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A Perceptually-Motivated Headphone Transparency Algorithm

Many modern closed-back wireless headphones now support a user-selectable “hear-through” or “transparency” feature to allow the wearer to monitor their environment. These products typically work by passively mixing the signals from external microphones with the primary media being reproduced by the headphone’s internal speakers. When there is no media playing back, that approach works reasonably well. However, once media is playing, it tends to mask the passthrough of the external audio and the wearer can no longer hear the outside world. Here we describe a perceptually motivated algorithm for improving audibility of the external microphone signals without compromising the media playback experience. Subjective test results of this algorithm as implemented in a consumer headphone product are presented.

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AES - Audio Engineering Society