U-law

What is the u-law algorithm?

U-law, μ-law or mu-law is a standard signal compression in digital telecommunication. It is one of two G.711 standard versions. This companding algorithm is used in telecommunication in North America and Japan to optimize the dynamic range of an analog audio signal before its digitalization.

The dynamic range is the ratio of the loudest sound without distortion over the background noise.

This encoding reduces the dynamic range of a signal and therefore it enhances the coding efficiency and results in a greater signal-to-distortion ratio than the one by linear encoding for given bits.

How does the u-law algorithm work?

In simpler terms, the u-law codec compresses sounds like human speech or other digital signals to 8 bits when transmitting it in a telecommunication system – telephony system. This results in clearer sounds while keeping the same approximate level of noise.

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The u-law algorithm is used both in older analog and newer digital systems. In analog-based systems, it is used after the sound has been received by a digital computer system. This change is done by using a non-linear gain amplifier.

If the signal is already digital, there is no need to compress it further as an 8-bit data file size is the ideal size for a digital file and will be recognized by the symbol size of most computers.

This algorithm is used in some standard programming languages that use it to create and store sounds like sun.audio in Java 1.1.

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Frequently asked questions

How to implement the u-law?

In analog systems, you need to use it to convert the analog signal into digital. This is done by quantization levels set for the analog signal which has to be an unequal space according to the u-law algorithm. If you’re working with a digital signal, there is no need to convert it and the u-law algorithm can be applied directly.

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