New method accurately compares concert hall acoustics

By Kristen Butler,  |  June 5, 2013 at 2:04 PM
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For music lovers who swear by a favorite venue, researchers at Aalto University in Finland have developed a method that allows accurate comparisons of concert hall acoustics.

"People have different tastes and unique preferences when it comes to the acoustics of a concert hall," says Associate professor Tapio Lokki, who led the study, published in Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics.

"Thus, we cannot say which concert hall is better than another, but we certainly have learned why concert halls are different and we are learning how to make a hall sound a certain way."

Researchers used a symphony orchestra simulator consisting of 34 loudspeakers reproducing synchronised recordings of individual musicians playing parts of symphonies in an anechoic chamber.

They played the orchestra simulator in many of Europe's most famous concert halls, and recorded the music from different points within the halls.

The objective recordings allow very accurate comparisons of the characteristics of the acoustics. When listening to different halls with spatial sound reproduction in the laboratory, subjective listening tests conducted with sensory evaluation methods revealed differentiating perceptual factors between concert halls.

The goal of this research is to better understand why we hear sounds differently in different spaces, and the combination of objective and subjective sensory data, has shed light the preference ratings of concert hall acoustics.

Lokki was presented with an International Commission for Acoustics Early Career Award today in Montreal, Canada. The award is presented once every three years to an individual who has contributed substantially to the advancement of theoretical or applied acoustics.

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