3D audio for multiple listeners can be created by combining a personal sound system with cross-talk cancellation to direct binaural content to each listener’s ears. However, the relative perceptual importance of controlling these two aspects of the sound field reproduction has not been established. Two headphone-based experiments were carried out in order to understand the trade-offs between acoustic contrast and cross-talk cancellation performance. The first experiment used a method-of-adjustment approach to determine the thresholds at which a) an interfering programme was no longer distracting, with varying cross-talk in the target programme, and b) the threshold at which a target binaural audio programme was considered to be enveloping, in the presence of interfering audio. The second experiment used pairwise preference ratings to determine the trade-off in preference between stimuli with different levels of acoustic contrast and cross-talk cancellation. It was found that achieving good acoustic contrast should be prioritised over cross-talk cancellation in a system combining sound zones and binaural technology, but that for a certain level of interference, reducing cross-talk improves listener preference. Moreover, diffuse interferers produced higher thresholds of distraction than localised ones, implying that sound zone systems should consider the spatial characteristics of sound in the dark zone.
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