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Another View of Distortion Perception

Perception of distortion is difficult to determine since it relies critically on signal level. We study a distortion characteristic possessing a relative distortion independent of signal level—a simple change in slope between positive and negative signal excursion. A mathematical analysis is presented, showing the resulting distortion to be mainly even harmonic but with some rectification effects, which need consideration. Various signals are evaluated by informal A/B listening tests, including pure tones and music. Judiciously-chosen signals have distortions that are detectable only if they are above 1%, in keeping with psychoacoustic masking data, while real music signals are considerably more tolerant of distortion up to levels of 5% or more! This implies that, except for crossover distortion, present-day electronic systems are all sufficiently linear.

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