measurements across all vehicles.

The sound system settings on the head unit—the tone control and fader—are set to the factory default setting; in most cases this is neutral or flat with no equalization. The head unit’s volume control is set to its maximum level using the volume control knob or digital user interface equivalent (e.g., volume level slider). Overall Max SPL can be measured using a microphone array with the six microphone signals power averaged by analog or digital means and connected to either a conventional or software-based sound level meter that can measure true RMS and be C-weighted, as described in the IEC-61672 standard. However, if a software-based system is used for measuring the Max SPL Spectrum, it is simpler to also measure the overall Max SPL through the software. Figure 1 shows a test configuration that makes both measurements simultaneously using SoundCheck software, and an AmpConnect 621 audio interface.

For both the overall Max SPL and Max SPL Spectrum measurements, a broadband (20Hz to 20kHz) monophonic pink noise stimulus is used. It has a crest factor of 15dB and is played for 30 seconds to make sure the system can sustain that level continuously. This is played at maximum volume to ensure the system is tested at the loudest signal the car will play. The sound source may come from any source—a memory stick, a CD, or Bluetooth from a smartphone or auxiliary line in. The average SPL in dB(C) is measured for 30 seconds. This is called a Leq measurement, and it takes the spatial average of the six-microphone array, power averaged, to get the overall Max SPL level (Figure 2).

The Max SPL Spectrum is measured using a real-time analyzer set to 1/12 octave resolution, 30 second linear averaging time and no waiting. This enables us to measure the level versus frequency irrespective of the human ear’s perception. The Max SPL is recorded at each microphone simultaneously from 20Hz to 20kHz and the power average calculated (Figure 2).

Listen offers a pre-written SoundCheck test sequence that measures both the Max SPL Spectrum and a single, power averaged value for Max SPL in line with the working group’s proposed guidelines. This enables consumers and manufacturers to measure the maximum overall SPL and maximum SPL versus frequency that a car’s infotainment system can reproduce inside its cabin. The sequence uses the method and test configuration with a six-microphone array in either the driver or passenger seats. It takes advantage of Listen’s 6-in, 2-out AmpConnect 621 audio interface, which seamlessly integrates with the software-based multichannel analyzer to measure, display, and average the results from the six microphones in real time, and power average them to calculate Max SPL. This sequence may be downloaded free of charge from Listen’s website. More details about these measurements, and the other measurement proposals developed by the technical committee, will be presented at the 2022 AES International Conference on Automotive Audio, June 8-10, in Dearborn, MI.


Further information on the AES Technical Committee on Automotive Audio, including a link to the working group’s draft white paper on can be found here:

More about measuring automotive Max SPL.

Enhanced Perceptual Rub & Buzz Measurement for Testing Automotive Loudspeakers

Loudspeaker Rub & Buzz faults are a problem for automotive manufacturers as they sound harsh and immediately give the perception of poor quality. There are two places such faults can occur – during speaker manufacturing and installation of the speaker in the car. A buzzing loudspeaker in a car is disappointing to a customer and is costly to replace. It is also challenging for a service center to determine exactly where the buzzing is coming from and whether it is caused by a faulty loudspeaker or bad installation. Perceptual distortion measurements are often considered the holy grail of end-of-line testing because rejecting speakers with only audible faults increases yield. Although such measurements have been around since 2011, production line adoption has been slow because until now, sensitivity to background noise has made limit-setting challenging. In this paper, a new algorithm is introduced that uses advanced technology to reduce the impact of background noise on the measurement and offer more repeatable results. This facilitates limit setting on the production line and makes it a truly viable production line metric for increasing yield. This same metric may also be used for end-of-line automotive quality control tests. Results from various algorithms will be shown, and their correlation to subjective and other non-perceptual distortion metrics explained.

Author: Steve Temme, Listen, Inc.
Presented at 2022 AES Automotive Conference, Dearborn, MI

Full Paper



The automotive industry’s stringent quality expectations make end-of-line quality testing on automotive speakers and drivers absolutely critical. End-of-line tests typically measure a range of parameters including frequency response, THD, and polarity. Manufacturing-introduced defects such as Rub & Buzz and Loose Particles are also measured. Reliable, automated testing has been available for decades now, and most large manufacturers rely on these software-based systems for identification and rejection of defective products. While these tests do an excellent job of identifying defective units, there is always a certain level of false rejection where units with some distortion fail even though it is completely inaudible to the human ear. From a manufacturing perspective, higher yields and therefore greater profitability is always desirable.

Perceptual Distortion Measurements

This has driven the development of perceptual distortion measurements – automated measurements that replicate the human hearing to detect only audible distortion defects. Such metrics increase production line yield by passing products with inaudible distortion, as the product will still sound exactly as the manufacturer intended. Perceptual methods are very simple to configure for production line use. Since they return a result in Phons, an absolute measurement that can be easily correlated to the listener’s threshold of hearing, the operator can set a fixed limit across the board, regardless of product. Naturally, the price point and quality expectations for the product may influence the level of distortion that is deemed acceptable.

Perceptual Distortion Algorithms

Our algorithm, introduced in 2011, was the first commercial perceptual distortion metric, although in the past couple of years, other test system manufacturers have also started to offer perceptual distortion tests. It offers excellent correlation with human hearing and performs well in laboratory tests. However, like the human ear, repeatability decreases in the presence of background noise. This is not a failure of the algorithm as such, but an indication that the algorithm performs just like a human listener; when background noise is high, audible distortion is masked. This limitation restricts the value of such algorithms on the production line, as with today’s high-volume manufacturing, there is only time for one fast test sweep. If this sweep gets a different result under changing background noise conditions, limit setting becomes challenging, and repeatability and reliability is decreased. Similar algorithms from other test system manufacturers also suffer from the same problems.

New Perceptual Distortion Algorithm Development

This paper details efforts to create an algorithm that hears like a human in quiet conditions, e.g. in a living room or passenger automotive cabin, under the less-than-perfect conditions of a manufacturing environment where considerable and varying background noise may be present. In other words, a perceptual model that is more independent and reliable than the human ear when it comes to noisy environments. The resulting new algorithm overcomes these limitations to offer repeatable end-of-line test results, even in noisy environments. It incorporates noise reduction techniques and enhanced perceptual filters to overcome the reliability and high frequency masking issues of earlier versions. In short, the algorithm offers the performance of an ‘enhanced’ human ear – it detects distortion like an ear in a quiet environment, even when there is background noise. This makes it a viable solution for production line use.

In this paper we explain how the algorithm works, demonstrate how the results compare with earlier perceptual algorithms and show its correlation with human hearing and conventional distortion algorithms. We also compare its performance in the presence of background noise to other perceptual algorithms by adding recorded factory background noise to the signal before passing it through the algorithms.

Read More

More about Listen’s enhanced Perceptual Rub & Buzz algorithm

More about in-car measurement of  impulsive distortion / Buzz, Squeak and Rattle.

AES 2022 International Automotive Audio Conference

We’ll be attending and exhibiting at the AES International Automotive Conference in Detroit, June 8-10. Stop by and visit our booth to learn more about the latest version of SoundCheck, including a host of new features designed for multichannel and communications testing, as well as the new enhanced perceptual Rub & Buzz algorithm. Listen founder and president, Steve Temme, will be presenting a paper on June 8th (paper session 1, 10.30 am) detailing this new algorithm, and will also participate in a panel discussion on Max SPL measurement in cars at 4.00pm on June 9th.


AES Convention– New York – October 16-19, 2019

Although Listen won’t be exhibiting, president Steve Temme will be at the event and will be participating in two product development sessions detailed below.


Product Development: PD09 – Does Automotive Audio Need a Systems Approach?

Thursday, October 17, 1:30 pm — 3:00 pm (1E09)

Chair: Roger Shively, JJR Acoustics, LLC

Panelists: John Busenitz, Bose Corporation, Pietro Massini, Ask Industries S.p.A, Greg Sikora, Harman International, Steve Temme, Listen, Inc.

Some component specifications do not translate to good system performance. A good example is resonance frequency. This often does not correspond well to performance characteristics in the automotive environment. Some potential improvements would be low-frequency SPL, or a parameter combination such as Fs/Qts or EBP (Fs/Qes). The system performance goals should drive the transducer component specification. Hence, this workshop will host leading industry experts in automotive audio and test/measurement solutions to discuss pros and cons of component vs. system specifications.


Product Development: PD10 – Diagnostics for Production Vehicle Audio Systems

Thursday, October 17, 3:15 pm — 4:30 pm (1E09)

Presenters: Jonathan Gerbet, Klippel GmbH, Steven Hutt, Equity Sound Investments, Steve Temme, Listen, Inc.

Audio systems in production vehicles are known to exhibit vehicle to vehicle performance variance [1]. The root causes of variance can include loudspeaker driver manufacturing tolerance, mounting issues such as missing or misaligned gaskets, or wrong loudspeaker drivers mounted in the system. A diagnostics method to compare actual production vehicle audio systems is defined along with a method for correction and calibration of production vehicle audio systems. The diagnostics procedure may be implemented at production end-of-line, at vehicle distribution center or at a dealer service center in the field after delivery to a customer.

Full AES Schedule

AES International Conference on Automotive Audio – Munich – September 11-13, 2019

Listen is a gold sponsor and exhibitor at the AES International Conference on Automotive Audio in Munich, Germany on September 11-13.

Listen founder and president, Steve Temme, will be presenting a tutorial on ‘Testing Voice-Controlled and Smartphone Integrated Infotainment Systems’ at 2pm on Sept 11th. In this tutorial he will discuss the challenges of implementing audio tests in cars when the signal path is often via a smartphone and/or the car’s own voice-controlled system, and demonstrate how modern test systems can use techniques such as frequency shift and resampling to enable accurate measurement of car audio characteristics ranging from simple frequency and distortion measurements to voice control and communications in the presence of background noise.

On display at the the booth will be various options for testing automotive audio including the SoundCheck test system, Listen’s own audio test hardware, and 3rd party hardware such as 6 microphone arrays and head and torso simulators. On the booth, Listen will also be demonstrating how SoundCheck fully integrates with, and controls, the Mentor A2B interface to enabled rapid automated testing of systems and components that use the A2B bus.


AES, Los Angeles, CA, Sept 29- Oct 1, 2016

AES LogoWe will be exhibiting at the 141st AES which will be held at the Los Angeles Convention Center, LA, CA on Sept 29-Oct 1, 2016.

At our booth (#717) we will be demonstrating SoundCheck 15, our latest release, as well as our lineup of audio test hardware. We will be demonstrating a comprehensive Bluetooth headphone test using SoundCheck with the BTC4148 Bluetooth interface and the Brüel and Kjær Head and Torso Simulator.

Steve Temme, along with Patrick Dennis of Nissan, will be presenting a technical paper entitled “In-Vehicle Audio System Distortion Audibility versus Level and Its Impact on Perceived Sound Quality” This paper will take place Friday Sept 30th at 3.15pm in the “P15 Perception” paper session. In this paper, the authors consider the level of distortion as in-vehicle audio system output level increases, and evaluate the level at which distortion audible is audible. Both subjective and objective measurements of sound quality are made, and the correlation between perceived sound quality and objective distortion measurements is discussed.

AES Show Web Site

Get a free AES Exhibit Hall pass (use Promo Code “69”)