New Audio Technology to “Rock” Karaoke App World in China

It’s not news that karaoke is hugely popular in Asia, especially China, where karaoke is a mainstay for going out with friends, who often head over to the Karaoke TV (KTV) studio together to socialize and perform their latest songs. So, it’s also not surprising the huge following for KTV mobile apps that allow karaoke enthusiasts to practice, record and share karaoke on social media, whenever and wherever they want. However, for Android-based phone users, the performance of these apps has been relatively poor. But that experience is about to get exponentially better for Android users, thanks to new audio chip technology.

How Big Are Karaoke Apps in China?

Major KTV apps in China include Quanmin k Ge (Everybody Karaoke), Chang Ba and Angel Sing. To give an example of the vastness of karaoke app users in China, Chang Ba alone reports more than 300 million downloads; 70 million active users (or more than the entire population of the U.K.) and 4.5 to 5 million concurrent users. And that’s just one app. Tencent’s “Everybody Karaoke” is even more popular. As of July 2016, Everybody Karaoke was the eighth most popular app overall in China’s app store.

In addition, users take these KTV apps very seriously. There are practice modes where users sing a song over and over until they perfect their performance before a final recording. Social networking features then enable users to share their songs with others. They can even record partial songs or videos that leave space for others to subsequently duet – letting everybody sing together regardless of geographic location.

Android users have been experiencing reduced quality KTV app performance, because they could not hear themselves sing while wearing headphones – the default mode for KTV apps. High latencies of 10s of milliseconds (ms) on Android means that app providers cannot mix microphone signals onto the headphone path using software, as they do on iOS, or at least not without creating a distracting delay effect that impacts the user experience. Removing headphones and trying to use the speakerphone is also problematic, as it results in ‘echo.’ Echo happens when music played by the loudspeaker is recorded by the phone’s microphone, then added on top of the original audio track. This gives recordings a grossly distorted audio.

New Audio Technology Reduces Latencies for Android Phones

But all this is changing with the introduction of new audio technology from companies like Cirrus Logic. Audio algorithms in Cirrus Logic codecs, featuring Cirrus Logic SoundClear Karaoke technology, help to enable an audio feedback path in Android-based phones resulting in latencies of below 3ms. In addition, user-selectable room reverberation and ambience effects may be added to the singer’s voice. This creates a natural and realistic singing atmosphere, thereby enhancing the KTV experience.

Also, when using the phone’s loudspeaker, Cirrus Logic’s Karaoke technology cancels out unwanted echo that would otherwise couple to the microphone and be recorded. This allows KTV apps to be used without headphones, enabling users to sing together with friends at home. Because of the popularity of KTV and the vastness of the China market, phone manufacturers customize products for this region.

Various handset OEMs, including some of the top-selling brands in China, are already advertising this new feature as a benefit and differentiator to their latest phone offerings, with initial models already shipping.

What Do Low-Latency Audio Paths Deliver to Android-based KTV Users?

The new audio technology from Cirrus Logic for example, offers an ultra-low latency monitor path in headset mode, as well as Acoustic Echo Cancellation (AEC) in handset mode. Other features include multiple vocal and music processing options, vocal processing, live realistic room reverberation and ambience effects, tone, reverberation modification and music pitch shift. What does that mean for Android-based KTV users?

That means that Android-based karaoke app users can sing in headset or handset mode, without delays and unwanted echo effect. They can also manually adjust echo, tone, space or reverberation settings. Reverb is the combination of direct sound, plus the sounds reflected off the surface in the room that merge together and create more depth and ambience, such as in a concert hall. Users can choose auto reverb settings, such as a theater, studio, concert hall or original vocal, to create the special effect they want. It’s also easy to tune using a selection of presets included on the phone.

Higher quality, ultra-low latency audio paths will be a game changer for karaoke on Android phones, impacting not only KTV apps, but other up-and-coming apps such as live/web streaming. Android users will not only discover an enhanced karaoke experience, but should also see a marked improvement in their performances shared on social media sites. So watch out KTV app singers, the competition among your Android mobile friends, just got tougher.

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