One disadvantage of the point-to-point transfer function model depicted in Fig.3.1 is that some or all of the filters must change when anything moves. If instead we had a computational model of the whole acoustic space, sources and listeners could be moved as desired without affecting the underlying room simulation. Furthermore, we could use ``virtual dummy heads'' as listeners, complete with pinnae filters, so that all of the 3D directional aspects of reverberation could be captured in two extracted signals for the ears. Thus, there are compelling reasons to consider a full 3D model of a desired acoustic listening space.
Let us briefly estimate the computational requirements of a ``brute force'' acoustic simulation of a room. It is generally accepted that audio signals require a 20 kHz bandwidth. Since sound travels at about a foot per millisecond (see §B.7.14 for a more precise value), a 20 kHz sinusoid has a wavelength on the order of 1/20 feet, or about half an inch. Since, by elementary sampling theory, we must sample faster than twice the highest frequency present in the signal, we need ``grid points'' in our simulation separated by a quarter inch or less. At this grid density, simulating an ordinary 12'x12'x8' room in a home requires more than 100 million grid points. Using finite-difference (Appendix D) or waveguide-mesh techniques (§C.14,Appendix E) [520,399], the average grid point can be implemented as a multiply-free computation; however, since it has waves coming and going in six spatial directions, it requires on the order of 10 additions per sample. Thus, running such a room simulator at an audio sampling rate of 50 kHz requires on the order of 50 billion additions per second, which is comparable to the three-source, two-ear simulation of Fig.3.1. However, scaling up to a 100'x50'x20' concert hall requires more than 5 quadrillion operations per second. We may conclude, therefore, that a fine-grained physical model of a complete concert hall over the audio band is prohibitively expensive.
The remainder of this chapter will be concerned with ways of reducing computational complexity without sacrificing too much perceptual quality.