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Individual Perception of Headphone Reproduction Asymmetry

With headphone listening, the naturally occurring left/right asymmetry in head and ear shapes can produce frequency-dependent variations in the perceived location of a sound source. In this paper, this phenomenon is studied by determining the interaural level differences required to center a set of narrow-band stimuli with different center frequencies. It is shown that the perceived asymmetry varies from one listener to another. Some of the asymmetry can be explained with asymmetry in transmission of sound from the headphones to the entrances of a listener's ear canals. However, the perceived asymmetry for individual listeners is also correlated between different headphone types, including in-ear headphones that couple directly to the ear canals. The asymmetry is relatively stable over different times of wearing the headphones. The effect of correcting for the asymmetry ranges from imperceptible to substantial depending on the individual subject.

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