David’s FreeDV Update Oct 2023

This post is summary of the work I have performed in October 2023 for our Enhancing HF Digital Voice With FreeDV ARDC grant.


My deep dive into the OFDM modem algorithms continues, this month focusing on the algorithms used by a FreeDV receiver to lock onto off air signals. The goal is fast sync with up to +/- 200 Hz frequency offset on low SNR multipath fading channels. In the past this has been quite a challenge, and was a source of problems with the earlier versions of FreeDV 700D.

This time around I’m using a little probability to describe the chances of successfully acquiring the FreeDV signal. A 90% chance means that 9 times out of 10 you will acquire the FreeDV signal in one frame (about 180ms). On poorer channels it may take 2 or 3 frames. Some other problems to watch out for are false acquisition – we don’t want to output speech when there is random noise on the channel, or acquire on a carrier when someone is tuning up. So there is a trade off in being sensitive enough to detect weak signals, but ignore those that aren’t valid FreeDV signals.

Anyway, I’ve been working through those issues one by one, doing a little math, running some simulations, and writing up the results. The acquisition work is documented in Section 6 of this report. It’s getting close to the point where we can update the OFDM modem code and try it over the air.

Codec 2

I’ve started working on Codec 2 again, revisiting some of the algorithms I prototyped in the ratek resampler study. In particular I’m looking at why low pitched speakers like males require a higher bit rate to quantise the spectrum than high pitched speakers (females or children). I have a theory that it is related to the distribution of energy over a pitch cycle.

Here’s a plot of some speech that shows the problem. At top we have the original (input) speech, at bottom after it’s passed through Codec 2. Notice how at the bottom the signal decays before the end of each cycle? The energy is confined to the start of each pitch cycle, rather than being more evenly distributed like the top plot. This appears to be related to a drop in speech quality with male speakers.

If we can understand the sources of distortion, we can improve Codec 2 speech quality at all bit rates.


On the admin side I’ve been writing up some Work Package descriptions – chunks of work we need to get done to reach the goals of our project. They contain a list of tasks to be done and a description of deliverables. The idea is to be very clear about the work we need done so it slots in neatly with the rest of the project. If you are interested in working on any of these (as a paid or volunteer team member), please contact us.

The development of various policies is continuing – we’ve put a freeze on maintenance for existing features that are likely to be superseded, in order to focus on the new and exciting work. We’re also working on a process for reviewing feature requests – we want to make sure any significant work we do is lined up with our project goals like improving Codec 2 and enhancing HF Digital voice. As our resources are finite we need to “filter” feature requests somehow.

If you want to contribute code or have a feature request for this project, it’s a very good idea to contact us before writing any code or raising a PR. We have many years of experience and very good idea of what needs to be done. We could really use your skills and enthusiasm, but would like to make sure we work together in ways that will most benefit this project.

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