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Complexity of Exact Reverberation

For music, a typical reverberation time4.2is on the order of one second. Suppose we choose exactly one second for the reverberation time. At an audio sampling rate of 50 kHz, each filter in Fig.3.1 requires 50,000 multiplies and additions per sample, or 2.5 billion multiply-adds per second. Handling three sources and two listening points (ears), we reach 30 billion operations per second for the reverberator. This computational load would require at least 10 Pentium CPUs clocked at 3 Gigahertz, assuming they were doing nothing else, and assuming both a multiply and addition can be initiated each clock cycle, with no wait-states caused by the three required memory accesses (input, output, and filter coefficient). While these numbers can be improved using FFT convolution instead of direct convolution (at the price of introducing a throughput delay which can be a problem for real-time systems), it remains the case that exact implementation of all relevant point-to-point transfer functions in a reverberant space is very expensive computationally.

While a tapped delay line FIR filter can provide an accurate model for any point-to-point transfer function in a reverberant environment, it is rarely used for this purpose in practice because of the extremely high computational expense. While there are specialized commercial products that implement reverberation via direct convolution of the input signal with the impulse response, the great majority of artificial reverberation systems use other methods to synthesize the late reverb more economically.

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``Physical Audio Signal Processing'', by Julius O. Smith III, W3K Publishing, 2010, ISBN 978-0-9745607-2-4.
Copyright © 2014-10-15 by Julius O. Smith III
Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA),   Stanford University