AES Section Meeting Reports

Boston - October 18, 2011

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Boston AES Meeting
Oct. 2011

On Tues. Oct. 18th, the Boston Section of the Audio Engineering Society held a collaborative event with the Boston Audio Society and local Chapters of SMPTE, and the Acoustical Society of America to present a talk titled "Some New Evidence that Teenagers May Prefer Accurate Sound Reproduction".

The general decline in the quality of recorded and reproduced sound has led the New York Times to report that younger audio consumers have become either indifferent to sound quality, or worse, they may actually prefer bad sound to good sound. To explore this issue, Sean Olive of Harman International recently conducted two listening experiments on a group of high school students to determine their sound quality preferences for a) lossy versus lossless music file formats, and b) different qualities of loudspeakers.

There is a lot of cost to building good subjective measurement facilities. By conducting many objective measurements, over the years he is able to start building psychoacoustic information regarding how we perceive sound and how it to relates to objective measurements. He shared the Subjective/Objective measurements of room correction devices.

Sean described how the listening tests are conducted, the performance of trained listeners vs. untrained listeners and the sound quality preferences of "Generation Y". Additionally, it is also helpful to understand the cross-cultural differences in sound quality, which has become of increasing interest for Harman who is venturing into new markets such as China, Russia and South America.

Sean gave a demonstration of a new training software application "How to Listen" aimed at teaching listeners to become better critical listeners. The software is available as a freedownload on both Mac and PC formats.

The study concluded that good sound quality is not lost on Generation Y. When they have the opportunity to directly compare good sound with bad sound, Generation Y actually prefers the high quality reproduction. This supports the belief that good quality products are preferred to inferior products in the marketplace.

Sean Olive is Director of Acoustic Research for Harman International, a manufacturer of audio products for consumer, professional and automotive applications. He currently directs the Corporate research group, and oversees the subjective evaluation of new audio products. Prior to 1993, he was a research scientist at the National Research Council of Canada where his research focused on the perception and measurement of loudspeakers, listening rooms, and microphones.

Sean received a Bachelors in Music from the University of Toronto, and his Masters and Ph.D. degrees in Sound Recording from McGill University in Montreal. His Ph.D. research was on acoustical interactions between loudspeakers and rooms, and listener adaptation to room acoustics. He frequently writes about the science of audio on his blog, "Audio Musings" at .

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