AES Los Angeles 2014
Tutorial T4

Thursday, October 9, 10:45 am — 12:45 pm (Room 306 AB)


T4 - Sound Reproduction: The State of Our Science

Floyd Toole, Acoustical consultant to Harman, ex. Harman VP Acoustical Engineering - Oak Park, CA, USA

Sound Reproduction: The State of Our Science

Most of the music we enjoy is generated by loudspeakers of differing pedigree, and propagated to our ears through spaces that can mostly be described as acoustically arbitrary. In spite of the obvious huge variations, humans have managed to not only enjoy reproduced music, but sometimes even to exhibit enthusiasm for it. Common acoustical measurements confirm the variations. Are they wrong? Do they matter? In double-blind subjective evaluations of loudspeakers in rooms, listeners exhibit strong and remarkably consistent opinions about the sound quality from loudspeakers. The challenge has been to identify those technical measurements that correlate with the subjective ratings. What is it that these listeners are responding to? This review will examine the acoustical properties of loudspeakers (the sound source), rooms (the acoustical conveyance) and listeners (the powerfully perceptive, and adaptable receptor). In some respects, our problems began when we started to make certain kinds of simplistic measurements. Two ears and a brain do not respond to complex sound fields the way an omnidirectional microphone and analyzer do. Belief that “room equalization” is a universal cure-all has added to the confusion. Much of the applied acoustical science was developed for large, reverberant, venues, not those most used for sound reproduction. We can do better. At the present time the audio industry is significantly lacking in meaningful standards, material specifications and loudspeaker performance descriptions. As a consequence, opinions often substitute for facts.

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