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
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.
More about Listen’s enhanced Perceptual Rub & Buzz algorithm