[Engineering Report] A subjective test was devised and performed in order to assess the factors that influence the perception of sound emitted by compression drivers. A musical passage was high-pass filtered and played through three compression drivers of similar characteristics, loaded by a plane-wave tube, and recorded. To obtain different levels of nonlinear distortion, the passage was played at three different voltage levels on each driver. The resulting sound files were recombined with the low-pass-filtered portion, yielding nine complete sound pieces whose only differences from the original passage were caused by the drivers’ behavior. The nine stimuli were then presented, in a double-blind test, to 27 subjects, who were asked to rate audible differences when compared to the original passage. Analysis of the results shows that the differences in frequency response between drivers are statistically significant, whereas differences in playing level, and therefore nonlinear distortion, were not significant. This unexpected result implies that nonlinear distortion is not audible under these test conditions, and it leads to important conclusions regarding the design objectives of compression drivers.
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