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Introduction to Deep Learning for Audio Applications

Developing audio applications with deep learning typically includes creating and accessing data sets, preprocessing and exploring data, developing predictive models, and deploying and sharing applications. MATLAB® provides toolboxes to support each stage of the development.

While Audio Toolbox™ supports each stage of the deep learning workflow, its principal contributions are to Access and Create Data and Preprocess and Explore Data.

Access and Create Data

Deep learning networks perform best when you have access to large training data sets. However, the diversity of audio, speech, and acoustic signals, and a lack of large well-labeled data sets, makes accessing large training sets difficult. When using deep learning methods on audio files, you may need to develop new data sets or expand on existing ones. Audio Toolbox provides the Audio Labeler app to help you enlarge or create new labeled data sets.

Once you have an initial data set, you can enlarge it by applying augmentation techniques such as pitch shifting, time shifting, volume control, and noise addition. The type of augmentation you want to apply depends on the relevant characteristics for your audio, speech, or acoustic application. For example, pitch shifting (or vocal tract perturbation) and time stretching are typical augmentation techniques for automatic speech recognition (ASR). For far-field ASR, augmenting the training data by using artificial reverberation is common. Audio Toolbox provides audioDataAugmenter to help you apply augmentations deterministically or probabilistically.

The training data used in deep learning workflows is typically too large to fit in memory. Accessing data efficiently and performing common deep learning tasks (such as splitting a data set into train, validation, and test sets) can quickly become unmanageable. Audio Toolbox provides audioDatastore to help you manage and load large data sets.

Preprocess and Explore Data

Preprocessing audio data includes tasks like resampling audio files to a consistent sample rate, removing regions of silence, and trimming audio to a consistent duration. You can accomplish these tasks by using MATLAB, Signal Processing Toolbox™, and DSP System Toolbox™. Audio Toolbox provides additional audio-specific tools to help you perform preprocessing, such as detectSpeech and voiceActivityDetector.

Audio is highly dimensional and contains redundant and often unnecessary information. Historically, mel-frequency cepstral coefficients (mfcc) and low-level features, such as the zero-crossing rate and spectral shape descriptors, have been the dominant features derived from audio signals for use in machine learning systems. Machine learning systems trained on these features are computationally efficient and typically require less training data. Audio Toolbox provides audioFeatureExtractor so that you can efficiently extract audio features.

Advances in deep learning architectures, increased access to computing power, and large and well-labeled data sets have decreased the reliance on hand-designed features. State-of-the-art results are often achieved using mel spectrograms (melSpectrogram), linear spectrograms, or raw audio waveforms. Audio Toolbox provides audioFeatureExtractor so that you can extract multiple auditory spectrograms, such as the mel spectrogram, gammatone spectrogram, or Bark spectrogram, and pair them with low-level descriptors. Using audioFeatureExtractor enables you to systematically determine audio features for your deep learning model. Alternatively, you can use the melSpectrogram function to quickly extract just the mel spectrogram. Audio Toolbox also provides the modified discrete cosine transform (mdct), which returns a compact spectral representation without any loss of information.

Example Applications and Workflows

Choosing features, deciding what kind of augmentations and preprocessing to apply, and designing a deep learning model all depend on the nature of the training data and the problem you want to solve. Audio Toolbox provides examples that illustrate deep learning workflows adapted to different data sets and audio applications. The table lists audio deep learning examples by network type (convolutional neural network, fully connected neural network, or recurrent neural network) and problem category (classification, regression, or sequence-to-sequence).





ExamplesPreprocessing and AugmentationFeature Extraction and Time-Frequency Transformations

Speech Command Recognition Using Deep Learning


The audioFeatureExtractor object is used to extract the log-Bark spectrum.

Acoustic Scene Recognition Using Late Fusion


melSpectrogram, waveletScattering (Wavelet Toolbox)

Accelerate Audio Deep Learning Using GPU-Based Feature Extraction


The audioFeatureExtractor object is used to extract the mel spectrum.

ExamplesPreprocessing and AugmentationFeature Extraction and Time-Frequency Transformations

Speech Emotion Recognition


The audioFeatureExtractor object is used to extract the gtcc, mfcc, and mel spectralCrest.

Sequential Feature Selection for Audio Features

detectSpeechThe audioFeatureExtractor object is used to sweep through combinations of extracted features.

Acoustics-Based Machine Fault Recognition


The audioFeatureExtractor object is used to extract spectral descriptors.

Regression or Sequence-to-Sequence


[1] Purwins, H., B. Li, T. Virtanen, J. Schülter, S. Y. Chang, and T. Sainath. "Deep Learning for Audio Signal Processing." Journal of Selected Topics of Signal Processing. Vol. 13, Issue 2, 2019, pp. 206–219.

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