Basic sound processing with Julia

This page describes how to perform some basic sound processing functions in Julia. We’ll be using the WAV.jl module to read a wav file, and the PlotlyJS module for plotting. These modules can be installed as follows:


once the modules are installed, we import them it with the following statement:

using WAV, PlotlyJS

Next we read in a wav file. You can download it here 440_sine.wav, it contains a complex tone with a 440 Hz fundamental frequency (F0) plus noise.

snd, sampFreq = wavread('440_sine.wav')

The wav file has two channels and 5060 sample points

> size(snd)
(5292, 2)

considering the sampling rate (sampFreq = 44110) this corresponds to a duration of 120 ms

> 5292 / sampFreq

we’ll select and work with only one of the channels from now onwards

s1 = snd[:,1] 

Unfortunately there is not an immediate way of listening to the sound directly from julia at the time I’m writing this post.

Plotting the Tone

A time representation of the sound can be obtained by plotting the pressure values against the time axis. However, we need to create an array containing the time points first:

timeArray = (0:(5292-1)) / sampFreq
timeArray = timeArray * 1000 #scale to milliseconds

now we can plot the tone

plot(scatter(;x=timeArray, y=s1),
     Layout(xaxis_title="Time (ms)",
Amplitude vs Time (ms)

Plotting the Frequency Content

Another useful graphical representation is that of the frequency content, or spectrum of the tone. We can obtain the frequency spectrum of the sound using the fft function, that implements a Fast Fourier Transform algorithm. We’ll follow closely the technical document available here to obtain the power spectrum of our sound.

n = length(s1)
p = fft(s1)

notice that compared to the technical document, we didn’t specify the number of points on which to take the fft, the fft is computed on the number of points of the signal n. Since we’re not using a power of two the computation will be a bit slower, but for signals of this duration this is negligible.

nUniquePts = ceil(Int, (n+1)/2)
p = p[1:nUniquePts]
p = abs(p) 

the fourier transform of the tone returned by the fft function contains both magnitude and phase information and is given in a complex representation (i.e. returns complex numbers). By taking the absolute value of the fourier transform we get the information about the magnitude of the frequency components.

p = p / n #scale
p = p.^2  # square it
# odd nfft excludes Nyquist point
if n % 2 > 0
    p[2:length(p)] = p[2:length(p)]*2 # we've got odd number of   points fft
    p[2: (length(p) -1)] = p[2: (length(p) -1)]*2 # we've got even number of points fft

freqArray = (0:(nUniquePts-1)) * (sampFreq / n)
plot(scatter(;x=freqArray/1000, y=10*log10(p)),
     Layout(xaxis_title="Frequency (kHz)",
            yaxis_title="Power (dB)",

The resulting plot can bee seen below, notice that we’re plotting the power in decibels by taking 10*log10(p), we’re also scaling the frequency array to kilohertz by dividing it by 1000.

Power (dB) vs Frequency (kHz)

To confirm that the value we have computed is indeed the power of the signal, we’ll also compute the root mean square (rms) of the signal. Loosely speaking the rms can be seen as a measure of the amplitude of a waveform. If you just took the average amplitude of a sinusoidal signal oscillating around zero, it would be zero since the negative parts would cancel out the positive parts. To get around this problem you can square the amplitude values before averaging, and then take the square root (notice that squaring also gives more weight to the extreme amplitude values):

>>> rms_val = sqrt(mean(s1.^2))
>>> rms_val

since the rms is equal to the square root of the overall power of the signal, summing the power values calculated previously with the fft over all frequencies and taking the square root of this sum should give a very similar value

>>> sqrt(sum(p))


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One thought on “Basic sound processing with Julia

  1. Bas Dirks on said:

    Great little article. It helped me connect the dots between theory and implementation of the dft in julia. Cheers

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