Listener preferences for alternative dynamic-range-compressed audio configurations

Paterson, Justin ORCID: (2017) Listener preferences for alternative dynamic-range-compressed audio configurations. In: Cambridge Hearing Group, 05 Nov 2017, University of Cambridge, UK. (Unpublished)

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Some audio experts have proposed that using excessive dynamic range compression (DRC) to increase the loudness of music compromises audio quality. Conversely, in listening tests, researchers sometimes find that audio subjected to DRC is preferred over uncompressed audio. We test the hypothesis that it is DRC configuration, rather than the use of DRC per se, that determines listener preferences and we present data indicating to what degree. In this study, 130 listeners completed 13 A/B preference trials using pairs of RMS loudness-equalized stimuli subjected to different DRC configurations: viz., two magnitudes (heavy, moderate) and two compression types (limiting, compression) applied at three different points in the mix chain (track, subgroup, and master buss, here termed ‘full-sum’), along with an uncompressed control stimulus. Magnitude significantly influenced listener preference only in combination with other settings (e.g. with limiting applied to the full-sum). Compression type significantly influenced listener preference, with compressed stimuli selected more often than those subject to limiting or no compression. The point in the mix chain that DRC was applied revealed a significant preference for track, then subgroup, and lastly full-sum. Our results suggest that listeners prefer audio to which moderate compression has been applied to signals before the summation typical of many music-mixing approaches. This preference could be explained because heavy DRC (and in particular, limiting), applied to pre-mixed signals produces disagreeable distortion, potentially because tracks whose amplitude characteristics alone would not have reached the DRC threshold, may be deleteriously affected as a consequence of amplitude peaks in other tracks with which they are grouped.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Lecture)
Subjects: Music > Music/audio technology
Depositing User: Justin Paterson
Date Deposited: 11 Jan 2018 15:13
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2021 07:09

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