In this paper we report experimental and modeling results from an investigation of listeners’ ability to estimate overdrive in a signal. The term overdrive is used to characterize the result of systematic, level-dependent nonlinearity typical of audio equipment and processors (e.g., guitar amplifiers). Listeners (N=7) were given the task of estimating the degree of overdrive in music signals that had been processed with a static, saturating nonlinearity to introduce varying degrees of nonlinear distortion. A statistical model is proposed to account for the data, which is based on a measure of time-variance in the summed frequency-response deviation introduced by the nonlinearity. This provides a useful “black-box” metric that describes the perceived amount of overdrive introduced by an audio processing device.
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