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Differences in Performance and Preference of Trained versus Untrained Listeners in Loudspeaker Tests: A Case Study

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Listening tests on four different loudspeakers were conducted over the course of 18 months using 36 different groups of listeners. The groups included 256 untrained listeners whose occupations fell into one of four categories: audio retailer, marketing and sales, professional audio reviewer, and college student. The loudspeaker preferences and performance of these listeners were compared to those of a panel of 12 trained listeners. Significant differences in performance, expressed in terms of the magnitude of the loudspeaker F statistic FL, were found among the different categories of listeners. The trained listeners were the most discriminating and reliable listeners, with mean FL values 3-27 times higher than the other four listener categories. Performance differences aside, loudspeaker preferences were generally consistent across all categories of listeners, providing evidence that the preferences of trained listeners can be safely extrapolated to a larger population. The highest rated loudspeakers had the flattest measured frequency response maintained uniformly off axis. Effects and interactions between training, programs, and loudspeakers are discussed.

JAES Volume 51 Issue 9 pp. 806-825; September 2003
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