Perceptual thresholds for detecting modifications applied to the acoustical properties of a violin.


This study is the first step in the psychoacoustic exploration of perceptual differences between the sounds of different violins. A method was used which enabled the same performance to be replayed on different "virtual violins," so that the relationships between acoustical characteristics of violins and perceived qualities could be explored. Recordings of real performances were made using a bridge-mounted force transducer, giving an accurate representation of the signal from the violin string. These were then played through filters corresponding to the admittance curves of different violins. Initially, limits of listener performance in detecting changes in acoustical characteristics were characterized. These consisted of shifts in frequency or increases in amplitude of single modes or frequency bands that have been proposed previously to be significant in the perception of violin sound quality. Thresholds were significantly lower for musically trained than for nontrained subjects but were not significantly affected by the violin used as a baseline. Thresholds for the musicians typically ranged from 3 to 6 dB for amplitude changes and 1.5%-20% for frequency changes. Interpretation of the results using excitation patterns showed that thresholds for the best subjects were quite well predicted by a multichannel model based on optimal processing.