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Calling all callers

Octiv Inc. specializes in digital signal processing (DSP) for audio applications of all sorts. Their basic premise is that if it does audio, they can improve it.

Octiv Inc. specializes in digital signal processing (DSP) for audio applications of all sorts. Their basic premise is that if it does audio, they can improve it. They offer a variety of products, from software (iTunes fans, try out their Volume Logic plug-in), to DSP modules to embed in others’ hardware, to standalone boxes containing their technology.

An example of the latter, the Octivox Clear Call ($200 street) is a bit smaller than a VHS tape, and plugs between your phone and the wall. Its raison d’etre is to improve the quality and consistency–especially in volume–of the voices at the other end. (It doesn’t do anything for outgoing audio, for both technical and marketing reasons.) The Clear Call is aimed at conference calls, where participants may be at varying distances from a speakerphone or conference phone, and/or on phone lines of varying quality.

Applying its DSP magic, it isolates talkers by their unique waveforms and “normalizes” each in real time, reducing noise and working like an equalizer by adjusting volumes at key frequencies. In my limited testing, it worked well, and was particularly effective in improving the volume and intelligibility of a caller more than a dozen feet from his speakerphone. I’ve also been playing around with a VoIP (Internet) phone box; the Clear Call reduced the occasional echo problems I’ve experienced on these connections.

The only performance issue I’ve found is that the Clear Call introduces a slight background hum when switched on, but this doesn’t really detract from the improvement in intelligibility. An obvious downside is the price; the Clear Call is targeted at business users and priced accordingly. I hope–and expect–that they’re actively pursuing embedding their DSP technology in telephones. I can see this being the next must-have phone feature, and can envision DSP collaboration between phones resulting in even greater quality improvement. At the same time, the sales volumes involved should bring prices down substantially.

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