Academic journal article Psychomusicology

Relationships between Perceived Room Acoustic Quality and Perceived Reverberance, Listener Envelopment, and Tonal Quality

Academic journal article Psychomusicology

Relationships between Perceived Room Acoustic Quality and Perceived Reverberance, Listener Envelopment, and Tonal Quality

Article excerpt

In order to effectively design performing arts venues, the subjective qualities of a room's acoustics must be first identified and then corresponding objective measures must be developed to predict listeners' perceptions. Many attributes have been proposed and tested, and previous work has shown that these attributes not only allow listeners to distinguish between spaces, but also relate to subjective perception of room acoustic quality. However, several attributes remain vaguely defined and the relative importance of each of these attributes to overall preference is unclear. A better understanding of this relationship will allow for clearer design targets when evaluating and designing spaces.

Based on an extensive review of the literature, the four attributes most commonly cited are loudness, proximity, reverberance, and clarity. Loudness is one of the most easily perceived attributes of a real or simulated sound field (Kimura, 1976 as summarized in Cremer & Müller, 1978; Lehmann & Wilkens, 1980) and correlates strongly with overall preference (Barron, 1988; Beranek, 1962; Lokki, Pätynen, Kuusinen, & Tervo, 2012; Sato et al., 2013). Proximity, or the apparent closeness of the sound source, is a subjectively significant parameter (Hawkes & Douglas, 1971; Lokki et al., 2012; Sotiropoulou, Hawkes, & Fleming, 1995) and is somewhat related to sound level (Sotiropoulou et al., 1995). This parameter has recently been found to correlate highly with preference ratings, even when all recordings presented in subjective testing were taken at the same distance from the sound source (Lokki et al., 2012). These results suggest that perceived proximity depends on more factors than distance alone.

A majority of research to date has included the attribute of reverberance, also referred to as liveness and resonance. Reverberance appears to be an independent factor for distinguishing between spaces (Beranek, 1962; Hawkes & Douglas, 1971; Katoh & Terashima, 2013; Lokki et al., 2012) and is closely linked to overall preference ratings (Barron, 1988). An attribute that is often inversely related to reverberance is known as clarity or definition. Previous studies have shown that both of these terms, clarity (Katoh & Terashima, 2013; Lehmann & Wilkens, 1980; Lokki et al., 2012; Sotiropoulou et al., 1995) and definition (Hawkes & Douglas, 1971; Lokki et al., 2012; Schroeder, Gottlob, & Siebrasse, 1974 as summarized in Cremer & Müller, 1978), are important discriminatory factors and they have been shown to correlate with preference (Sato et al., 2013; Soulodre & Bradley, 1995).

Three additional categories of attributes, spatial impression, intimacy, and spectral content, have also been cited, but are not as well defined as the first four described above. Spatial impression is thought to have two components: apparent source width (ASW) and listener envelopment (LEV; Bradley & Soulodre, 1995), and both ASW (Jeon & You, 2010) and LEV (Barron, 1988; Jeon & You, 2010; Lokki et al., 2012) have been shown to contribute to overall preference. Intimacy is an important distinguishing factor between sound fields and spaces (Beranek, 1962; Hawkes & Douglas, 1971; Katoh & Terashima, 2013) and has been found to correlate strongly with overall preference (Barron, 1988), but may represent a similar perceptual attribute as spatial impression (Beranek, 1992).

The final main subjective parameter group describes the spectral content of the sound and encompasses a wide variety of related terms: bassiness (Lokki et al., 2012), brilliance (Hawkes & Douglas, 1971), warmth (Barron, 2005; Beranek, 1992), timbre (Lehmann & Wilkens, 1980), treble (Soulodre & Bradley, 1995), balance (Hawkes & Douglas, 1971), blend (Hawkes & Douglas, 1971), and tonal quality (Sotiropoulou et al., 1995). All of these terms have been found to relate to overall preference, but the degree to which they overlap has not yet been determined. …

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