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The Influence of Listeners' Experience, Age, and Culture on Headphone Sound Quality Preferences

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Double-blind headphone listening tests were conducted in four different countries (Canada, USA, China, and Germany) involving 238 listeners of different ages, gender, and listening experiences. Listeners gave comparative preference ratings for three popular headphones and a new reference headphone that were all virtually presented through a common replicator headphone equalized to match their measured frequency responses. In this way, biases related to headphone brand, price, visual appearance, and comfort were removed from listeners’ judgment of sound quality. On average, listeners preferred the reference headphone that was based on the in-room frequency response of an accurate loudspeaker in a reference listening room. This was generally true regardless of the listeners’ experience, age, gender, and culture. This new evidence suggests a headphone standard based on this new target response would satisfy the tastes of most listeners.

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