Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Peder C. Pedersen, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Donald Richard Brown III, Advisor

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Nathaniel A. Whitmal III, Committee Member




"Speech enhancement in an automobile is a challenging problem because interference can come from engine noise, fans, music, wind, road noise, reverberation, echo, and passengers engaging in other conversations. Hands-free microphones make the situation worse because the strength of the desired speech signal reduces with increased distance between the microphone and talker. Automobile safety is improved when the driver can use a hands-free interface to phones and other devices instead of taking his eyes off the road. The demand for high quality hands-free communication in the automobile requires the introduction of more powerful algorithms. This thesis shows that a unique combination of five algorithms can achieve superior speech enhancement for a hands-free system when compared to beamforming or spectral subtraction alone. Several different designs were analyzed and tested before converging on the configuration that achieved the best results. Beamforming, voice activity detection, spectral subtraction, perceptual nonlinear weighting, and talker isolation via pitch tracking all work together in a complementary iterative manner to create a speech enhancement system capable of significantly enhancing real world speech signals. The following conclusions are supported by the simulation results using data recorded in a car and are in strong agreement with theory. Adaptive beamforming, like the Generalized Side-lobe Canceller (GSC), can be effectively used if the filters only adapt during silent data frames because too much of the desired speech is cancelled otherwise. Spectral subtraction removes stationary noise while perceptual weighting prevents the introduction of offensive audible noise artifacts. Talker isolation via pitch tracking can perform better when used after beamforming and spectral subtraction because of the higher accuracy obtained after initial noise removal. Iterating the algorithm once increases the accuracy of the Voice Activity Detection (VAD), which improves the overall performance of the algorithm. Placing the microphone(s) on the ceiling above the head and slightly forward of the desired talker appears to be the best location in an automobile based on the experiments performed in this thesis. Objective speech quality measures show that the algorithm removes a majority of the stationary noise in a hands-free environment of an automobile with relatively minimal speech distortion."


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Electrical & Computer Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





Speech, noise reduction, spectral subtraction, hands-free, beamforming, Radio, Noise control, Microphone, Automobiles, Electronic equipment