Nokia blew us away with the audio recording quality of its 808 PureView handset last year, as we'd never heard until then a phone that can be taken to a concert, and record it in full clarity, without being threatened neither by the deep bass, nor by the shrill voice of the lead singer, as it can grab sounds north of the 140 dB level without a hiccup.
The technology, in development since 2007, was called Rich Recording, made possible by the special mics that Nokia created alongside its partners, which could take a sound pressure up to four times stronger than your average phone microphone.
They are called High-Amplitude Audio Capture (HAAC) mics, and solve the typical disadvantage that the tiny diaphragm of your run-of-the-mill handset microphone has - to avoid clipping the sound at high 120 dB levels, which introduces distortion, a high-pass filter gets applied, which makes the sound very thin, as the low frequencies become non-existent.
We are hearing this problem on almost every phone out there, so Nokia decided to do something about it, and introduced not one, but two pre-amps in its HAAC mic setup, as you see on the diagram above. This way the normal sound path goes through the typical 120 dB maximum range, and the other pre-amp is used for those sound that exceed the 120 dB level, and go to 140 dB and up, even if it's for a split second.
The processing algorithms then combine the dual-channel input for a much fuller, rich-sounding audio. Not only that, but the algorithms kick in to reduce wind and other parasitic noise, level out the strength, and even eliminate camera elements noise, thus leaving you with the best sound ever produced from a smartphone, and in stereo at that, thanks to the placement of the mics around the 808 PureView.
Now with the Nokia Lumia 1020 we have what can be deemed Rich Recording Phase 2, as the new HAAC mics can now take six times the beating of your average phone unit, and never flinch at high sound pressure levels. This allows for distortion-free stereo recording in the whole range of human hearing, from 20 Hz to 20 kHz, with the microphones situated so that your handling of the handset doesn't get in the way.
Nokia's HAAC mics pack five years of research into a tiny footprint
In the Lumia 1020 Nokia said it improved on the Rich Recording technology even further on the software level, too, allowing the user to take control over the HAAC mics. In the new Nokia Pro Camera app you will now find not only an abundance of settings for pictures and video, but manual controls for the sound recording as well. Nokia introduced three modes that cover most situations with audio that can occur:
Default: This works especially well in loud environments, such as concerts, but this default option provides balanced and natural sound from almost any recording situation, no matter how big the bass.
Strong: This setting can be applied in situations where there is lots of low frequency noise, such as a strong wind or when you video your dog sticking its head out of the car window as you’re moving. While you may not notice it during the recording, these low sounds can be loud and dominant during playback. ‘Strong’ applies an effective filter to reduce the unwanted low-frequency noises.
Off: This setting can be used when there is a need to capture the entire sound spectrum from ca. 20Hz to 20kHz. Some may find this option convenient if they wish to edit the sound on a computer.
To cut a long story short, the sound captured with the Lumia 1020 is shaping up to be every bit as amazing for a phone, as is the case with the photography chops of the device. Nokia seems to have guarded off its Rich Recording invention with patents, judging from the kerfuffle with HTC about the high-amp HDR mics on the One, so for the time being the technology seems exclusive to the best Windows Phone handset around. Check out the video below to hear it in action, and take a wild guess who would these "Competitor A" and "Competitor S" personas be that Nokia is condescendingly referring to.