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Someone wrote in last week to ask about psychoacoustics because, as he said, “I can’t quite get my head around it, can you explain it a little bit please”. Psychoacoustics is the brain’s ability to perceive sound. What does it really refer to? It refers to reverberant fields, it refers to the balance between direct and reflected energy.

A lot of electronic manufacturers design software to mimic the sound of beautiful concert halls throughout the world. They actually go into halls and they record and measure the reverberation times and they do ray tracing programs on the reflections. Where do they go? What surfaces do they strike before they reach the audience? It’s that interplay electronically that they try to duplicate so that’s psychoacoustic.

Taking the acoustics of a hall, converting it into the digital domain and then putting it into an electronic device and then software recreates that electronically. Do they work? I would imagine to various degrees of effectiveness. Most of the ones I’ve heard electronically I would never use but that’s my personal opinion because you know I’m a room guy, I like room sound.

I know that room sound can be managed correctly to be beautiful and wonderful sound and these concert halls have achieved that over time, believe me they didn’t get it right at the beginning. It’s a time-tested and proven method. Now for psychoacoustics they sample that and try to recreate that electronically in your receivers and your amplifiers and stuff like that.

Do they do well? I don’t know. To me you’re not going to be able to duplicate the sound of the Concerta in the Netherlands, a 200,000 square-foot facility roughly. How are you going to do that electronically? I just don’t see that its possible because how do you recreate that space in your living room? I mean let’s just use a little common sense here I don’t think you can.

It might be a fun experiment and adventure but psychoacoustics is how the brain reacts to sound. Sound is two areas in small rooms, pressure and reflections. We try to minimize those through our electronic software but to me there is no substitute for a well tuned and treated room because you can’t duplicate that sound electronically.

In Summary

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Dennis Foley

I am an acoustic engineer with over 30 years’ experience in the business. My technology has been used in Electric Lady Land Studios, Sony Music of New York, Cello Music and Films founded by Mark Levinson, and Saltmines Studios in Mesa, Arizona, along with hundreds of others.

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