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How to compare audio in ruby

Serhii Potapov December 19, 2013 #ruby #rspec #audio #sound #chromaprint

Or how to implement sound_like RSpec matcher

The problem I'm trying to solve in this article is comparison of two audio files. We'll figure out how to verify that they sound similar.

I was developing an application that has a deal with audio processing and I had to write a test to verify outcome audio file matches a one from fixtures. Well, I've decided to compare audio binaries like these:

expect('outcome.mp3')).to eq'fixture.mp3')

And it worked!

But soon my colleagues let me know I had broken the build. It turned out that outcome.mp3generated on their Mac books didn't match fixture.mp3 generated on my linux laptop, despite the fact that both sounded absolutely the same. Probably we had different codecs. So I had to come up with a better idea.

Audio fingerprints and Chromaprint

After some investigation I found a term "audio fingerprint" or "acoustic fingerprint", it was exactly what I was looking for. From Wikipedia:

An acoustic fingerprint is a condensed digital summary, deterministically generated from an audio signal, that can be used to identify an audio sample or quickly locate similar items in an audio database

It's used by services like Shazam to identify songs.

So I started looking for open source implementations and found Chromaprint - a C library that calculates audio fingerprints from raw audio files. It seemed to be simple, with good source documentation and easy to get started.

Integrate Chromaprint with Ruby

I found no already existing bindings, so I've implemented my own. Instead of using C, I gave FFI a shot and it worked perfect! As result I had stuff that worked the following way:

context     =, 1)
fingerprint = context.get_fingerprint(raw_audio_data)
fingerprint.raw # => [294890785, 328373552, 315802880, 303481088, ...]

According to Chromaprint's documentation a raw fingerprint is an array of 4 byte integers. But how to compare to 2 fingerprints to detect similarity?

Hamming distance

The answer was to calculate Hamming distance from binary representation of fingerprints. Again according to Wikipedia:

In information theory, the Hamming distance between two strings of equal length is the number of positions at which the corresponding symbols are different. In another way, it measures the minimum number of substitutions required to change one string into the other, or the minimum number of errors that could have transformed one string into the other.

To calculate Hamming distance for binary data we need to apply XOR operation and count number of 1 in the result.

Here is a small example for 2 byte values:

dec     bin
11737   00101101 11011001
27129   01101001 11111001

XOR     01000100 00100000

Hamming distance is 3

Basing on this I implemented an additional method Fingerprint#compare(fingerprint) that calculates similarity in range from 0 to 1.

Create RSpec matcher

Now I could compare raw audio data, but in real world almost always we have to have a deal with compressed audio like mp3 or ogg. However wav files contain exactly raw audio data. So I could convert compressed audio to wav, then read it to get raw audio and calculate fingerprints for comparison. To convert audio I prefer using sox command line tool, it's pretty powerful.

I have to explain that I did it all to avoid having a deal with audio codecs within ruby, since it would make things be much more complicated.

Finally I got sound_like RSpec matcher:

# Compare sound of two audio files.
# Based on the Chromaprint library and the +sox+ command like tool.
# @example
#   "/Airborne.mp3".should sound_like "/ACDC.mp3"
#   "/Children_of_Bodom.mp3".should_not sound_like "/Britney_Spears.mp3"
RSpec::Matchers.define :sound_like do |expected_file|
  match do |file|
    rate      = 96000
    channels  = 1
    threshold = 0.95

    if File.exists?(expected_file) && File.exists?(file)
      # Convert input files into raw 16-bit signed audio (WAV) to
      # process with Chromaprint:
      sox_command    = "sox %s -e signed -b 16 -t wav - " \
                       "rate #{rate} channels #{channels} 2> /dev/null"
      expected_audio = %x"#{sox_command % [expected_file]}"
      audio          = %x"#{sox_command % [file]}"

      # Get audio fingerprints:
      chromaprint =, channels)
      expected_fp = chromaprint.get_fingerprint(expected_audio)
      fp          = chromaprint.get_fingerprint(audio)

      # Compare fingerprints and compare result against threshold: > threshold

Note that I used threshold with value 0.95 because quite rare fingerprints have 100% match.

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