Journal of Computer and Communications, 2014, 2, 112-120
Published Online July 2014 in SciRes. http://www.scirp.org/journal/jcc
How to cite this paper: Wang, Z., Zhang, H.J. and Bi, G.A. (2014) Speech Signal Recovery Based on Source Separation and
Noise Suppression. Journal of Computer and Communications, 2, 112-120. http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/jcc.2014.29015
Speech Signal Recovery Based on Source
Separation and Noise Suppression
Zhe Wang, Haijian Zhang, Guoan Bi
School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Received May 2014
In this paper, a speech signal recovery algorithm is presented for a personalized voice command
automatic recognition system in vehicle and restaurant environments. This novel algorithm is
able to separate a mixed speech source from multiple speakers, detect presence/absence of
speakers by tracking the higher magnitude portion of speech power spectrum and adaptively
suppress noises. An automatic speech recognition (ASR) process to deal with the multi-speaker
task is designed and implemented. Evaluation tests have been carried out by using the speech da-
tabase NOIZEUS and the experimental results show that the proposed algorithm achieves impres-
sive performance improvements.
Speech Recovery, Tim e-Frequency Source Separation, Adaptive Noise Suppression, Automatic
In ubiquitous environment of multiple speakers, it has been a challenge to adapt the speech recognition model
correctly for improving the speech recognition accuracy. The recovery of clean speech from a noisy resource is
of vital importance for speech enhancement, speech recognition and many other speech related applications. In
real life, there are numerous noise sources such as environment, channel distortion and speaker variability.
Therefore, many algorithms have been reported for removing the noise from speech. Most of these algorithms
need additional noise estimation and are only adapted to auditory effect rather than the ASR. This paper de-
scribes a novel self-optimized voice activity detection (VAD) algorithm together with a simple but effective
noise removing process after signal separation for improving speech recognition rate. The key feature of the pro-
posed VAD algorithm is that prior estimation of clean speech variance is not needed. In addition, the threshold
used for speech/non-speech decision is generated from the noisy speech itself, which is considered as a kind of
self-optimizing process. For the noise removing process, the key feature is the simplicity because it is based on
the widely known spectral subtraction (SS)  method without any additional model or training process. Per-
formance comparison has been made among SS method , zero-cros si ng-energy method (ZCE) , entropy-
based method , and the proposed VAD based algorithm.
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To perform the recognition task simultaneously, a modified recognition speaker process based on Bhattacha-
ryya distance is proposed to process the separated speech for isolate word recognition. In this recognition scena-
rio, the computational complexity is not increased in proportion to the number of template words from multiple
speakers. Experimental results based on the noise and speech from the NOIZEUS database show the desirable
The rest of the paper is organized as follows. In Section 2, a speech separation process is described to obtain
individual signals from the noisy voice of multiple speakers without knowing the number of speakers. In Section
3, the self-optimized VAD algorithm is presented with detailed derivation steps. Section 4 provides an adaptive
soft decision algorithm for noise suppression. Section 5 presents the modified Mel Frequency Cepstrum Coeffi-
cient (MFCC) based ASR system used in the multi-speaker adaption experiment. The experimental results and
the performance comparison among various reported methods are presented in Section 6. Conclusions are given
in Section 7.
2. Blind Source Separation (BSS) Based on SSTFT
Assume Sn(t), n = 1, …, N, be the unknown speech sources, where N is the number of speakers. The arrange-
ment of an M-sensor microphone array is linear. The output vector
is modeled as
(t)s(t) (t)= +xAn
where A denotes the mixing matrix, x(t) = [x1(t), …, xM(t)]T is the vector of the received mixtures, s(t) =
[s1(t), …, sN(t)]T contains the multiple speech sources, n(t) is the additive white noise vector and T is the trans-
The procedure of the spatial short-time Fourier transform (SSTFT) BSS algorithm based on the above signal
model is presented as follows:
• Calculating the STFT of the mixtures x(t) in (1), we obtain an M × 1 vector
at each time-frequency
()() ()t, ft, ft, f= +
where the subscript, S, denotes the STFT operator.
• Next, we detect the auto-source TF points, i.e. the auto-term location of the speech sources in TF domain
based on the criterion at each time-instant
||S(t,f) ||/ max||S(t,v) ||
where ||•|| denotes the norm operator and
is an empirical threshold value for selection of the auto-source
TF points. All the TF points which satisfy the criterion in (3) are included in the set Ω.
• The premise of the SSTFT-based algorithm is to estimate the number of sources N as well as the mixing ma-
trix A. We apply the method proposed in our previous work . Specifically, we try to detect some domi-
nant TF points, i.e., the points at which one of the sources has the dominant energy compared to those of
other sources and noise power. The mean-shift clustering method  is applied to classify the dominant TF
points without knowing the number of sources. The mixing matrix A is estimated by averaging the spatial
vectors of all TF points in the same cluster, and N is estimated by counting the number of resultant clusters.
• Based on the detected auto-source TF point set Ω and the estimated mixing matrix A, we can apply the sub-
space-based method to estimate the STFT values of each source . We assume that there are at most K < M
sources present at each auto-source TF point ∈ Ω. Thus, the expression in (2) is simplified as
() (),()t, ft, ft, f≈ ∈Ω
denotes the steering vectors of the K sources at each point
STFT values of these K sources.
at each auto-source TF point can be determined by the following mi-
aa t, f=A
denotes the orthogonal projection matrix into noise subspace, where
contains the random K columns of the estimated mixing matrix A. The K STFT values at
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each auto-source TF point can be obtained by
()A (),()t, ft, ft, f≈ ∈Ω
where † denotes the Moore-Penrose’s pseudo inversion operator. Now the energy at each auto-source TF
point in Ω is separated into K STFT values assigned to corresponding sources.
• Each source is recovered by the inverse STFT  using the estimated STFT values by (6).
Figure 1 presents the results of using the above presented process for separating four speakers’ voices from
the signals received by two microphones, as seen in Figure 2.
3. Noise Estimation
Noise and speech are usually statistically independent and possess different statistical properties. Noise is more
symmetrically distributed and present all the time, while speech is frequently non-stationary due to its active/
non-active periods. The active/non-active transition of speech makes the energy of speech more concentrated in
the speech active period.
3.1. General Description
The different behaviors of noise and speech make it possible to track speech or noise based on the minimum/
Figure 1. Separated voices from four speakers.
Figure 2. Mixed speech signals received by two microphones.
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maximum of speech spectrum. The part having high energy is more likely to be speech while the part with low
energy is more likely to be noise, which makes it possible to detect speech by analyzing the maximum of noisy
speech. The speech amplitude is more probably larger than the noise amplitude. Compared with noise, the
probability distribution function of clean speech magnitude is flatter in the “tail” part, which means clean speech
magnitude is more likely far from its average. Even for SNR = 0 dB, the peak portion of the signal can be prov-
en to be more likely from speech.
3.2. Algorithm Derivation
Assuming that speech is distorted by uncorrelated additive noise, two hypotheses for VAD are
: speech absent: Y = N + R
: speech present: Y = S + N + R
where Y, N, S, and R denote the frequency domain noisy speech, noise, clean speech and residual speech from
the source separation process, respectively. The probability density function for H0 and H1 are given by
denote the noise, residual and clean speech variance.
We have the conditions
PY /P Y
is a heuristic parameter between 0.01
and 0.2. Its calculation will be further presented in Section 4. The first condition is simplified into
From (11), we have
can be served as a more direct threshold. Then the frequency bin level VAD flag can be achieved by
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The speech probability density function is calculated, which can be used to get
. Then, the binary VAD
flag can be achieved by using (13). The VAD algorithm mentioned previously is suitable on suppressing the
noise and can effectively distinct the noise and voiced speech. To improve the auto speech recognition rate, we
still need to trace changes in the noise-energy and update the noise energy in all frames including the speech
4. Noise Suppression
In the design of VAD algorithm, the soft decision algorithms appear to be superior to binary decision because
speech signal is highly non-stationary. There is no clear boundary which marks the beginning or ending of a
pronunciation. In this section, the discrimination information is used as a soft decision threshold.
4.1. Sub-Band Energy Calculation
The energy calculation works on a frame by frame basis. Each frame is multiplied by a suitable window to re-
duce the frequency aliasing from fast Fourier Transform (FFT). Note that the 50% overlapping means an initial
delay of one half of the frame size is incurred. The frame size should be selected carefully. Suppose the sample
and frame size is N = 2m. The time resolution is N/Fs, and frequency resolution is Fs/N. Obviously a
larger frame size allows better frequency resolution but has a poor time resolution. In general, for Fs = 8000 and
16,000 Hz, frame sizes of N = 256 and 512 are found appropriate, respectively.
The signal is divided into 16 sub-bands. When the frame size is 256, the energy for the ith band is
is the absolute value of the
Fourier transform coefficient of the
band. The sub-band out of
the whole energy is calculated by
The frame energy and the sub-band energy are used to calculate the discrimination information based on the
sub-band energy distribution probabilities for both the current frame and the noise frame.
Assume the random variable Y has the chance to be a value of
. The probability distribution of Y
is related to the hypothesis H0 and H1. Set P0(αk) = P(αk|H0), P1(αk) = P(αk|H1), the discrimination information is
defined as follows,
The discrimination information can be calculated using sub-band energy distribution to measure the similarity
of current frame and the noise frame.
4.2. Threshold Update
The threshold value is updated by:
• The first 5 frames are selected as the noise/non-speech frames.
• The previous frame of a period of speech signal is considered as noise frame.
• When the previous frame is considered as a noise frame, the current frame will be considered as noise frame
if current frame satisfies |Y|2 ≤ |Yε|2. If the current frame satisfies |Y|2 > |Yε|2 and d > Tr, the current frame is
considered as the start position frame and comparing with the next 6 frames is made. If the 6 frames also sa-
tisfy |Y| 2 > |Yε|2 and d > Tr, the start position frame can be taken as the start position of a period of speech.
Otherwise the current frame is still considered as a noise frame.
• When the previous frame is a speech frame, if current frame satisfies |Y|2 > |Yε|2, it remains to be the speech
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frame. If the current frame satisfies |Y|2 ≤ |Yε|2 and d < Tr, it is classified as the end position frame, and then
comparison with the next 6 frames is made. If the 6 frames also satisfy |Y|2 ≤ |Yε|2 and d < Tr, the end posi-
tion frame can be taken as the end position of a period of speech (also the start point of a speech); otherwise,
the current frame is still a speech frame. Tr is the edge value of the discrimination information which equals
to the average discrimination value of the most recently 5 noisy frames.
• During each step of the above determination, the noise threshold will be updated by
represents the updated noise threshold for the nth frame, |Y|2 is the probability distribution
function value of current speech and λ is the noise update factor, which is calculated by discrimination in-
• If all the data have been dealt with, the adaptive adjustment will end.
4.3. Modified VAD and Noise Suppression
The speech signal Y(w) is generally corrupted by the additive noise, N(w), which is assumed to be independent
of speech. In theory, the noise can be optimally removed by estimating its power and filtering the noisy signal
with the following filter:
()()()()HwYwNw Yw= −
The proposed VAD will detect the noise frame, and subtract noise spectra from speech signal, trying to keep
more information used during the feature extraction process of ASR and eliminating noise that provides wrong
information during feature extraction and template matching. As the speech signal is always non-stationary,
making a binary decision of being voice or noise is quite risky. Therefore, we have designed a module that rates
the likelihood of voice by computing a voice activity score (VAS). In this way, we can achieve smooth process-
ing transition when the derived VAS indicates a mixture of voice and noise.
The VAS for a frame is determined by two aspects. The first one concerns with the intelligibility of the voice,
which is approximately quantified by counting the number of Bark bands in the speech band whose power, ex-
ceeds that of the corresponding Bark band of the estimated noise. The speech band ranges from the 4th to the
14th Bark band. The second aspect is the relative power of the current frame to that of the estimated noise power.
In general, the higher the relative power of a frame, the more likely it contains voice. The final VAS is simply
the sum of the scores from the two aspects. The parameter
is set as the reciprocal of VAS and is updated for
each frame. The continuous VAS offers much more flexibility than a fixed parameter. Even when it is necessary
to make a binary decision as to whether or not the frame is a noise-only frame, we can still make the processing
changing and converging at certain value.
Then for each frame, the process described in Section 3.2 is conducted. With the processed results,
mentioned in Section 3.2 are updated correspondingly.
5. Speaker and Speech Recognition
This section elaborates the full system from the front end feature extraction, training process which consists of
sub-word unit and word template generation, and the final recognition process. After VAD and noise suppres-
sion, the processed speech signal will be evaluated in this ASR system.
5.1. Front end Feature Extraction
The feature vector used for this recognition task is 24MFCC. The frame window size is 20 ms and the speech is
sampled at 16 kHz with 16 bit resolution.
5.2. Sub-Word Unit Generation
The first part of the training process requires the users to record approximately two minutes of their speech. It is
recommended to read phonetically rich sentences in order to obtain a more comprehensive sub-word unit. In this
experiment, the user is asked to read a series of Harvard sentences. Then, the resulting MFCC is clustered by
using c-means algorithm into 64 distinct units, roughly corresponding to a collection of sub-word. Each of these
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clusters is then modeled using Gaussian mixture model of 4 mixtures. In this experiment, re-clustering is not
done during word template generation. To simplify the model, further calculation is performed to generate the
64 by 64 Bhattacharyya distance matrix. This process is illustrated in Figure 3.
5.3. Word Template Generation
In this step, the words to be recognized are registered. As shown in Figure 4, the user is asked to pronounce the
words, and the template generation converts those words into a sequence of sub-word unit index (obtained from
the previous step) based on its maximum likelihood. To avoid over segmentation of the word, transitional heu-
ristic is employed by allowing the change of sub-word index only when there is a significant margin of likeli-
hood difference with the neighboring state. This process has to be repeated for each word that the user wants to
introduce to the system.
5.4. Matching Process—Recognition
Assuming there are M word templates in the system, the recognition process calculates the probability of the us-
er input feature vector X input being generated by the template. The chosen word is the one which gives the
Note that the template can be viewed as a sequence of Gaussian Mixture Models (GMM), which makes the
pm(XInput) calculation increasingly expensive with an increasing number of word templates and very hard to ob-
serve the effect of proposed VAD algorithm . We propose to convert the input feature to a sub-word unit in-
dex sequence using the Bhattacharyya distance. The Bhattacharyya between two probability distribution
is defined by
Bln() ()hattpppxpx dx= −
Each sub-word unit in the testing experiment is modeled by using 4 mixtures GMM, so the distance between
them is given by:
The distance is calculated for all 64 sub-word units using Levenshtein distance method. The average run time
of the recognition task by original pattern matching algorithms increases proportionally with the number of tem-
plates. For the Bhattacharyya edit distance method, however, the running time is quite stable when the number
of templates increases, which is particularly suitable for a real-time recognition system. Figure 5 shows his
The speaker recognition process is similar to the matching process with two main differences. Firstly, only the
selected speaker profile is loaded during word recognition process because at this point, the identity of the
Figure 3. Sub-word unit generation.
Figure 4. Word template generation.
64 Subword Unit
(each modelled with GMM)
64 x 64
64 Subword Unit
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speaker is already known. In speaker recognition, the speaker profile is polled and the input is compared against
the respective activation keyword registration for each speaker. Secondly, instead of using edit distance, the
speaker recognition process uses the posterior probability of the input given the sequence of GMM distribution
in the template. This method gives us more flexibility in setting the threshold of acceptance.
6. Algorithm Evaluation
In this section we present the results and an objective evaluation of the proposed ASR system. We define
where S(k) is the speech signal energy and N(k) is the noise energy. In this ASR experiment, the noise of vehicle
motor and restaurant are from NOIZEUS noise database .
Speech Recognition Tests
Speech recognition test is carried out using ASR system in Section 5. The proposed blind source separation is
imp lemented before VAD algorithm. In general, better separation results are achieved for the system with fewer
speech sources than microphones . In our case, we use 2 microphones to receive the mixed voices from 4
speakers. In the separated signals, one speaker’s voice is selected by using automatic speaker recognition and
then conducted the isolate word recognition test. The performances from SS method, ZCE method, and Entropy-
Based method are compared with that from the proposed VAD noise suppression method in motor and restau-
rant noisy environments. Experimental results on accuracy are given in Tab l e 1 for the situations of SNR = 0, 5
and 10 dB. The recognition ratios under restaurant noise environment are given in parentheses.
Compared with entropy-based method that achieves the most accuracy among VAD algorithms, the relative
improvement in the case of SNR = 0 dB reaches 2.5% (1.2%), while in the case of SNR = 5 dB, the rate im-
provement is 1.4% (0.33%). The entire ASR system works in a frame-by-frame manner and meets the real-time
operation for most embedded electronic applications. In addition to the noise used in the experiment, the similar
results are achieved by using street noise from NOIZEUS.
Figure 5. Pro p osed method for word recogn ition .
Table 1. Accuracy in vehicle motor and restaurant noise.
SNR 0 dB 5 dB 10 dB
SS 60.43(58.33) 79.86(75.94) 92.23(88.01)
ZCE 76.77(70.52) 85.42(79.41) 93.91(87.68)
Entropy-Based 84.09(83.56) 87.18(85.09) 93.95(91.82)
Proposed VAD 86.59(84.72) 88.53(85.42) 93.98(92.08)
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In this paper, a complete speech recovery algorithm is proposed and implemented for ubiquitous speech envi-
ronment. It can effectively recover the voice of individual speaker from mixed voice of multiple speakers in
noisy environment. The key feature of the proposed algorithm is that the prior information on the number of
sources and estimation of clean speech variance is not needed. The threshold used to suppress noise is generated
from the speech itself, which leads to the desirable ability of adapting to changing environments. Moreover, the
proposed source separation and noise suppression method does not need any additional training process, which
effectively reduces the computational burden. Finally, the proposed system can be easily realized in ubiquitous
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