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Spatial Impression and Envelopment in Small Rooms

Reverberant rooms of medium and large sizes are capable of generating the perception of spaciousness and envelopment on speech and musical signals. In rooms preferred for recorded music reproduction this perception is absent for natural sounds. It is the job of the recording engineer, the loudspeaker designer, and the system installer to create the illusion of space in this inhospitable environment. The job is easier when the physics behind the perception is understood. This paper brings together work on the physical acoustics of small rooms, and on the physiological and psychological mechanisms for the perception of spaciousness. At frequencies above 500Hz, spaciousness is found to depend primarily on the spatial diffusion of the reverberant component of the recording. Below 500Hz spaciousness is primarily determined by the phase coherence of the direct and the reverberant component of the recording, and how the loudspeakers couple to the lateral and the medial room modes. At all frequencies spaciousness can be enhanced through multiple loudspeakers, especially at the sides of the listener. The work in this paper has relevance to problems of stereo and surround recording, stereo and surround sound loudspeaker selection and placement, and the placement of single and multiple subwoofers.

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