Ultra Low-Bitrate Speech Coding with Pretrained Transformers

Ali Siakoohi
Bastiaan Kleijn
Michael Chinen
Tom Denton
Interspeech 2022
Google Scholar


Speech coding facilitates the transmission of speech over low-bandwidth networks with minimal distortion. Neural-network based speech codecs have recently demonstrated significant improvements in performance over traditional approaches. While this new generation of codecs is capable of synthesizing high-fidelity speech, their use of recurrent or convolutional layers often restricts their effective receptive fields, which prevents them from compressing speech efficiently. We propose to further reduce the bitrate of neural speech codecs through the use of pretrained Transformers, capable of exploiting long-range dependencies in the input signal due to their inductive bias. Our numerical experiments show that supplementing the encoder of a neural speech codec with Transformer speech embeddings yields a speech codec with a bitrate of $600\,\mathrm{bps}$ that outperforms the original neural speech codec in synthesized speech quality when trained at the same bitrate. The subjective human evaluations also suggest that the perceived quality of the resulting codec is comparable or better than that of conventional codecs operating at 3--4 times the rate.