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Perception of Audio Quality in Productions of Popular Music

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In the context of recorded sound there is great debate over which parameters influence the perception of quality. To gain insight into the dimensions of quality perception, subjective and objective evaluation of musical program material, extracted from commercial CDs, was undertaken. It was observed that perception of audio quality and liking of the music can be affected by separate factors. Familiarity with stimuli affected like ratings, while quality ratings were most associated with signal features related to perceived loudness and dynamic range compression. Additionally, the sonic attributes describing quality ratings indicate a diverse lexicon relating to timbre, space, defects, and other concepts. The results also suggest that, while the perceived quality of popular music may have decreased over recent years, like ratings were unaffected. Like ratings were strongly influenced by song familiarity, implying that aspects of preference and liking are distinct from the interpretation of quality and might not be the best descriptors for studies where technical quality is the percept being sought. Quality in music production is revealed as a perceptual construct distinct from hedonic, musical preference. Audio quality can be predicted from objective features in the signal, and can be adequately and consensually described using verbal attributes.

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JAES Volume 64 Issue 1/2 pp. 23-34; January 2016
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