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Further Extensions

Schroeder's original structures for artificial reverberation were comb filters and allpass filters made from two comb filters. Since then, they have been upgraded to include specific early reflections and per-sample air-absorption filtering (Moorer, Schroeder), precisely specified frequency dependent reverberation time (Jot), and a nearly independent factorization of ``coloration'' and ``duration'' aspects (Jot). The evolution from comb filters to feedback delay networks (Gerzon, Stautner, Puckette, Jot) can be seen as a means for obtaining greater richness of feedback, so that the diffuseness of the impulse response is greater than what is possible with parallel and/or series comb filters. In fact, an FDN can be seen as a richly cross-coupled bank of feedback comb filters whenever the diagonal of the feedback matrix is nonzero. The question then becomes what aspects of artificial reverberation have not yet been fully addressed?

Spatialization of Reverberant Reflections

While we did not go into the subject here, the early reflections should be spatialized by including a head-related transfer function (HRTF) on each tap of the early-reflection delay line [248].4.21

Some kind of spatialization may be needed also for the late reverberation. A true diffuse field3.2.1) consists of a sum of plane waves traveling in all directions in 3D space. Since we do not know how to achieve this effect using current systems for reverberation, the typical goal is to simply extract uncorrelated outputs from the reverberation network and feed them to the various output channels, as discussed in §3.5. However, this is not ideal, since the resulting sound field consists of wavefronts arriving from each of the speakers, and it is possible for the reverberation to sound like it is emanating from discrete speaker locations. It may be that spatialization of some kind can better fool the ear into believing the late reverberation is coming from all directions.

Distribution of Mode Frequencies

Another way in which current reverberation systems are ``artificial'' is the unnaturally uniform distribution of resonant modes with respect to frequency. Because Schroeder, FDN, and waveguide reverbs are all essentially a collection of $ N$ delay lines with feedback around them, the modes tend to be distributed as the superposition of the resonant modes of $ N$ feedback comb filters. Since a feedback comb filter has a nearly harmonic set of modes (see §2.6.2), aggregates of comb filters tend to provide a uniform modal density in the frequency domain. In real reverberant spaces, the mode density increases as frequency squared, so it should be verified that the uniform modes used in a reverberator are perceptually equivalent to the increasingly dense modes in nature. Another aspect of perception to consider is that frequency-domain perception of resonances actually decreases with frequency. To summarize, in nature the modes get denser with frequency, while in perception they are less resolved, and in current reverberation systems they stay more or less uniform with frequency; perhaps a uniform distribution is a good compromise between nature and perception?

At low frequencies, however, resonant modes are accurately perceived in reverberation as boosts, resonances, and cuts. They are analogous to early reflections in the time domain, and we could call them the ``early resonances.'' It is interesting that no system for artificial reverberation except waveguide mesh reverberation (of which the author is aware) explicitly attempts precise shaping of the low-frequency amplitude response of a desired reverberant space, at least not directly. The low-frequency response is shaped indirectly by the choice of early reflections, and the use of parallel comb-filter banks in Schroeder reverberators serves also to shape the low-frequency response significantly. However, it would be possible to add filters for shaping more carefully the low-frequency response. Perhaps a reason for this omission is that hall designers work very hard to eliminate any explicit resonances or antiresonances in the response of a room. If uneven resonance at low frequencies is always considered a defect, then designing for a maximally uniform mode distribution, as has been discussed for the high-frequency modes, would be ideal also at low frequencies. Quite the opposite situation exists when designing ``small-box reverberators'' to simulate musical instrument resonators [428,203]; there, the low-frequency modes impart a characteristic timbre on the low-frequency resonance of the instrument (see Fig.3.2).

Digital Waveguide Reverberators

It was mentioned in §3.7.8 above that FDNs can be formulated as special cases of Digital Waveguide Networks (DWN) (see Appendix C for a fuller development of DWNs). Specifically, an FDN is obtained from a DWN consisting of a single scattering junctionC.15). It follows that the DWN paradigm provides a more generalized framework in which to pursue further improvements of reverberation architecture. For example, when multiple FDNs are embedded within a single DWN, it becomes possible to richly cross-couple them in an energy-controlled manner in order to create richer recursive structures than either alone. General DWNs were proposed for artificial reverberation in [430,433].

The Digital Waveguide Mesh for Reverberation

A special case of digital waveguide networks known as the digital waveguide mesh has also been proposed for use in artificial reverberation systems [396,518].

As discussed in §2.4, a digital waveguide (bidirectional delay line) can be considered a computational acoustic model for traveling waves in opposite directions. A mesh of such waveguides in 2D or 3D can simulate waves traveling in any direction in the space. As an analogy, consider a tennis racket in which a rectilinear mesh of strings forms a pseudo-membrane.

A major advantage of the waveguide mesh for reverberation applications is that wavefronts are explicitly simulated in all directions, as in real reverberant spaces. Therefore, a true diffuse field can be developed in the late reverberation. Also, the echo density grows with time and the mode density grows with frequency in a natural manner for the 2D and 3D mesh. Finally, the low-frequency modes of the reverberant space can be simulated very precisely (for better or worse).

The computational cost of a waveguide mesh is made tractable relative to more conventional finite-difference simulations by (1) the use of multiply-free scattering junctions and (2) very coarse meshes. Use of a coarse mesh means that the ``physical modeling'' aspects of the mesh are only valid at low frequencies. As practical matter, this works out well because the ear cannot hear mode tuning errors at high frequencies. There is no error in the mode dampings in a lossless reverberator prototype, because the waveguide mesh is lossless by construction. Therefore, the only errors relative to an ideal simulation of a lossless membrane or space are (1) mode tuning error, and (2) finite band width (cut off at half the sampling rate). The tuning error can be understood as due to dispersion of the traveling waves in certain directions [518,399]. Much progress has been made on the problem of correcting this dispersion error in various mesh geometries (rectilinear, triangular, tetrahedral, etc.) [521,398,399].

See §C.14 for an introduction to the digital waveguide mesh and a few of its properties.

Time Varying Reverberators

In real rooms, thermal convention currents cause the propagation path delays to vary over time [58]. Therefore, for greater physical accuracy, the delay lines within a digital reverberator should vary over time. From a more practical perspective, time variation helps to break up and obscure unwanted repetition in the late reverberation impulse response [430,104].

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