Based in Israel, Alango Technologies is a company that should be on the map for any manufacturer looking at differentiating audio and voice products. Alango is a technology company focused on voice communications, particularly in the areas of voice quality, intelligibility, and hearing enhancement. It is also a leading developer and licensor of frontend DSP technologies for voice communication and mobile audio.
The company’s front-end voice enhancement technologies are used in communication products for hard-of-hearing people, mobile phones, hands-free car kits, Bluetooth headsets, audioconferencing systems, voice intercom systems, and many other applications. Digital processing solutions from Alango improve the quality of voice communication and audio experience in a variety of real-life scenarios reducing different types of noise, enhancing speech, cancelling acoustic echo, and dynamically equalizing signal volume and spectrum according to dynamic acoustic conditions. The company’s DSP software is already embedded in many millions of products currently in the field.
But no matter how sophisticated the DSP algorithms can be, there's a constant need to adapt existing concepts to the specific needs of new product developments particularly in the crowded and highly competitive consumer space. When looking specifically and consumer headphones, advanced features like active noise cancellation, voice assistant integration and low latency streaming are all in high demand. And stellar sound quality and battery life can't hurt, either.
Bluetooth headphones have come a long way since the first A2DP stereo headset hit the market in 2004. But while today’s headphones are leaps and bounds ahead in terms of sound quality, comfort, and battery life, they often fall short of our expectations when it comes to voice processing. The ability to make clear, noise-free voice calls from any environment is no longer seen as a "nice to have" feature – it is a "must-have" capability.
But what about transmitted voice quality? Can headphones meet the challenges posed by noisy and windy environments — like a bus, train, busy street or cafe? Hands-free communication with on-ear/over-ear headphones is convenient, but only if the person on the other end of the call — or the voice assistant — hears and understands what is communicated, even when speech originates from a noisy environment. And although boom microphones can improve voice pickup on headphones that use them, they are not necessarily suitable for every headphone design.
That is why Alango launched its VoiceDefender solution, employing microphone beamforming on four microphone signals (two per earcup) with a combination of end-fire and broadside beamforming to create a single enhanced output. As Alango illustrates, "With VoiceDefender, the user's voice is "defended" from ambient noise with a sphere of protection." And leveraging Alango's experience and solutions, VoiceDefender is a complete solution for hands-free communication that includes echo cancellation, multi-microphone noise suppression including wind noise reduction, equalization, and gains management technologies.
Compared to dual-mic beamforming on a single earcup, VoiceDefender adds an additional dimension of voice pickup. A combination of end-fire and broadside beamforming is used to create an output for clear transmission of the user's voice even in high noise or windy conditions. With VoiceDefender, the clarity of voice pickup in multiple environments can become a distinguishing feature of a product development, and a competitive advantage in a crowded market.
Additionaly, a project implementing VoiceDefender can be also complemented with Alango's additional technologies for headphones, including Automatic Volume & Equalization (AVQ), ListenThrough, Voice Activity Detection (VAD), and Sound Effect Normalization (SEN), all of which are essential elements of an augmented audio experience.
AVQ empowers headphones to offer a comfortable listening experience in conditions with dynamically changing background noise. Using the device microphone, AVQ continuously analyzes both the level and spectrum of ambient noise in the user’s environment. Accordingly, AVQ amplifies and equalizes the music to provide equal perceptual loudness, intelligibility, and sound coloration in conditions where noise level and spectrum change dynamically.
ListenThrough is a smart algorithm for headphones that adds environmental alertness during music playback. ListenThrough filters in important environmental sounds (such as alarm, car horn, train, etc.), which are then amplified and mixed with the music. Unlike simple “transparency mode” algorithms, ListenThrough does not let every sound in. It also filters out constant-level background noise, thus allowing the user to be aware of their surroundings while still maintaining the sound isolation provided by the headphones.
Alango’s Voice Activity Detection (VAD) technology reliably detects human speech in an acoustic signal. The technology is based on a proprietary, high-resolution spectral noise estimation algorithm operating in real time. VAD’s sensitivity level is adjustable and ensures minimization of false positive detections in a presence of background noise and other non-speech sounds. In headphone applications, VAD enables always-on voice detection at low standby power by allowing MIPS-heavy signal processing to “sleep” until voice is detected.
And Alango Sound Effect Normalization (SEN) technology was developed to improve speech intelligibility in movies through de-emphasis of background sounds and music - reducing listening fatigue for the headphones user.