Web Audio API comes to Firefox

We have been working on implementing the Web Audio API in Firefox for a while now, and we currently have basic support for the API implemented on Firefox Nightly and Firefox Aurora. Web Audio provides a number of cool features that can be used in order to create music applications, games, and basically any application which requires advanced audio processing.


Here are some examples of the features:

  • Scheduling events to happen at exact times during audio playbacks
  • Various types of audio filters to create effects such as echo, noise cancellation, etc.
  • Sound synthesis to create electronic music
  • 3D positional audio to simulate effects such as a sound source moving around the scene in a game
  • Integration for WebRTC to apply effects to sound coming in from external input (a WebRTC call, a guitar plugged in to your device, etc.) or to sound which is transmitted to the other party in a WebRTC call
  • Analysing the audio data in order to create sound visualizers, etc.

Code sample

Here is a simple example of what you can build with Web Audio. Let’s imagine that you’re working on a game, and you want to play a gunshot sound as soon as the player clicks on your game canvas. In order to make sure that you’re not affected by things like network delay, the audio decoder delay, etc., you can use Web Audio to preload the audio into a buffer as part of the loading process of your game, and schedule it precisely when you receive a click event.

In order to create a neater sound effect, we can additionally loop the sound while the mouse is pressed, and create a fade-out effect when you release the mouse. The following code sample shows how to do that:

// Load the sound file from the network
var decodedBuffer;
var ctx = new AudioContext();
var xhr = new XMLHttpRequest();
xhr.open("GET", "gunshot.ogg", true);
xhr.responseType = "arraybuffer";
xhr.onload = function() {
  // At this point, xhr.response contains the encoded data for gunshot.ogg,
  // so let's decode it into an AudioBuffer first.
  ctx.decodeAudioData(xhr.response, function onDecodeSuccess(buffer) {
    decodedBuffer = buffer;
  }, function onDecodeFailure() { alert('decode error!'); });
// Set up a mousedown/mouseup handler on your game canvas
canvas.addEventListener("mousedown", function onMouseDown() {
  var src = ctx.createBufferSource();
  src.buffer = decodedBuffer;                                      // play back the decoded buffer
  src.loop = true;                                                 // set the sound to loop while the mouse is down
  var gain = ctx.createGain();                                     // create a gain node in order to create the fade-out effect when the mouse is released
  canvas.src = src;                                                // save a reference to our nodes to use it later
  canvas.gain = gain;
  src.start(0);                                                    // start playback immediately
}, false);
canvas.addEventListener("mouseup", function onMouseUp() {
  var src = canvas.src, gain = canvas.gain;
  src.stop(ctx.currentTime + 0.2);                                 // set up playback to stop in 200ms
  gain.gain.setValueAtTime(1.0, ctx.currentTime);
  gain.gain.linearRampToValueAtTime(0.001, ctx.currentTime + 0.2); // set up the sound to fade out within 200ms
}, false);

The first WebAudio implementations and WebKit

The Web Audio API was first implemented in Google Chrome using the webkitAudioContext prefix. We have been discussing the API on the W3C Audio Working Group and have been trying to fix some of the problems in the earlier versions of the API. In some places, doing that means that we needed to break backwards compatibility of code which targets webkitAudioContext.

There is a guide on how to port those applications to the standard API. There is also the webkitAudioContext monkeypatch available which handles some of these changes automatically, which can help to make some of the code targeting webkitAudioContext to work in the standard API.

The implementation in Firefox

In Firefox, we have implemented the standard API. If you’re a web developer interested in creating advanced audio applications on the web, it would be really helpful for you to review Porting webkitAudioContext code to standards based AudioContext to get a sense of all of the non-backwards-compatible changes made to the API through the standardization process.

We are currently hoping to release Web Audio support in Firefox 24 for desktop and Android, unless something unexpected happens that would cause us to delay the release, but you can use most parts of the API on Nightly and Aurora right now.

There are still some missing bits and pieces, including MediaStreamAudioSourceNode, MediaElementAudioSourceNode, OscillatorNode and HRTF panning for PannerNode. We’ll add support for the remaining parts of the API in the coming weeks on Nightly and Firefox Aurora.

View full post on Mozilla Hacks – the Web developer blog

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