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The Effect of MP3 Compression on the Timbre Space of Sustained Musical Instrument Tones

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Previous studies of MP3 compression quality have generally not considered the effect on timbre space of sustained musical instruments. In this research subjects were asked to rate the dissimilarity of pairs of eight original instrument tones from various instrument families. These included tones from a bassoon, clarinet, flute, horn, oboe, saxophone, trumpet, and violin. For example, does the sound of a clarinet and oboe become more or less similar as a result of the compression? Although the results showed strong correlations between the dissimilarity scores of the original and compressed tones, there were subtle perceptual changes, especially at low bit rates. The perceptual difference between the saxophone and bassoon was significantly reduced at 32 kbps compression.

JAES Volume 61 Issue 11 pp. 840-849; November 2013
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AES - Audio Engineering Society