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Perception of Nonlinear Distortion

After a brief introduction to the theory of nonlinear distortion, the factors affecting its audibility in music are examined. These may be grouped into the following broad categories: 1) The characteristics of the nonlinearity in the equipment under consideration; 2) the instantaneous level of the reproduced signal; 3) the type and complexity of the audio signal being used; 4) spatial effects in the reproduced sound field; 5) the characteristics of the listening environment; 6) the linear and nonlinear distortion in the rest of the equipment and in the program material; 7) the listeners' abilities, experience, concentration, etc. These will all be addressed in this paper in some detail. Research into these areas will be reviewed with particular emphasis on the implications for a minimum audible distortion threshold. This paper will raise almost as many questions as it will answer, but such is the state of research i this area. It will be shown, based on these factors that it is impossible to establish a single number which represents the minimum audible distortion. A related problem is the difficulty of correlating the common measurements, or numerical descriptions, of distortion with what is heard by the ear.

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