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Re: speaker phones and listening in reverbation

In response to Pat Zurek's comment I wanted to clarify what we found in our

Subjects were tested in free field, with speakers in the median sagittal
plane, not using HRTFs. Hence, we don't know whether minor binaural cues
were available. We asserted in that paper that spectral cues provided the
dominant cues for localization, and that listeners showed a "localization
dominance effect", whereby the leading source dominated the perceived
location of a fused image produced by a paird of clicks separated by brief
delays (up to 5 ms).
BUT, HRTFs with diotic stimuli would be necessary to drive the point home.

Litovsky, R.Y., Yin, T.C.T., Rakerd, B., and Hartmann, W.M. (1997).
"Psychophysical and physiological evidence for a precedence effect in the
median sagittal plane." J. Neurophys. Rapid Communication, 77, 2223-2226.

Ruth Litovsky
Boston University
Hearing Research Center


>>X-Sender: pat@sens.com
>>X-Mailer: QUALCOMM Windows Eudora Version 5.0
>>Date:         Thu, 26 Oct 2000 10:25:52 -0400
>>Reply-To: Patrick Zurek <pat@SENS.COM>
>>Sender: AUDITORY  Research in Auditory Perception
>>From: Patrick Zurek <pat@SENS.COM>
>>Subject:      Re: speaker phones and listening in reverbation
>>Let me have a try at summarizing these issues in order to keep the
>>discussion from going off in about eight directions.
>>James Beauchamp's original question had two parts. The first had to do with
>>why speakerphones 'sound like you're "talking through a tube' to the person
>>on the other end of the line?"
>>The answer, I think, has to do with direct-to-reverberant ratio. With a
>>handset phone the distance from mouth to microphone is a few cm, while with
>>a speakerphone it can be on the order of a meter or more. That makes for a
>>very large difference in direct-to-reverberant ratio and the resulting
>>reverberant quality with speakerphones.
>>The second part of the question had to do with actual binaural listening in
>>a reverberant room versus listening to binaural recordings made at the
>>listener's location in the same room. Assuming the recordings preserved
>>interaural cues reasonably well, the only factor I can think of that might
>>make intelligibility with actual listening much better than that for
>>recorded listening is lipreading, which is a BIG factor in intelligibility.
>>James' question also implied, though, that subjective quality (not just
>>intelligibility) was much poorer for recorded than live listening. I don't
>>know of any work on that question  -- whether there is something like a
>>"contextual echo suppression". It might make an interesting study.
>>John Beerends commented on binaural echo suppression, which was not raised
>>by James' question directly but which is certainly a related phenomenon.
>>Koenig's original subjective observation (1950, JASA 22, 61-62) noted that
>>listening to binaural dummy-head recordings had much less reverberant
>>quality than listening to one channel only (which James could do too with
>>his recordings). My study described a signal-detection advantage that
>>seemed to reflect binaural echo suppression.
>>Jens Blauert clarified Beerends' statement about a "law of the first
>>wavefront for timbre." It is true that Koenig's observation of binaural
>>echo suppression and my study both used long-duration sounds and did not
>>implicate "first wavefront" or "precedence" effects. However, Jens' comment
>>triggered a memory of a recent study by Hartmann, Litovsky  and co. that
>>found a precedence effect with click stimuli processed via median-plane
>>HRTFs. Assuming those stimuli are essentially diotic, it suggests that
>>there can be a first-wavefront effect for stimuli based on spectral shape,
>>which manifests as subjective timbre difference. (The authors should
>>clarify any misinterpretations I've made, and provide the reference).
>>Patrick Zurek
>>Sensimetrics Corp.
>>At 12:14 PM 10/26/00 +0200, you wrote:
>>>There is no such thing as a "law of the first wavefront" for timbre.
>>>Timbre is determined by the incoming energy over up to 100 ms - like
>>>So, something must be wrong with the statement below.
>>>Jeens Blauert
>>> >
>>> > The answer is binaural and monaural decolorization, the first wavefront
>>> > determines the timbre. With recordings the correct binaural and monaural
>>> > cues are missing and thus its sounds hollow/colored. A ref. for the
>>> binaural
>>> > decolorization:
>>> >
>>> > P. M. Zurek, "Measurements of Binaural Echo Suppression", J. Acoust.
>>> > Am., vol. 66, pp. 1750-1757 (1979 Dec.).
>>> >
>>> > John Beerends
>>> > KPN Research
>>> >
>>> >
>>> > -----Original Message-----
>>> > From: James W. Beauchamp [mailto:j-beauch@UX1.CSO.UIUC.EDU]
>>> > Sent: Wednesday, October 25, 2000 20:44
>>> > Subject: Re: Fw: sursound: speaker phones
>>> >
>>> >
>>> > While we're on the subject of sound localization, can someone explain
>>> > why speaker phones always sound like you're "talking through a tube" to
>>> > the person on the other end of the line? I'm radiating a sound which
>>> > is picked up by a diaphragm on a table and then directly transmitted
>>> > to someone's ear via a small speaker. How is this substantially
>>> > different from my talking to a hole in the table with someone's ear
>>> > directly underneath?
>>> >
>>> > Here is a related problem: Suppose I wish to record someone talking in
>>> > the front of the room, and I am in the back of the room. When I am
>>> > actually there listening, the speech is as clear as a bell; I ignore
>>> > all environmental sounds and echoes. To (roughly) simulate the pressures
>>> > at the ears, I take the headphone of my Walkman, put it on, and use it
>>> > as a stereo microphone. Later, when I play it back through the
>>> > the basic sound is there, but now the echos and environmental sounds
>>> > out the speaker, who is rendered barely audible. Does using really good
>>> > mics help? (Cheap actual mics don't seem to improve the situation.)
>>> >
>>> > If we understand what the problem is, how do we correct for it?  E. g.,
>>> > why aren't there better speaker phones? (Maybe there are for a price.)
>>> >
>>> > I realize that this problem is being worked on in the context of hearing
>>> > aids -- my neighbor has to take his off in order to hear a conversation
>>> > when there's more than 1 other person talking -- and in
>>> > applications.
>>> >
>>> > Jim Beauchamp
>>> > Univ. of Ill. U-C
>>> >
>Ruth Litovsky, Ph.D.     http://bme.bu.edu/faculty/litovsky/
>Boston University
>Hearing Research Center
>Dept. of Biomedical Engineering
>44 Cummington St.
>Boston MA 02215
>phone: (617)353-9493
>FAX:   (617)353-6766
>Email: litovsky@bu.edu
Ruth Litovsky, Ph.D.     http://bme.bu.edu/faculty/litovsky/
Boston University
Hearing Research Center
Dept. of Biomedical Engineering
44 Cummington St.
Boston MA 02215

phone:  (617)353-9493
FAX:    (617)353-6766
Email:  litovsky@bu.edu