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xHE-AAC. Is it ready yet? Any encoders out there?

I know it's being used by NPR and a few radio stations, but any consumer support? And is it just a better version of HE-AAC V2? Or will it require new software/hardware support to use all it's features.

xHE-AAC. Is it ready yet? Any encoders out there?

Reply #1
Hm, interesting topic. I did some Googling and am currently reading up but here is this: http://www.iis.fraunhofer.de/en/ff/amm/pro...html#tabpanel-3

Quote
Availability

Codec implementations of xHE-AAC for use in DRM and streaming applications are available for the following hardware platforms:

PC (Windows/Mac OS X/Linux)
ARM (decoder only)
MIPS (decoder only)
Texas Instruments C6x, DaVinci, OMAP (decoder only)
Analog Devices Blackfin (decoder only)
Apple iOS® SDK (decoder only)
Android™
DRM broadcast encoder solutions based on Fraunhofer’s ContentServer technology, as well as third-party implementations, already support xHE-AAC. All DRM receiver chipsets belonging to the initial mass-market generation include xHE-AAC from market launch.

Patent licensing:

Via Licensing has issued a call for essential patents for the USAC Baseline Profile to enable a patent pool license for xHE-AAC which is expected to be available in 2015.

xHE-AAC. Is it ready yet? Any encoders out there?

Reply #2
I suggest you look at this document when you have a chance. Lots of technical stuff about the encoder but they also clearly define use-cases, design goals etc.
http://www.iis.fraunhofer.de/content/dam/i...per_xHE-AAC.pdf

Based on their own charts from the above document, it is the next step in HE-AAC and really excels at extremely low bitrates with diminishing returns as bitrate increases (as is the trend with most lossy codecs, with newer ones performing better at lower bitrates). I reproduce the chart below.



By the time you reach 64kb/s it's about the same as previous version of HE-AAC. I think they were really aiming at 16kb/s.

xHE-AAC. Is it ready yet? Any encoders out there?

Reply #3
Ok, I found some great real-world examples thank to another poster at HA.

Right click and save this 49 megabyte video to hear quite a few lot bitrate examples, including comparisons with existing radio codecs at the beginning and speech, music and mixed examples.
http://www.drm.org/wp-content/uploads/2013...v2_20130913.avi

Post with these links found here: http://www.hydrogenaud.io/forums/index.php...st&p=875162

There is great discussion and sharing of MUSHRA results further down, though not all is about xHE-AAC.

Regarding encoders, one poster said (in Sep. 2014), "Bad news is that while the standard was adopted in 2007 there is no publicly available encoder. That's 7 years ago.
Same goes for USAC/xHE-AAC (2011)."

Here is another post worth checking. http://www.hydrogenaud.io/forums/index.php...st&p=875351

So, in summary, based on that thread xHE-AAC isn't necessarily leaps and bounds ahead of other specialty codecs but I think it is interesting given that it is in the widely supported AAC family and if the encoder were made available to the public it could be great for streaming archives at universities and libraries or even portable versions of podcasts.

xHE-AAC. Is it ready yet? Any encoders out there?

Reply #4
Hm, interesting topic. I did some Googling and am currently reading up but here is this: http://www.iis.fraunhofer.de/en/ff/amm/pro...html#tabpanel-3

Quote
Availability

Codec implementations of xHE-AAC for use in DRM and streaming applications are available for the following hardware platforms:

PC (Windows/Mac OS X/Linux)
ARM (decoder only)
MIPS (decoder only)
Texas Instruments C6x, DaVinci, OMAP (decoder only)
Analog Devices Blackfin (decoder only)
Apple iOS® SDK (decoder only)
Android™
DRM broadcast encoder solutions based on Fraunhofer’s ContentServer technology, as well as third-party implementations, already support xHE-AAC. All DRM receiver chipsets belonging to the initial mass-market generation include xHE-AAC from market launch.

Patent licensing:

Via Licensing has issued a call for essential patents for the USAC Baseline Profile to enable a patent pool license for xHE-AAC which is expected to be available in 2015.



Strange that they mention the hardware platforms, but not the actual codec implementation names. I assume that there are software xHE-AAC encoders available for Android and PC based on that list.

xHE-AAC. Is it ready yet? Any encoders out there?

Reply #5
Is xHE-AAC a Fraunhofer only thing? How do you actually encode using xHE-AAC as of today?

xHE-AAC. Is it ready yet? Any encoders out there?

Reply #6
Thought I would share an update. The post contains a video explanation and is from October 2015.
http://www.audioblog.iis.fraunhofer.com/xhe-aac-2/

Quote
Moreover, at this year’s IBC Fraunhofer IIS presented with “StreamS Live” from Modulation Index, LLC the first professional streaming encoder supporting xHE-AAC.


More on this encoder here:
http://www.iis.fraunhofer.de/en/pr/2015/20...streamS_v3.html

Sounds like encoders are limited to specialty hardware (or at least specialty-hardware-exclusive software right now).
Glad it's getting out there, though. Watching the AVI file from above again, I would love to be able to encode some 24kbps xHE-AAC files as the background music in the video was 24kbps! Could be damn near transparent for audiobooks, talk radio programs and well-produced podcasts. Would be fantastic for college lectures and similar as well.

Lastly, here is an app that allows you to stream some xHE-AAC from a radio station.
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/xhe-streami...1032502998?mt=8
This demo is streaming Radio Haugaland in Norway at 16 kbit/s. Doesn't sound great but impressive for the bitrate. I'm really interested in hearing speech so I'll have to tune in and see if they have any talk shows.


xHE-AAC. Is it ready yet? Any encoders out there?

Reply #8
o-l-a-v. Thank You for the link.

This demo is streaming Radio Haugaland in Norway at 16 kbit/s. Doesn't sound great but impressive for the bitrate. I'm really interested in hearing speech so I'll have to tune in and see if they have any talk shows.

As for me quality is wonderful for 16 kbps, both music and speech. Perfectly enjoyable, no big annoyance. I think speech actually has better quality. xHE-AAC uses  enhanced  AMR-WB+  for speech (and actually for music as well at 8-24 kbps) and as speech is near monish or panned so new parametric stereo tools make good job here.

Nice radio btw

xHE-AAC. Is it ready yet? Any encoders out there?

Reply #9
o-l-a-v. Thank You for the link.

This demo is streaming Radio Haugaland in Norway at 16 kbit/s. Doesn't sound great but impressive for the bitrate. I'm really interested in hearing speech so I'll have to tune in and see if they have any talk shows.

As for me quality is wonderful for 16 kbps, both music and speech. Perfectly enjoyable, no big annoyance. I think speech actually has better quality. xHE-AAC uses  enhanced  AMR-WB+  for speech (and actually for music as well at 8-24 kbps) and as speech is near monish or panned so new parametric stereo tools make good job here.

Nice radio btw


I wrote that post when I'd only listened for a minute. I listened to it on my walk home with earbuds and was shocked to hear that the fat synth bass on a song was reproduced quite well. It's honestly perfectly acceptable and not too distracting after a minute or two. Here's hoping more stations adopt xHE-AAC and encoders and decoder support spread quickly.

xHE-AAC. Is it ready yet? Any encoders out there?

Reply #10
As for me quality is wonderful for 16 kbps, both music and speech. Perfectly enjoyable, no big annoyance. I think speech actually has better quality. xHE-AAC uses  enhanced  AMR-WB+  for speech (and actually for music as well at 8-24 kbps) and as speech is near monish or panned so new parametric stereo tools make good job here.

Nice radio btw

Too good to be true...
The streaming WAS at 16 kbps: right now it's at 48 kbps.
If you don't trust my words just check the following resources (the xHE-AAC stream name is "rh.x16"):

http://stream.radioh.no:443/

And the same page as seen on 2015-05-10:

https://web.archive.org/web/20150510200224/....radioh.no:443/

Just compare the "Bitrate:" info section of the stream between the two and you'll easily notice the difference.


xHE-AAC. Is it ready yet? Any encoders out there?

Reply #11
This demo is streaming Radio Haugaland in Norway at 16 kbit/s.

Stupid question: how do you play USAC streams and files on Windows without using iTunes ?

Any player I've tried just failed, e.g. foobar2000:
Code: [Select]
Unable to open item for playback (Unsupported file format):
"http://stream.radioh.no:443/rh.x16"

Re: xHE-AAC. Is it ready yet? Any encoders out there?

Reply #12
I've listened to the demo stream on my iPad, but every few minutes the sound gets completely garbled and I have to restart the app. Anyone else with the same problem?

Re: xHE-AAC. Is it ready yet? Any encoders out there?

Reply #13
I've listened to the demo stream on my iPad, but every few minutes the sound gets completely garbled and I have to restart the app. Anyone else with the same problem?

Yes, I also had this problem. Sometimes it lasts longer than others. I assume it is due to the fact that it is a test stream being used by a tiny number of people for sales purposes and the like.

As for me quality is wonderful for 16 kbps, both music and speech. Perfectly enjoyable, no big annoyance. I think speech actually has better quality. xHE-AAC uses  enhanced  AMR-WB+  for speech (and actually for music as well at 8-24 kbps) and as speech is near monish or panned so new parametric stereo tools make good job here.

Nice radio btw
Too good to be true...
The streaming WAS at 16 kbps: right now it's at 48 kbps.
If you don't trust my words just check the following resources (the xHE-AAC stream name is "rh.x16"):

http://stream.radioh.no:443/

And the same page as seen on 2015-05-10:

https://web.archive.org/web/20150510200224/....radioh.no:443/

Just compare the "Bitrate:" info section of the stream between the two and you'll easily notice the difference

Well, this is disappointing. It would've been a true breakthrough if that stream was 16kbps. Too good to be true. Still, subjectively speaking, there were no truly bothersome artifacts, just the typical excessive sibilance.

Re: xHE-AAC. Is it ready yet? Any encoders out there?

Reply #14
If it really is 48Kbps then it actually sounds really bad(for that bitrate)

Re: xHE-AAC. Is it ready yet? Any encoders out there?

Reply #15
If it really is 48Kbps then it actually sounds really bad(for that bitrate)

It's annoying that I can't really check since VLC and similar won't play this xHE-AAC and there's only one damn stream.

Tried it with iTunes and it won't play audio and it clearly is misreading the stream:

Re: xHE-AAC. Is it ready yet? Any encoders out there?

Reply #16
Ok, some more sources.

NPR Labs-related.
Summary article: http://www.radioworld.com/article/npr-labs-eyes-streaming-technology-/223059
Full report: http://nprlabs.org/sites/nprlabs/files/documents/codec/20130920%20Streaming%20Codec%20Study%20Report.pdf

This reinforces the point about xHE-AAC losing its advantage once it reaches to the mid-range of bitrates used by HE-AAC and the bottom of LC-AAC.

Re: xHE-AAC. Is it ready yet? Any encoders out there?

Reply #17
If it really is 48Kbps then it actually sounds really bad(for that bitrate)

The saga continues!

I wrote the web director for Radio Haugaland and got a response (at like 11pm over there - poor guy!)

Quote
Hello,

I apologize for not speaking Norwegian. I have a technical question. Your station has a stream that uses the xHE-AAC codec. I am very interested in it because you are the only station making an xHE-AAC stream available to the public.
I want to ask: what is the bitrate of your xHE-AAC stream? When I look at your status page (http://stream.radioh.no:443 ) the bitrate for /rh.x16 says "48000" but that seems too high.

Thank you,

Quote
Hi,
We are creating HLS for xHE at our lab at the moment. You need the our apps to do playback.
16k is now available from our Icecastserver if you need it. Playback can be done using our xHE apps for Android and iOs.
We create apps for radiostations on demand both for mp3, aac and xhe - and for both Android, Windows and iOs.
You might also want to check out our new app-platform (Android demo).
Egil
A-Media AS

That seems like a pretty clear confirmation that it is in fact 16kbps. When you look at the page (http://stream.radioh.no:443) all the other numbers are two digits and are commonly used bitrates for streaming. The fact that it displays 48000 makes me think that due to it being an unusual format the Icecast server reads the sampling rate as the bitrate (as 48kHz is very common).
So, given that info, I revert back to my initial impression: Impressive! I'm listening some more and the artifacts are definitely there but as shown in the demo video from earlier in the thread, 16kbps in almost any other codec sounds like a particularly bad music implementation when you're put on hold on the telephone. Again, really wish I had an encoder and decoder so I could do some listening tests next to HE-AAC and Opus.

Re: xHE-AAC. Is it ready yet? Any encoders out there?

Reply #18
I copy and pasted the raw stream link yesterday into Google Chrome and it started downloading the stream. I then checked how much bandwidth my network interface is using and it showed around 48Kbit/s, but are we really sure that the test Apps use the same stream.

Re: xHE-AAC. Is it ready yet? Any encoders out there?

Reply #19
Just tested the app.
I'm eager to test this on my streams! The quality is a tad worse than 24 kbps HE-AAC
The bitrate is really around 20 kbps with network overhead. But works fine on GPRS with low signal.



Re: xHE-AAC. Is it ready yet? Any encoders out there?

Reply #20
Ok, some more sources.

NPR Labs-related.
Summary article: http://www.radioworld.com/article/npr-labs-eyes-streaming-technology-/223059
Full report: http://nprlabs.org/sites/nprlabs/files/documents/codec/20130920%20Streaming%20Codec%20Study%20Report.pdf

This reinforces the point about xHE-AAC losing its advantage once it reaches to the mid-range of bitrates used by HE-AAC and the bottom of LC-AAC.


I can't get that pdf, any altenative links? (That graph/page looks questionable to me: LAME at 128kbps not enough for a silly radio station? Lack of Opus/good old Vorbis?)
PANIC: CPU 1: Cache Error (unrecoverable - dcache data) Eframe = 0x90000000208cf3b8
NOTICE - cpu 0 didn't dump TLB, may be hung

Re: xHE-AAC. Is it ready yet? Any encoders out there?

Reply #21
Try Archive.org. Here is a mirror.

Re: xHE-AAC. Is it ready yet? Any encoders out there?

Reply #22
j7n: Thanks, right so this was rated without the requirement to actually abx the original (so the source could be rated 4/6 for example).
PANIC: CPU 1: Cache Error (unrecoverable - dcache data) Eframe = 0x90000000208cf3b8
NOTICE - cpu 0 didn't dump TLB, may be hung

Re: xHE-AAC. Is it ready yet? Any encoders out there?

Reply #23
I can't access the NPR Labs website. Maybe it's because I'm in Europe.

Are there any xHE-AAC encoders available for ABX testing yet? The article on radioworld compared / tested against MP3 and various other AAC variants, but not against its "competitor" (Opus).

I'd like to do some tests myself, etc.

Re: xHE-AAC. Is it ready yet? Any encoders out there?

Reply #24
I can't access the NPR Labs website. Maybe it's because I'm in Europe.

Are there any xHE-AAC encoders available for ABX testing yet? The article on radioworld compared / tested against MP3 and various other AAC variants, but not against its "competitor" (Opus).

I'd like to do some tests myself, etc.

See j7n's post above you: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/61700377/misc/20130920_Streaming_Codec_Study_Report.pdf

I don't know about encoders. I think it is still quite proprietary and professional for now.

 
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