Visualizing Frequencies

One common way that people typically use to analyze audio is to visualize the frequencies that exist within it. Commonly these types of visuals are employed with equalizers that allow the adjustment of the levels of various frequency ranges.

The technique used to break an audio signal down into component frequencies employs a mathematic transformation called a discrete Fourier transform (DFT). A DFT is commonly used to translate data from a time base to a frequency base. One algorithm used to perform DFT is a fast Fourier transform (FFT), which is very efficient but unfortunately complex.

Fortunately, many implementations of FFT algorithms exist that are in the public domain or are open source and that we may employ. One such version is a Java port of the FFTPACK library, originally developed by Paul Swarztrauber of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The Java port was performed by Baoshe Zhang of the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada. Various implementations are available online at The one we'll be using is archived in a file called jfftpack.tgz linked off of that page. It is directly downloadable via

To use this or any other package containing Java source code in an Eclipse Android project, we need to import the source into our project. This archive contains the correct directory structure for the package, so we just drag the top-level folder in the javasource directory (ca) into the src directory of our project.

Here is an example that draws the graphic portion of a graphic equalizer. package com.apress.proandroidmedia.ch08.audioprocessing;









import android.os.AsyncTask;

import android.os.Bundle;

import android.util.Log;

import android.view.View;

import android.view.View.OnClickListener;

import android.widget.Button;

import android.widget.ImageView;

We'll import the RealDoubleFFT class in the fftpack package. import;

public class AudioProcessing extends Activity implements OnClickListener {

We'll use a frequency of 8 kHz, one audio channel, and 16 bit samples in the AudioRecord object.

int frequency = 8000;

int channelConfiguration = AudioFormat.CHANNEL_CONFIGURATION_MONO; int audioEncoding = AudioFormat.ENCODING_PCM_16BIT;

transformer will be our FFT object, and we'll be dealing with 256 samples at a time from the AudioRecord object through the FFT object. The number of samples we use will correspond to the number of component frequencies we will get after we run them through the FFT object. We are free to choose a different size, but we do need concern ourselves with memory and performance issues as the math required to the calculation is processor-intensive.

private RealDoubleFFT transformer; int blockSize = 256;

Button startStopButton; boolean started = false;

RecordAudio is an inner class defined here that extends AsyncTask. RecordAudio recordTask;

We'll be using an ImageView to display a Bitmap image. This image will represent the levels of the various frequencies that are in the current audio stream. To draw these levels, we'll use Canvas and Paint objects constructed from the Bitmap.

ImageView imageView; Bitmap bitmap; Canvas canvas; Paint paint;

@Override public void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState) { super.onCreate(savedInstanceState); setContentView(R.layout.main);

startStopButton = (Button) this.findViewById(; startStopButton.setOnClickListener(this);

The RealDoubleFFT class constructor takes in the number of samples that we'll deal with at a time. This also represents the number of distinct ranges of frequencies that will be output.

transformer = new RealDoubleFFT(blockSize); Here is the setup of the ImageView and related object for drawing.

imageView = (ImageView) this.findViewById(;

bitmap = Bitmap.createBitmap((int)256,(int)100,Bitmap.Config.ARGB_8888);

canvas = new Canvas(bitmap);



Most of the work in this activity is done in the following class, called RecordAudio, which extends AsyncTask. Using AsyncTask, we run the methods that will tie up the user interface on a separate thread. Anything that is placed in the doInBackground method will be run in this manner.

private class RecordAudio extends AsyncTask<Void, double[], Void> { @Override protected Void doInBackground(Void... params) { try {

We'll set up and use AudioRecord in the normal manner.

int bufferSize = AudioRecord.getMinBufferSize(frequency, channelConfiguration, audioEncoding);

AudioRecord audioRecord = new AudioRecord(

MediaRecorder.AudioSource.MIC, frequency, channelConfiguration, audioEncoding, bufferSize);

The short array, buffer, will take in the raw PCM samples from the AudioRecord object. The double array, toTransform, will hold the same data but in the form of doubles, as that is what the FFT class requires.

short[] buffer = new short[blockSize]; double[] toTransform = new double[blockSize];


while (started) {

int bufferReadResult =, 0, blockSize);

After we read the data from the AudioRecord object, we loop through and translate it from short values to double values. We can't do this directly by casting, as the values expected should be between -1.0 and 1.0 rather than the full range. Dividing the short by 32,768.0 will do that, as that value is the maximum value of short.

NOTE: There is a constant Short.MAX VALUE that could be used instead.

for (int i = 0; i < blockSize && i < bufferReadResult; i++) {

toTransform[i] = (double) buffer[i] / 32768.0; // signed 16 bit

Next we'll pass the array of double values to the FFT object. The FFT object re-uses the same array to hold the output values. The data contained will be in the frequency domain rather than the time domain. This means that the first element in the array will not represent the first sample in time—rather, it will represent the levels of the first set of frequencies.

Since we are using 256 values (or ranges) and our sample rate is 8,000, we can determine that each element in the array will cover approximately 15.625 Hz. We come up with this figure by dividing the sample rate in half (as the highest frequency we can capture is half the sample rate) and then dividing by 256. Therefore the data represented in the first element of the array will represent the level of audio that is between 0 and 15.625 Hz.


Calling publishProgress calls onProgressUpdate.


Log.e("AudioRecord", "Recording Failed");

return null;

onProgressUpdate runs on the main thread in our activity and can therefore interact with the user interface without problems. In this implementation, we are passing in the data after it has been run through the FFT object. This method takes care of drawing the data on the screen as a series of lines at most 100 pixels tall. Each line represents one of the elements in the array and therefore a range of 15.625 Hz. The first line represents frequencies ranging from 0 to 15.625 Hz, and the last line represents frequencies ranging from 3,984.375 to 4,000 Hz. Figure 8-1 shows what this looks like in action.

protected void onProgressUpdate(double[]... toTransform) { canvas.drawColor(Color.BLACK);

for (int i = 0; i < toTransform[0].length; i++) { int x = i;

int downy = (int) (100 - (toTransform[0][i] * 10)); int upy = 100;

canvas.drawLine(x, downy, x, upy, paint);


public void onClick(View v) { if (started) {

started = false;

startStopButton.setText("Start"); recordTask.cancel(true); } else {

started = true;

startStopButton.setText("Stop"); recordTask = new RecordAudio(); recordTask.execute();

Here is the layout XML file used by the AudioProcessing activity just defined. <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>

<LinearLayout xmlns:android="" android:orientation="vertical" android:layout_width="fill_parent"

android:layout_height="fill_parent" >

<TextView android:layout_width="fill_parent"



<ImageView android:id="@+id/ImageView01" android:layout_width="wrap_content" android:layout_height="wrap_content"></ImageView><Button android:text="Start"^ android:id="@+id/StartStopButton" android:layout_width="wrap_content"^ android:layout_height="wrap_content"></Button> </LinearLayout>



Audio Processing

Hello World, AudioProcessing!

Figure 8-1. AudioProcessing activity running

+13 -10


  • kerstin
    How to use fast fourier transform in android?
    5 years ago
  • torsten
    Why audiorecord buffer 256 samples?
    4 years ago
  • wayne gilbert
    How to use fftpack to calculate frequency of sound?
    4 years ago
  • bisrat
    How to import jfftpack?
    4 years ago
  • Pirjo
    How to visualize frequency?
    4 years ago
  • niina
    How to display the frequency in layout in android source code?
    2 years ago
  • Alberto
    How to make a graphic equilizer visualisation in android?
    10 months ago
  • vanessa
    How to find the frequency of an object by android?
    17 days ago

Post a comment