Open Access

Audio watermarking robust against D/A and A/D conversions

EURASIP Journal on Advances in Signal Processing20112011:3

Received: 10 November 2010

Accepted: 13 May 2011

Published: 13 May 2011


Digital audio watermarking robust against digital-to-analog (D/A) and analog-to-digital (A/D) conversions is an important issue. In a number of watermark application scenarios, D/A and A/D conversions are involved. In this article, we first investigate the degradation due to DA/AD conversions via sound cards, which can be decomposed into volume change, additional noise, and time-scale modification (TSM). Then, we propose a solution for DA/AD conversions by considering the effect of the volume change, additional noise and TSM. For the volume change, we introduce relation-based watermarking method by modifying groups of the energy relation of three adjacent DWT coefficient sections. For the additional noise, we pick up the lowest-frequency coefficients for watermarking. For the TSM, the synchronization technique (with synchronization codes and an interpolation processing operation) is exploited. Simulation tests show the proposed audio watermarking algorithm provides a satisfactory performance to DA/AD conversions and those common audio processing manipulations.


Audio watermarking D/A and A/D conversions Synchronization Magnitude distortion Time scaling Wavelet transform


With the development of the Internet, illegal copying of digital audio has become more widespread. As a traditional data protection method, encryption cannot be applied in that the content must be played back in the original style. There is a potential solution to the problem that is to mark the audio signal with an imperceptible and robust watermark [1]-[3].

In the past 10 years, attacks against audio watermarking are becoming more and more complicated with the development of watermarking technique. According to International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) [4], in a desired audio watermarking system, the watermark should be robust to content-preserving attacks including desynchronization attacks and audio processing operations. From the audio watermarking point of view, desynchronizaiton attacks (such as cropping and time-scale modification) mainly introduce synchronization problems between encoder and decoder. The watermark is still present, but the detector is no longer able to extract it. Different from desynchronization attacks, audio processing operations (including requantization, the addition of noises, MP3 lossy compression, and low-pass filtering operations) do not cause synchronization problems, but will reduce the watermark energy.

The problem of audio watermarking against common audio processing operations can be solved by embedding the watermark in the frequency domain instead of in the time domain. The time domain-based solutions (such as LSB schemes [5] and echo hiding [6]) usually have a low computational cost but somewhat sensitive to additive noises, while the frequency domain watermarking methods provide a satisfactory resistance to audio processing operations by watermarking low-frequency component of the signal. There are three dominant frequency domain watermarking methods: Discrete Fourier Transform (DFT) based [7], [8], Discrete Wavelet Transform (DWT) based [9], [10], and Discrete Cosine Transform (DCT) based [11]. They have shown satisfactory robustness performance to MP3 lossy compression, additive noise and low-pass filtering operations.

In the literature, there are a few algorithms aiming at solving desynchronization attacks. For cropping (such as editing, signal interruption in wireless transmission, and data packet loss in IP network), researchers repeatedly embedded a template into different regions of the signal [9]-[13], such as synchronization code-based self synchronization methods [9]-[11] and the use of multiple redundant watermarks [14], [15]. Though the template based watermarking can combat cropping but cannot cope with TSM operations, even for the scaling amount of ± 1%. In the audio watermarking community, there exist some TSM-resilient watermarking strategies, such as peak points based [16]-[18] and recently reported histogram based [19], [20]. In [16], a bit can be hidden by quantizing the length of each two adjacent peak points. In [17], the watermark was repeatedly embedded into the edges of an audio signal by viewing pitch-invariant TSM as a special form of random cropping, removing and adding some portions of the audio signal while preserving the pitch. In [18], the invariance of dyadic wavelet transform to linear scaling was exploited to design audio watermarking by modulating the wave shape. The three dominant peak point-based watermarking methods are resistant to TSM because the peaks can still be detected before and after a TSM operation. The histogram-based methods [19], [20] are robust to TSM operations because the shape of histogram of an audio signal is provably invariant to temporal linear scaling. In addition, the histogram is independent of a sample's position in the time domain.

We can see that the above existing audio watermarking algorithms only consider the watermark attacks in the digital environment. The effect of the analog transmission channel via DA/AD conversions is little mentioned. Toward this direction, in this article, we propose a solution for DA/AD conversions by considering the degradation of the conversions (which is empirically proved to be a combination of volume change, additive noise and a small TSM). First, the relation-based watermarking strategy is introduced for the volume change1 by modifying the relative energy relations among groups of three consecutive DWT coefficient sections. Secondly, the watermark is embedding in the low-frequency sub-band against the addition noise. Thirdly, synchronization strategy via synchronization code searching followed by an interpolation processing operation is applying for the TSM. Experimental results have demonstrated that the proposed watermarking algorithm is robust to the DA/AD conversions, also resistant to common audio processing manipulations and most of the attacks in StirMark Benchmark for Audio [21].

The rest of this article is organized as follows. Section "DA/AD conversions" analyzes watermark transmission channels and then investigates the characteristics of the DA/AD distortion in experimental way. This is followed by our proposed watermark embedding and detecting strategies, performance analysis, experimental results regarding the imperceptivity and robustness. Finally, we draw the conclusions.

DA/AD conversions

The watermark against DA/AD conversions is an important issue [8]. It is worth noting from the previous algorithms that few audio watermarking algorithms consider those possible analog transmission environments, which involve DA/AD conversions.

Watermark transmission environments

The digital audio can be transmitted in various environments in practical applications. Some possible scenarios are described in [8], [22], as shown in Figure 1. From this figure, transmission environments of an audio watermark may be concluded as follows.
Figure 1

Transmission environments of digital audio.

The first signal is transmitted through the environment in such a way that is unmodified, shown in Figure 1a. As a result, the phase and the amplitude are unchanged. In Figure 1b, the signal is re-sampled with a higher or lower sampling rate. The amplitude and the phase are left unchanged, but the temporal characteristics are changed. The third case, in Figure 1c, is to convert the signal and transmit it in the analog form. In this case, even if the analog line is considered clear, the amplitude, the phase, and the sampling rate may be changed. The last case (see Figure 1d) is when the environment is not clear, the signal being subjected to nonlinear transformations, resulting in phase changes, amplitude changes, echoes, etc. In the term of signal processing, watermark is a weak signal embedded into a strong background like the digital audio, so the variety of carriers will influence the watermark detection directly. Therefore, the attacks that audio watermark is suffering from is similar to the cover signal. In Figure 1a, audio watermark is not infected; In Figure 1b, re-sampling attacked the audio watermarking, which had been settled by many algorithms; even it is considered no noise corruption in Figure 1c, audio watermarking still suffer from the effects of DA/AD; Figure 1d shows the worst environment, where the watermark is attacked by various interferences simultaneity.

In audio watermarking community, researchers have paid more attention to the effect of the first and second transmission channels (the corresponding watermark attacks include common audio processing and desynchronization operations). However, few researchers consider the third and fourth transmission environments. In many applications of audio watermarking [23]-[26], where the watermark is required to be transmitted via analog environments. For instances, secret data is proposed to be transmitted via analog telephone channel in [24], and a hidden watermark signal is used to identify pirated music for broadcast music monitoring [23], [25] and live concert performance [26]. In these existing works [12], [23]-[29], though the issue of the watermark against DA/AD conversions has been mentioned, the robustness performance is unsatisfactory. In addition, there are no technical descriptions on how to design a watermark for DA/AD conversions. Specifically, none of them have reported how to cope with the influence caused by DA/AD conversions in detail.

In this study, our motivation is to design an audio watermarking algorithm against the third transmission channel, i.e., we consider the effect of DA/AD conversions on the watermark. From the existing works [8], [22], [29] and the findings in this article, it is worth noting that DA/AD conversions may distort an audio signal from two aspects: (1) serious magnitude distortion due to the change of playback volume and additive noise corruption, (2) a small amount of TSM. This indicates that an effective audio watermarking algorithm for DA/AD conversions should be robust to the attack combined with TSM, volume change (the samples in magnitude are scaled with the same factor) and additive noise. This is more complicated than only performing an independent TSM or audio processing operation. This explains why a watermark's resistance to the DA/AD has been considered as an important issue [8]. The effect of DA/AD conversions on an audio signal is described as follows.

Test scenario

In order to investigate the effect caused by the DA/AD conversions on audio signals, we have designed and used the following test model, as shown in Figure 2. A digital audio file is converted to an analog signal by a sound card, which is output from Line-out to Line-in for re-sampling. Usually, the DA/AD conversions are implemented using the same sound card for playing back and recording. Here, we use a cable line for the link between line-out and line-in. Thus, the distortion is mainly from the DA/AD conversions since the cable line may be considered clear.
Figure 2

Simulation model for the DA/AD conversions.

We adopt a set of 16-bit signed mono audio files in the WAVE format as test clips. These files are sampled at 8, 11.025, 16, 22.05, 32, 44.1, 48, 96, and 128 kHz to investigate the effect of sampling frequency. All audio files are played back with the software Window Media Player 9.0. The DA/AD distorted audio signals are recorded using the audio editing tool Cool Edit V2.1.

Effects of DA/AD conversions on audio signals

During the DA/AD conversions, digital audio signal will suffer from the following distortions [29]:
  1. 1)

    Noise produced by soundcards during DA conversion;

  2. 2)

    Modification of audio signal energy and noise energy;

  3. 3)

    Noise in analog channel;

  4. 4)

    Noise produced by soundcard during AD conversion including quantization distortion.


The above observations show that a digital audio clip will be distorted under the DA/AD conversions due to wave magnitude distortion including noise corruption and modification of audio signal energy.

In this article, we are observing from extensive testing that the DA/AD conversions may cause the shift of samples in the time domain, which can be considered as a TSM operation with a small scaling amount. As a result, the effect of the DA/AD conversions can be further represented as wave magnitude distortion and time scale modification.

Temporal linear scaling

Based on the test model shown in Figure 2, numerous different soundcards are employed to test different audio files with different sampling frequencies. The time-scale modification during the DA/AD conversions for two sampling rates of audio files are reported in Table 1. When applying other sampling frequencies of test clips, we can have similar observations. The card Sound Blaster Live5.1 is a consumer grade of sound board, ICON StudioPro7.1 is a professional one, while Realtek AC'97 audio for VIA (R) Audio controller, Audio 2000 PCI, and SoundMAX Digital Audio are common PC sound cards. From Table 1, it is worth noting that during the DA/AD conversions, the sample number is modified linearly, described as follows:
Table 1

The modification of the sample amount for test clips at sampling rates of 8 and 44

Sampling rates

Time (s)

Blaster Live5.1

Realtek AC'97

Audio 2000 PCI

Studio Pro 7.1

SoundMAX Digital Audio















8 kHz



































44: 1 kHz





















  1. 1)

    The scaling factor varies with different soundcards, i.e., during the DA/AD conversions, different performances of soundcards will cause different amplitudes of time-scale modifications.

  2. 2)

    The sampling frequencies of an audio file have an effect on the amplitude of the scaling factor. With the same soundcard, the scaling distortion is also relative to the sampling rate of test clips.


We can see from the table that when keeping the soundcard and the sampling rate of audio files unchanged, the scaling factor is linear to the duration of audio clips. Take the soundcard Blaster Live5.1 as an example, each 10 s of duration at 44.1 kHz will lose six sample (expressed as -6 in the table). Another example is that for the RealTex AC'97, a file of length 10 s at 8 kHz will add five samples (expressed as +5 in the table). Empirically, the time scaling in amplitude is usually between -0.005 and 0.005. We also use two different soundcards for the DA/AD testing (one for the D/A processing while another for the A/D conversion), and the simulation results are similar.

Wave magnitude distortion

Under the DA/AD conversions, another kind of degradation on the digital audio files is wave magnitude distortion, which can be considered as a combination of volume change and additive noise, as reported in [29]. In our experiments, we observed that the samples in amplitude may be distorted during the DA/AD conversions, and the distortion relies on the volume played back, and the performance of the soundcard. Figures 3 and 4 have the same scaling in both horizontal and vertical axis in displaying waves of the original clip and the corresponding recorded one by the Blaster Live5.1 soundcard. Comparing with the original one, the recorded audio file in energy is obviously reduced. Here, we use the SNR standard to measure the wave magnitude distortion. Denote the original file by F with N1 samples in number, the corresponding distorted one by F2 samples. The SNR value between the two files can be expressed as
where F'' is the energy-normalized version of F' by referring to F with the consideration of signal energy modification in the DA/AD processing. f(i), f'(i) and f''(i) are, respectively, the value of the i th point in F, F', and F''. When N1 N2, it reflects the existence of the time-scaling during the DA/AD conversions. In this case, we need to length-normalize F'' to generate which has the same length as the original file F. After the length-normalization operation, the SNR value between F" and can be computed. Here, the length-normalization step is an interpolation processing operation. The detailed information regarding the interpolation step is given in section "Resynchronization and interpolation operation."
Figure 3

The original clip.

Figure 4

The distorted clip due to the DA/AD.

For experimental description, we choose the soundcard Sound Blaster Live5.1 and an audio file sampled at 44.1 kHz to demonstrate the wave magnitude distortion in the test model in Figure 2. The SNR values of F versus F" and are illustrated in Figures 5 and 6, respectively.
Figure 5

The SNR value before the length-normalization operation.

Figure 6

The SNR value after the length-normalization operation.

We can see from Figure 5 that the SNR values (before the length-normalization operation) decrease quickly due to the fact that the scaling will shift samples in location. It indicates the effect of the time scaling in the DA/AD conversions. In Figure 6, the SNR values (after the length-normalization operation) remain stable, indicating that the length-normalization operation proposed in this article can effectively eliminate the effect of the time scaling. The SNR values in Figure 6 are between 15 and 30 dB, which demonstrate the existence of the additive noise.

Effects of DA/AD conversions on audio watermarking

From the above experimental analysis, we conclude that the DA/AD distortion can be represented as the combination of time scaling modification and wave magnitude distortion. From the signal processing point of view, a watermark can be taken as a weak signal added onto a cover-signal (such as a digital audio clip or an image file). Therefore, any distortion on the cover-signal will be able to influence the detection of the inserted watermark. From this angle, we can see that an audio watermark under the DA/AD conversions will be distorted due to (1) time scaling modification (that will introduce synchronization problem due to the shifting of samples in the time domain) and (2) wave magnitude distortion (that will reduce watermark energy due to signal energy modification followed by an additive noise). Mathematically speaking, the effect of the DA/AD conversions on audio watermarking can be formulated as,

where α is a time scaling factor in the DA/AD, λ is an amplitude scaling factor, and η is an additive noise distortion on the sample value f(i). f'(i) is the value at point i after the conversions. When α is not an integer, is interpolated with the nearest samples. Via extensive testing, we observed that the parameter α is in the range [-0.005, 0.005] while the λ value is in [0.5, 2]. For different soundcards, the η value is different, meaning different powers of additive noise.

The above distortional model is concluded in experimental way by using soundcards via line-out/line-in. Another possible situation is that the signal is recording using a microphone instead of a line-in signal (called lineout/microphone-in). In this case, we need to consider the characteristics of microphone and background noise.

Watermark insertion

In this part, we present an audio watermarking strategy to cope with the DA/AD conversions by considering the TSM, signal energy change and additive noise distortion as formulated in Equation 2. Our strategy includes three main steps:
  1. 1)

    We adopt the relation-based watermarking strategy so that the watermark is resistant to the energy change of audio signals in the DA/AD conversions.

  2. 2)

    Consider the additive noise corruption, the watermark is inserted into the lowest frequency subband of DWT domain.

  3. 3)

    The resynchronization step via synchronization codes and an interpolation operation is designed for the TSM.


Embedding framework

The main idea of the proposed embedding algorithm is to split a long audio sequence into many segments for performing DWT, and then use three adjacent DWT low-frequency coefficient segments as a group to insert one synchronization sequence and one watermark (or part of watermark bits). The embedding block diagram is plotted in Figure 7.
Figure 7

Block diagram of watermark insertion.

During the embedding, the watermark is adaptively embedded by referring to objective difference grade (ODG) value of the marked audio with the consideration of the human auditory system. The ODG value is controlled in the range [0, -2] to make sure that the watermarked clip is imperceptibly similar to the original one. Suppose that S1 is the ODG value of the watermarked audio, S0 is a predefined one. When S1 is less than S0, the embedding distortion will be automatically decreased until S1> S0. For saving the computational cost, we compute the ODG value in the DWT domain instead of in the time domain. In such a way, the computational load can be reduced by saving those unnecessary inverse discrete wavelet transform (IDWT) operations in the embedding. Only when the ODG value is satisfactory, the IDWT is performed to regenerate the watermarked audio.

Embedding strategy

As mentioned above and will be further discussed in the rest of this article, the proposed embedding algorithm is conducted in the DWT domain because of its superiority. To hide data robust to modification of audio amplitude, the watermark is embedded in the DWT domain using the relative relationships among different groups of the DWT coefficients. It is worth noting that utilizing the relationships among different audio sample sections to embed data has been proposed in [12]. However, what proposed in this article is different from [12]. Instead of embedding in the time domain, we insert the watermark in the low-frequency sub-band of the DWT domain to achieve better robustness performance. In the DWT domain, the time-frequency localization characteristic of DWT can be exploited to save the computational load during searching synchronization codes [9], [10]. Denote a group of three consecutive DWT coefficient sections by Section _1, Section _2, and Section _3, as shown in Figure 8. Each section includes L DWT coefficients. The energy values of a group of three adjacent coefficient sections, denoted by E1, E2, and E3, are defined as
Figure 8

Three consecutive coefficient sections in the lowest frequency subband of DWT domain.

where c(i) is the i th coefficient in the lowest frequency subband. The selection of the parameter L is a tradeoff among the embedding bit rate (capacity), the SNR value of the watermarked audio (imperceptivity), and the embedding strength (Robustness). Usually, the bigger section length L, the stronger robustness is obtained. The differences among E1, E2, and E3 can be expressed as

where Emax = max{E1, E2, E3}, Emed = med{E1, E2, E3}, and Emin = min{E1, E2, E3}. max, med, and min calculate the maximum, medium, and minimum of E1, E2, and E3, respectively. A and B stand for their energy differences.

In the proposed strategy, one watermark bit w(i) can be embedded by modifying the relationships among A, B and the embedding strength S, as shown in Equation 5:
The parameter S is designed as

where d is called as the embedding strength factor. To resist wave magnitude distortion during the DA/AD conversions, the d value should be as large as possible under the constraint of imperceptibility. The parameter d is first assigned as a predefined value, and then automatically adjusted until the ODG value of the watermarked audio is satisfied.

In Equation 5, when w(i) is '1' and A - BS or when w(i) is '0' and B - AS, there is no operation. Otherwise, a group of three consecutive DWT coefficient sections will be adjusted until satisfying A - BS (for the bit '1') or B - AS (for the bit '0'). The watermark rules are completed by modifying the corresponding DWT coefficients, formulated in Equations 7-12.

When w(i) is '1' and A - B < S, we apply the following rule to modify the three DWT coefficient sections until satisfying the condition A - BS:
where |ξ| = |A - B - S| = S - A + B = S - Emax + 2Emed- Emin due to A - B < S. From Equation 7, we have , , and . Here, , , and are supposed to be the maximum, medium, and minimum of the energy values of three coefficient sections after the embedding. Note that the above operation for bit '1' may cause due to the fact that , Emin < Emed, and . Such situation will influence the watermark detection. In order to make sure min after the embedding, we derive that the embedding strength S should satisfy the following condition:
The detailed proof process is described in Equation 9
Similarly, when w(i) is '0' and B - AS, a group of the DWT coefficients are marked as follows:
where |ξ| = |B - A - S| = S + A - B = S + Emax - 2E med + E min due to B - A < S. A < S. From Equation 10, we have , , and . The above equation shows that the embedding operation for watermarking bit '0' may cause due to the fact that Emax decreases while Emed increases. To make sure after watermarking, the S value is designed to satisfy:
The detailed proof process is described in Equation 12:

Equations 8 and 11 are beneficial to improving the watermark robustness by remaining the energy relations of three consecutive sections unchanged, i.e., EmaxEmedEmin before the embedding and after the embedding. Another bonus from Equations 7 and 10 is that the computational cost can be reduced. For watermarking one bit, the computational load is O(3 × L), but in [12], the cost for watermarking one bit is O(3 × L × M), M (which is much bigger than 1) reflecting the times of iterative computation. From this angle, the proposed relation-based watermarking strategy is very useful to guide those relation-based watermarking methods to save the computational cost in the embedding phase.

Watermark and synchronization code

In this article, the synchronization code is a pseudo-random noise (PN) sequence, which is used to locate the position of hidden watermark bits. In [9], [10], [12], the synchronization code was introduced for local cropping, such as deleting parts of an audio signal. In this article, the synchronization code is introduced to resist the time scale modification caused by the DA/AD conversions.

For the time scaling during the DA/AD conversions, a group of three consecutive coefficient sections is used to hide a binary sequence combined with a synchronization code {Syn(i)|i = 1,, Ls} and a watermark {Wmk(i)|i = 1,...,Lw}. Where Ls and Lw denote the length of synchronization code and watermark, respectively. Referring to the definition of DWT, the length of sample section for marking a synchronization code and a watermark is computed as:

where the parameter k is the level of DWT.

Watermark recovery

The watermark recovery phase includes two main steps: (1) resynchronization operation and (2) watermark extraction. The resynchronization step is for the effect of the time scaling so as to extract the hidden bits.

Resynchronization and interpolation operation

Due to the TSM during the DA/AD conversions, we need to locate the watermark via searching synchronization code. Once synchronization codes are found, we can compute the number of the samples between a group of two adjacent synchronization codes, denoted as . Suppose the samples used for marking a watermark is N2, which is known beforehand. Thus the effect of the TSM on the samples between two synchronization codes can be estimated by computing the ratio of and N2, formulated as:

where α denotes the scaling factor on the N2 samples.

By referring to the scaling factor, we propose to perform a preprocessing step (which is an interpolation operation) to scale those distorted samples. The resulting samples in number is equal to N2, so that the DWT as in the embedding phase can be implemented for watermark recovery. We have tested a few kinds of interpolation algorithms (such as Lagrange, Newton, etc.), and the simulation results for the TSM are similar. As shown in Figure 9, in this study, we adopt the most simple and efficient Lagrange linear interpolation algorithm:
where f ' (i) and f '' (i) denote the i th sample before and after the interpolation manipulation, respectively. is the floor function. And, β = α·i - α·i.
Figure 9

Sketch map of linear interpolation operation.

Data extraction

After the resynchronization and interpolation operations, we perform the same DWT on those audio segments as in the embedding phase. Suppose the energy values of three consecutive DWT coefficient section are , , and , which are sorted to obtain , , and . The differences A '' and B '' can be computed as
By comparing A '' and B '' , we can recover the hidden bit:

The process is repeated until the whole binary data stream is extracted. In the watermark recovery process, the synchronization sequence Seq(i) and the parameter N2 are known beforehand. In addition, the original DWT coefficients are not required. Thus, this is a blind audio watermarking algorithm.

Performance analysis

In this section, we evaluate the performance of the proposed algorithm in terms of SNR computation, data embedding capacity (also called as payload in the literature), error probability of synchronization codes and watermarks in the detection phase, and robustness for amplitude modification attack. Bit error rate (BER) is defined as
Because we use the orthogonal wavelet for watermarking and the embedding process keeps the high-frequency subband information unchanged, the SNR value can be computed using the lowest frequency coefficients:

where F and Fw denote the time-domain signals before and after watermarking. C and Cw are the lowest subband coefficients, respectively.

Data embedding capacity

Suppose that the sampling rate of an audio signal is R (Hz). With the proposed algorithm, for a clip of length one second, the data embedding capacity P is

where k and L denote wavelet decomposition levels and the length of the DWT coefficient section, respectively.

Error analysis on synchronization code detection

There are two types of errors for synchronization code detection, false positive error and false negative error. A false positive error occurs when a synchronization code is supposed to be detected in the location where no synchronization code is embedded. A false negative error occurs when an existing synchronization code is missed. Once a false positive error occurs, the detected bits followed by the synchronization code will be taken as a watermark embedded. When a false negative error exists, a corresponding watermark sequence will be discarded. The false positive error probability P1 can be calculated as follows:

where Ls is the length of a synchronization code, and T is a predefined threshold to make-decision for presence of a synchronization code.

Generally, we use the following formulation to evaluate the false negative error probability P2 of a synchronization code according to the bit error probability in the detector, denoted as Pd.

In this study, the watermark is resynchronized via the synchronization codes for the effect of the TSM caused by the DA/AD conversions. Therefore, the robustness of a synchronization code to the TSM is needed. In [9], the authors have shown that using the redundancy of the synchronization bits, the watermark is robust to pitch-invariant TSM of 4%. Specifically, an 8-bit synchronization sequence 10101011 with the local redundancy rate 3 is defined as 111000111000111000111111. The local redundancy is a simple style of error correcting codes [30]. We have known from the aforementioned results in section "Temporal linear scaling" that the time scaling is linear and the amount is very small. It is worth noting that for the sampling frequency of 44.1 kHz or higher, the samples of length 10 s in number keep almost unchanged. This explains why a synchronization code with a local redundancy can be detected under the small TSM.

Error analysis on watermark extraction

Referring to the watermark communication model as illustrated in Figure 10, it is worth noting that the introduction of the synchronization code will result in that bit error probability of a watermark in the detector Pd is different from that in the channel Pw.
Figure 10

Error probability of the watermark in the channel ( P w ) and detector ( P d ).

Supposed that x is the number of synchronization codes embedded. The false positive synchronization codes and false negative synchronization codes in number is y and z, respectively. So, we have . The Pw value can be expressed as:
where Lw is the length of a watermark sequence. Psw is the error probability of a watermark in case that a false negative error occurs. Paw is the error probability of a watermark sequence when a false positive error exists. From the angle of probability theory, the value of Psw is around Pd while Paw is around 50%. Accordingly, we can rewrite Equation 23 as:

Equation 24 demonstrates that the bit error probability of the watermark in the channel is different from that in the detector due to the use of synchronization codes, and the difference mainly relies on the number of the false positive synchronization codes. A false negative synchronization code will cause the loss of some hidden information bits, but the effect on the Pw value can be ignored. When y is ZERO, P1 goes to ZERO, thus Pw goes to Pd.

Against wave magnitude distortion

Some audio signal processing operations or attacks may distort audio samples in value, such as wave magnitude distortion caused by the DA/AD conversion. The wave magnitude distortion can be modeled as volume change followed by an additive noise. Referring to Equations 3 and 4, the values of Emax, Emed,,and Emin after the Magnitude distortion may be formulated as:
where φ denotes volume change factor, a positive number. δ1, δ2, and δ3 represent the power of the additive noise adding onto those three adjacent DWT coefficient sections. In this case, their energy differences are
Denote the value of Emax - 2Emed + Emin as μ. From Equation 26, we can conclude the following conditions for correctly extracting a watermark bit w(i) under the magnitude distortion,

For volume change operation (all samples in value are scaled with the same factor), we have δ1 = δ2 = δ3 = 0 and μ > 0. It indicates that w(i) can be recovered correctly under the linear change of audio amplitude. In other words, the watermark is immune to volume change attack.

Experimental results

In our experiments, the synchronization code is a PN sequence of 31 bits, and the watermark is the length of 32 bits. Six stages of DWT with db 2 wavelet base are applied. The length of each DWT coefficient section (denoted by L as shown in Figure 8) is 8. With Equation 20, the data embedding capacity is 28.71 bits for audio signal of 1 s at 44.1 kHz. For hiding both a synchronization code and a watermark sequence, a portion of length 2.2 s is needed. For a test clip of length 56 s, we can hide the information of 800 bits (25 synchronization codes and 25 watermarks). We test a set of audio signals including light, pop, piano, rock, drum, and electronic organ (mono, 16 bits/sample, 44.1 kHz and WAVE format). Here, we select four clips titled by march.wav, drum.wav, flute.wav, and speech.wav to report experimental results. The file speech.wav is about a daily dialog while others three are music generated by the respective music instruments, such as drum, flute.

Imperceptibility testing

In the embedding, the inaudibility of the watermark is controlled by considering both the SNR and ODG standards. First, the SNR values are controlled over 20 dB with consideration of the IFPI requirement. Since the SNR values are definitely NOT a good imperceptibility measure, here we also apply the ODG value (implemented by the tool EAQUAL 0.1.3 alpha [31]-[35]) as another metric to show the watermark distortion. The EQUAL tool incorporates the human auditory system models. For the four example clips, their SNR values (in dB) after watermarking are 23.67, 21.67, 29.97, and 20.63, and the corresponding ODG values are -0.19, -3.91, -0.05, -3.77. In addition, the subjective testing shows that the watermark is also imperceptible.

Robustness testing

For experimental description, we report the results of the watermark against the DA/AD conversions implemented by the soundcard Sound Blaster Live5.1 with a set of audio files at sampling rate of 44.1 kHz, as shown in Table 2. We can see that (1) without the use of synchronization codes (Method 01), the average BER value is 16.75%; (2) the BER is 0.4375% with synchronization codes (Method 02); (3) when the proposed synchronization technique via synchronization code and an interpolation operation is applied, the BER is reduced to 0.0625% (Method 03). It demonstrates that the proposed audio watermarking algorithm has a very strong robustness for the DA/AD conversions.
Table 2

Robustness to the DA/AD conversions (in BER)








Error bits






BER (%)








Error bits






BER (%)







Error bits






BER (%)






In the extraction, no false positive synchronization codes and false negative synchronization codes are detected, i.e., y = z = 0 and Pw = Pd in reference to Equations 23 or 24. The threshold T for synchronization code searching is assigned as 6. The P1 and P2 values are calculated as 9.61 × 10-5 and 4.70 × 10-9, satisfying the requirement of most applications.

Table 3 shows that our algorithms are resistant to common signal processing manipulations, such as MP3 lossy compression, volume change, re-sampling and re-quantization, low-pass filtering (LPF), etc. The robustness is contributed from the watermark being embedded into the low-frequency component of DWT domain using relation-based watermarking strategy.
Table 3

Robustness to common audio processing operations (in BER)


BER (%)


BER (%)



Gaussain (8 dB)


MP3 (32 kbps)


MP3 (128 kbps)


Requantization (8 bit)


Resample (8 kHz)


LPF (Low pass freq = 9000 Hz)


Volume change (10% 150%)


Table 4 shows the performance of the watermark against several recently reported audio watermarking strategies [10], [12], [26], [28] under the DA/AD conversions, Gaussian noise corruption and MP3 compression. These algorithms are implemented and then simulated using the same test scenario illustrated in Figure 2. It is worth noting that the robustness of the proposed algorithm toward the DA/AD conversion is due to the facts:
Table 4

Comparison of proposed method against several existing algorithms



Gaussian noise






(In BER (%))

(In BER (%))

Ref. [10]

About 172

0 (8 dB)

0 (32 kbps)


Ref. [12]

About 49

Not mentioned

About 2.92 (80 kbps)

About 2

Ref. [26]

About 8.53

2.73 (36 dB)

About 2.99 (64 kbps)

About 1.3

Ref. [28]

About 25

Not mentioned

About 1.42 (64 kbps)

About 3.57

Ref. [19]

About 3

0 (35 dB)

About 8.33 (128 kbps)


Ref. [20]

About 1.5

0 (40 dB)

About 5 (64 kbps)

About 7.5

Method 03

About 28.71

0 (8 dB)

0 (32 kbps)

About 0.0625

  1. 1)

    The linear scaling in amount under the DA/AD conversions is minor. This gives us a chance to locate the position of a watermark via synchronization code. In addition, the time scaling can be represented as a re-sampling operation, as addressed in [36]. This is why the interpolation operation proposed in the article can effectively recover the marked samples for making-decision presence of the watermark.

  2. 2)

    The relation-based embedding strategy is helpful to cope with the volume change in the DA/AD conversion;

  3. 3)

    The additive noise corruption due to the DA/AD processing can be combated by embedding the watermark in the low-frequency sub-band of DWT domain.

In order to further evaluate the performance of the proposed watermarking algorithm, we use the Stirmark Bench-mark for Audio (a standard audio watermarking evaluation tool) for robustness testing. Take the file march.wav with sampling rate of 44.1 kHz as an example. The audio editing and attacking tools adopted in our experiment are Cool Edit Pro v2.1, Goldwave v5.10 and Stirmark for Audio v0.2. The experimental results are tabulated in Table 5. From Table 5, we can see that the watermark is robust to most of the Stirmark attacks.
Table 5

Robustness to the Stirmark for Audio attacks (in BER)


BER (%)

Attack parameters

AddBrumm _100



AddBrumm _1100


AddBrummFreq = 55, AddBrummfrom = 100 AddBrummto = 10100, AddBrummstep = 1000

AddNoise _100



AddNoise _500


Noisefrom = 100, Noiseto = 1000, Noisestep = 200

AddNoise _900





ThresholdDB = -6.123, CompressValue = 2.1



AddSinusFreq = 900, AddSinusAmp = 1300



Dynnoise = 20



Amplify = 50









ExtraStereofrom = 30, ExtraStereoto = 70, ExtraStereostep = 20









ZeroLength = 10



ZeroCross = 1000















LowPassFreq = 9000









FFTSIZE = 16384



FFTSIZE = 16384






Period = 10 Echo 13.04 Period = 50



Period = 10, FlippDist = 6, FlippCount = 2



Period = 1000, FlippDist = 600, FlippCount = 200



Remove = 10, RemoveNumber = 1



Period = 10, FlippDist = 6, FlippCount = 1

FFT Test


FFTSIZE = 16384

Meanwhile, we are noting from Table 5 that the proposed watermarking algorithm is sensitive to a few Stirmark attacks,2 such as V oiceRemove, AddFFTNoise, FFT_HLPass, RC HighPass, CopySample, FFT_Test, and FFT_stat 1attack. The reasons why the watermark cannot be recovered under these attacks are addressed as follows:
  1. 1)

    Listening tests show that the audio clips are almost damaged under the attacks V oiceRemove and AddFFTNoise. This explains why the watermark cannot be recovered for the two content removal attacks.

  2. 2)

    In this article, the watermark is embedded into the low-frequency sub-band of DWT domain. This explains why the watermark is removed by the high-pass filtering operations FFT_ HLPass or RC_ HighPass.

  3. 3)

    The FFT_Test and FFT_stat 1 attacks swap samples of an audio file in the FFT domain. Such operations will modify the energy relationships of the marked DWT coefficient sections. As a result, the watermark is failed to be detected.

  4. 4)

    The proposed algorithm is sensitive to the CopySample attack, since the attack chooses some samples to replace other samples at random. Such way will influence the relative relationships of DWT coefficient sections and fail the watermark detection.


Conclusions and remarks

By technically analyzing the distortion caused by the DA/AD conversions via soundcards, in this article, we propose a robust audio watermarking scheme for the DA/AD conversions. The main conclusions and remarks are described as follows:
  1. 1)

    Empirically, we observed that the main degradations of the DA/AD conversions on an audio signal are composed of TSM and wave magnitude distortion. The TSM is a small linear scaling operation. Furthermore, the amount of the scaling relies on the quality of the exploited soundcard and the sampling frequency of the tested audio files. The wave magnitude distortion may be modeled as a volume change operation followed by an additive noise corruption.

  2. 2)

    Based on the observations on the DA/AD conversions, we design a robust watermarking strategy using relation-based watermarking method for the volume change, watermarking the low-frequency coefficients for addition noises and synchronizing the watermark (via synchronization code searching and an interpolation operation) for the TSM in the receiver.

  3. 3)

    We evaluate the performance of the watermarking algorithms in terms of data embedding capacity, probability of synchronization code detection error, and magnitude distortion.


In experimental way, we show that the watermark is very robust against the DA/AD conversions, and most of common audio processing operations. In this article, we investigate the main degradations caused by the DA/AD conversions via a few soundcards and show promising results with our watermarking solution. Of course our findings regarding the DA/AD processing are based on a limited test set. Therefore, additional tests regarding other DA/AD transform devices are necessary to generalize the findings. In addition, audio watermarking robust to different analog transmission channels [22] is a consideration of our future works.

End Notes

1Relation-based watermark can be taken as a variant of patchwork watermark [37]. In [12], a relation-based audio watermarking strategy was introduced by marking the relative relations among three consecutive sample sections. The method has a inherent immunity to the magnitude change of audio signals.

2When the BER is over 20%, we define that the watermark is failed to be recovered.





bit error rate




Discrete Cosine Transform


Discrete Fourier Transform


Discrete Wavelet Transform


inverse discrete wavelet transform


objective difference grade


pseudo-random noise


time-scale modification.



This work was supported in part by NSFC (No. 60903177), in part supported by Ph.D. Programs Foundation of Ministry of Education of China (No. 200805581048), the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (No.21611408), the Project-sponsored by SRF for ROCS, SEM (No. [2008]890), and Scientific Research Foundation of Jinan University (No. 51208050).

Authors’ Affiliations

School of Information Science and Technology, Jinan University
State Key Laboratory of Information Security (Institute of Software, Chinese Academy of Sciences)


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© Xiang; licensee Springer. 2011

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