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Frequency Response Adaptation in Binaural Hearing

The pinna and ear canals act as listening trumpets to concentrate sound pressure on the eardrum. This concentration is strongly frequency dependent, typically showing a rise in pressure of 20dB at 3000Hz. In addition, diffraction and reflections from the pinna substantially alter the frequency response of the eardrum pressure as a function of the direction of a sound source. In spite of these large departures from flat response, listeners usually report that a uniform pink power spectrum sounds frequency balanced, and loudspeakers are manufactured to this standard. But on close listening frontal pink noise does not sound uniform. The ear clearly uses adaptive correction of timbre to achieve these results. This paper discusses and demonstrates the properties and limits of this adaptation. The results are important for our experience of live music in halls, and in reproduction of music through loudspeakers and headphones.

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