Sound visualization and analysis

Phonometrica offers a dedicated environment for speech visualization and analysis. To visualize a sound file, you need to open it in a sound view. To open a sound view, double-click on a sound file in the file manager, on right-click on it and choose View file from the context menu. When it is opened, the sound view will display the first 10 seconds of the sound file, or the whole sound file if it is shorter than that.

Structure of sound views


The toolbar is located at the top of the sound view and provides a number of buttons which can execute actions or display menus.


The wave bar is located at the bottom of the sound view: it shows a simplified waveform of the whole sound file, and indicates which part of the file is currently selected. You can select any portion of the wave bar to zoom in on a portion of the sound file: The other plots (waveform, pitch track and intensity track) will be adjusted to display the portion you have selected. You can also use the mouse wheel over the wave bar and scroll it up or down to shift the selected window left or right, respectively.


The waveform displays a two-dimensional representation of the sound, with time on the x axis and amplitude on the y axis. The waveform is always present and cannot be hidden.

The Waveform settings... command (available from the waveform menu waveform in the toolbar) allows you to alter the range of amplitudes used to display the waveform. By default, Phonometrica uses local magnitude, which is the largest magnitude in the current window. As a result, the magnitude will change every time the window changes. If you prefer to use a fixed magnitude instead, you can either choose global magnitude, which will use the largest magnitude in the whole sound file, or fixed magnitude to set a custom magnitude. Note that the largest possible magnitude is 1.


A spectrogram offers a three-dimensional representation of signal, with time on the x axis, frequency on the y axis and intensity as shades of grey (the darker it is, the higher the intensity is). The appearance of the spectrogram can be ajusted by changing the following settings, using the Spectrogram settings... command available from the spectrogram menu spectrogram in the toolbar:

  • spectrogram type: the type of spectrogram is determined by the duration of the analysis. A wide-band spectrogram is obtained with a short analysis window (5 ms by default): this type of spectrogram has good frequency resolution, which allows us to see individual glottal pulses as vertical striation lines, but it has poor frequency resolution. A narrow-band spectrogram uses a long window analysis (25 ms by default): it has poor time resolution but good frequency resolution, which allows us to see individual harmonics as thin horizontal bands. You can choose a custom window length (in millisecons) if the default choices don’t fit your needs.

  • frequency range: the range of frequencies that is displayed. If this value is higher than the Nyquist frequency for a given file (i.e. half its sampling frequency), Phonometrica will use the Nyquist frequency instead of this setting.

  • dynamic range This value determines the degree of contrast in the spectrogram. All values that are less than max_dB - dynamic_range are displayed in white, where max_dB is the the highest intensity in the current window.

  • window type: This parameter indicates the shape of the window that is applied to a segment of the sound file before calculating its Fast Fourier Transform.

  • pre-emphasis threshold: threshold of the high-pass pre-emphasis filter. The amplitude of the frequencies above this threshold will be increased. This value is plugged into the following equation: \(y[n] = x[n] - \exp(-2 \pi f \frac{1}{F_s}) x[n-1]\), where \(f\) is the pre-emphasis threshold and \(F_s\) is the sampling rate.

You can show or hide the spectrogram using the Show spectrogram command in the spectrogram menu.

Formant tracks

Formant tracks are overlaid over the spectrogram, so the spectrogram must be visible to be able to display formants. By default, Phonometrica shows the first 4 formants (F1, F2, F3, F4), if they are defined. Phonometrica formant tracking algorithm is based on Linear Predictive Coding (LPC). The Formant settings... command (available from the formants menu formants in the toolbar) allows you adjust the formant tracking algorithm’s parameters:

  • number of formants: this is the maximum number of formants that will be extracted and displayed over the spectrogram

  • maximum frequency: this is the highest frequency in the sound below which formants are expected to be found. For vowel analysis, a good rule of thumb is to use 5000 Hz for male voices and 5500 for female voices. We usually expect to find 5 formants within this frequency range.

  • maximum bandwidth: candidate formants whose bandwidth exceeds this threshold (400 Hz by default) will be discarded. If you don’t want this behavior, set this value to a high value such as maximum frequency.

  • window length: this is the duration (in seconds) of the analysis window that will be used to calculate prediction coefficients.

  • LPC order: this represents the number of prediction coefficients that will be used to perform LPC analysis. For a male voice, we usually expect roughly one formant per thousand Hertz. (Add 10% for female voices.) By default, Phonometrica applies the following formula: \(LPC order = 2n + 2\), where n is the expected number of formants.

Pitch track

The pitch track is a two-dimensional representation of the sound which shows how pitch (measured in Hertz) changes over time. Phonometrica uses the SWIPE algorithm [CAM2007] for pitch tracking. The Pitch settings... command (available from the pitch menu pitch in the toolbar) allows you to adjust the algorithm’s parameters:

  • minimum pitch: this is the lowest pitch value expected to be found in the sound.

  • maximum pitch: this is the highest pitch value expected to be found in the sound.

  • time step: this determines the number of points used to estimate pitch in the current window.

  • voicing threshold: this determines the sensitivity of the algorithm to voicing detection. This parameter is a value between 0.2 and 0.5 (inclusive).

You can show or hide the pitch track using the Show pitch command in the pitch menu.

Intensity track

The intensity track is a two-dimensional representation of the sound which shows how intensity (measured in decibels) changes over time. The Intensity settings... command (available from the intensity menu intensity in the toolbar) allows you to adjust intensity settings:

  • minimum intensity: this is the lowest intensity value expected to be found in the sound.

  • maximum intensity: this is the highest intensity value expected to be found in the sound.

  • time step: this determines the number of points used to estimate intensity in the current window.

You can show or hide the intensity track using the Show intensity command in the intensity menu.

How to use sound views

Playing a sound

To play a sound, you can use the play button play: if there is a selection in the current window, Phonometrica will only play this selection, otherwise it will play the whole window. Once playing has started, a moving cursor will track the approximate time which is currently being played. The play button will turn into a pause button pause, which allows you to pause (and then later resume) playing. You can also stop playing using the stop button stop.

Changing the current window

Phonometrica offers a number of ways to navigate through the file, using the wavebar, the navigation buttons in the toolbar, or the mouse.

First, you can select any part of the wavebar to display it as the current window. If you would like to keep the same window size and shift the sound left or right, you can hover the mouse over the wavebar and use the scroll wheel: scrolling down will shift the current window forward, and scrolling up will shift it backward.

Once you have selected a portion of the file, you can change it using the toolbar’s buttons. The forward forward and backward backward buttons will shift the current window by a small amount, right or left, respectively. This has a similar effect to scrolling the mouse wheel over the wavebar. You can also zoom in zoomin or zoom out zoomout on the current window, which allows you to view the sound file with varying degrees of detail. If you would like to zoom in on on a specific part of the current window, click where you would like your selection to start, and drag the mouse until the end of the selection. You can change the current window to this selection by clicking on the Zoom to selection button zoomsel, or by clicking on the middle button of the mouse (i.e. the scroll wheel).

Finally, the View whole file button zoomall allows you to set the current window to the whole file, and the Select window button select allows you to select a specific part of the sound file by setting its start and end points manually.

Acoustic measurements

In order to perform manual acoustic measurements, you must first enable mouse tracking by clicking on the Enable mouse tracking button mouse in the toolbar. Once mouse tracking is activated, a vertical line will follow the cursor whenever you move the mouse over one of the sound plots. This moving cursor will keeps track of the current time in the waveform plot. If you click on the left button anywhere in one of the sound plots, a persistent cursor will be displayed. (You can remove the persistent cursor by clicking on the right button.)

Once a persistent cursor is visible, you can perform acoustic measurements by using clicking on one of the dedicated commands. These commands will print their output in the console:

  • The Get pitch command in the pitch menu pitch prints the pitch under the cursor

  • The Get intensity command in the intensity menu intensity prints the intensity under the cursor

  • The Get formants command in the formants menu formants prints the value of the visible formants, as well as their respective bandwidth, under the cursor

Note that for these commands to work, the corresponding plot must be visible (e.g. the pitch plot must be visible if you want to measure pitch).



Camacho, Arturo. 2007. SWIPE: A sawtooth waveform inspired pitch estimator for speech and music. PhD dissertation, University of Florida Gainesville.