The effect of the duration of head-related impulse responses (HRIRs) on the localization of virtual sound was examined. The accuracy with which three participants could localize virtual and free-field sound was measured using an absolute localization paradigm incorporating 354 possible sound-source locations. HRIRs were truncated to durations ranging from 0.32 to 20.48 ms. The truncation of HRIRs results in a smoothing of their frequency-domain representations, which are known as head-related transfer functions (HRTFs). Whereas some previous studies have suggested that the localization of virtual sound is affected only by extreme smoothing of HRTFs, this study indicates that localization can be subtly disrupted by modest HRTF smoothing. For all participants in the study, the localization performance for virtual sound generated from 10.24- and 20.48-ms HRIRs was as good as that for free-field sound. Localization performance gradually decreased as the HRIR duration was reduced, and first became significantly worse than that for free-field sound at HRIR durations ranging from 0.32 to 5.12 ms. Like previous studies, the present study found that the localization performance for virtual sound was not disrupted dramatically until the HRIR duration was reduced to 0.64 or 0.32 ms.
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