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Spatial Character and Quality Assessment of Selected Stereophonic Image Enhancements for Headphone Playback of Popular Music

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The effects of selected stereophonic image enhancement algorithms on perceived spatial character and quality of headphone playback for popular music was investigated for a sampling of program material typical of conventional multi-track mixes. Preference ratings were made for the auditory images resulting from three enhancement algorithms in comparison with the original PCM recordings of nine short musical programs. A perceptual coding (MP3) of the original recordings was also presented, making a total of five versions to be compared for each musical program. In addition, ratings were collected on a perceptual attribute identified herein as Ensemble Stage Width (ESW). Applied algorithms had significant effects on both preference and ESW ratings, regardless of whether expensive or inexpensive headphones were used in the listening tests.

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