Conventional wisdom incorrectly assumes that changes to the phase spectrum of an audio signal are not perceptually relevant. The results of formal listening tests with synthetic harmonic complex signals showed that human beings are not “phase deaf.” The perceived difference resulting from randomization of the phase spectrum can be larger than those from randomizing the magnitude spectrum. Although the mechanism for phase perception is somewhat local in frequency, there are some influences on the perception of neighboring frequencies. The phase of a component at a certain frequency affects the perception of frequencies about one octave above and below. Signals for which the phase between the harmonics is aligned can be described as having a strong low pitch and “buzzy” quality, whereas random-phase signals are perceived to be colored, thinner, and absent of the buzzy quality.
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