Researcher develops method to accurately compare concert hall sound

Jun 05, 2013
Berlin Philharmonie concert hall. Credit: Aalto University/ Jukka Pätynen

Researchers at Aalto University in Finland have developed a method that allows accurate comparisons of concert hall acoustics. The leader of the research group, Associate professor Tapio Lokki, was presented with an International Commission for Acoustics Early Career Award today in Montreal, Canada. The award was given to professor Lokki for outstanding contributions to room acoustics, and in particular for the novel subjective and objective assessment methods of concert halls.

'People have different tastes and unique preferences when it comes to the of a concert hall. 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,' says Lokki.

Researchers have developed a new way to capture the acoustics of a concert hall with a simulator. It consists of 34 reproducing synchronised recordings of individual musicians playing parts of symphonies in an anechoic chamber.

The symphony orchestra simulator has been played in many famous European concert halls and that music has been recorded in different locations within the halls and analysed. The simulator is necessary because it guarantees that the concert hall is the only changing factor influencing sound in these analyses. Later in the laboratory, 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 have also been conducted with sensory evaluation methods that provide revealing differentiating perceptual factors between concert halls. With this combination of objective and subjective , professor Lokki's team has been able to explain the preference ratings of concert hall acoustics.

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The goal of this research is to better understand why we hear sounds differently in different spaces. According to Lokki, this will lead to research that focuses on analysing exactly how humans perceive sound.

The International Commission for Acoustics ICA is a global forum of researchers active in the field of acoustics. The ICA Early is presented once in three years to an individual who has contributed substantially, through published papers, to the advancement of theoretical or applied acoustics.

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