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Timbre of Steady Sounds: A Factorial Investigation of its Verbal Attributes

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A survey of the literature showed that little is known about the perception of timbre. With the aid of the semantic differential and factor analysis, an attempt was made to extract from the timbre percept those independent features which can be described in terms of verbal attributes. Pairs of opposite attributes, such as dark – bright or smooth – rough, characterized the endpoints of 30 scales, on which 35 sounds were rated by two groups of subjects possessing either intensive or no musical training. The sounds were equalized in loudness and pitch; they differed systematically in the parameters of the spectral envelope.

Factor analysis of the scale correlations provided four orthogonal factors which extracted 90% of the variance. Each factor could be represented by at least one scale. These scales may be considered nearly sufficient to describe the timbres. The factor carrying most of the variance (44%) was represented by the scale dull – sharp. The scales representing the other factors, however, which extracted only small portions of the variance, exhibited a relatively large inter-individual scatter of ratings and reflected special properties of the sound sample. These scales appeared to be less suitable for the description of timbre in general than the scale dull – sharp.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 1974

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  • Acta Acustica united with Acustica, published together with the European Acoustics Association (EAA), is an international, peer-reviewed journal on acoustics. It publishes original articles on all subjects in the field of acoustics, such as general linear acoustics, nonlinear acoustics, macrosonics, flow acoustics, atmospheric sound, underwater sound, ultrasonics, physical acoustics, structural acoustics, noise control, active control, environmental noise, building acoustics, room acoustics, acoustic materials, acoustic signal processing, computational and numerical acoustics, hearing, audiology and psychoacoustics, speech, musical acoustics, electroacoustics, auditory quality of systems. It reports on original scientific research in acoustics and on engineering applications. The journal considers scientific papers, technical and applied papers, book reviews, short communications, doctoral thesis abstracts, etc. In irregular intervals also special issues and review articles are published.
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