You are on page 1of 14

Acoustical Filters

 Definition: An Acoustical Filter is a “frequency-

selective attenuation device.” (Loven Text
 In essence, an acoustical filter does two things:

o #1. It lets some frequencies pass through freely.

o #2. It turns down the amplitudes of other

frequencies. (To attenuate something is to reduce
its amplitude.)

 Different filters alter different parts of the spectrum.

A Low-Pass Filter
 Lets the lowest frequencies pass through and
attenuates higher frequencies.
 Defining characteristics:
o Cutoff frequency (-3 dB point).
o Rejection rate (measured in dB/octave).

NOTE: 10 log (1/2) = -3 dB.

• Intensity reduced by half

at the -3 dB point.
A High-Pass Filter
 Lets the highest frequencies pass through and
attenuates lower frequencies.
A Band-Pass Filter
 Lets a band of frequencies pass through and
attenuates frequencies below and above that band.

 Defining characteristics of the band:

o Center Frequency.
o Bandwidth.
Filters in the Auditory System
 Psychophysical studies of hearing strongly suggest
that there are band-pass filters in the human auditory
 These auditory filters are referred to as Critical
 Some of the most convincing evidence that these
filters exist comes from studies of auditory
Auditory Masking
 A common everyday experience is that the presence of
one sound may make it more difficult to hear another.
• Example: The roar of a passing railroad train is likely to make
it more difficult to hear the voice of the person you are
speaking with while waiting for the train to pass.
• MASKING concerns this type of interaction.

 “Psychophysicists have learned a good deal about

how the ear analyzes sounds by studying the way
certain sounds drown out, or mask, other sounds.”
-- (D&P, Ch 5)
Measuring the Amount of Masking
 Question: Does sound M (the “masker”) mask sound T
(the “target”) a little, a lot, or not at all?
• To answer this question, measure the amount of masking that
takes place.

 Measurement Procedure:
• #1 Turn M off altogether. Then, measure the absolute
threshold for detection of T. (NOTE: Answer is in dB).
• #2 Turn M on. Now re-measure the absolute threshold for T.
o If Masking takes place now, the threshold for T will go up.

• #3 Calculate the amount of masking by subtracting threshold

#1 from threshold #2.
Tone-on-Tone Masking: Key Findings
 In tone-on-tone masking experiments, M is a sine tone
and T is some other sine tone.
• These experiments tell us about the simplest possible
interactions between two sounds.

 Key Findings:
• M masks T better if T is at a nearby frequency than it does if T
is further away in frequency.
• All other things equal, M masks T better if T is at a higher
frequency than it does if T is at a lower frequency.
 This becomes more and more true as the intensity of the
masker increases (see upward spread of masking).
Upward Spread of Masking by a Tone
 As the intensity of a masking tone increases, its ability to
mask other tones spreads out to include higher frequencies
much more so than it does to include lower frequencies.
 This is the Upward Spread of Masking.
Upward Spread of Masking by a Narrow
Band (“Slice”) of Noise
 Upward spread of masking also occurs when the masker is
a narrow band of noise increases.
Noise-on-Tone Masking: Key Findings
 In noise-on-tone masking experiments, M is a wide band
of noise and T is a sine tone.
• These experiments can tell us about interactions between
sounds with more complex spectra.
 Key Findings:
• M masks T effectively so long as the spectrum of the noise
overlaps with the frequency of T.
• The only portion of the noise band that really “matters” is the
portion that includes frequencies that are nearby to the
frequency of T.
• Strongly suggests that there is a band-pass filter
surrounding T and “protecting” it from frequencies
outside the filter.
A Critical Band
 A Critical Band is a band-pass filter in the auditory system.
 Questions:
• What is its “center frequency”?
• What is its “bandwidth”?
Critical Bands: Estimated Bandwidths
 Bandwidth generally increase as the center frequency
increases, especially once you get above about 500 Hz.
Loudness Summation
 Loudness Summation provides a second kind of
evidence that there are critical bands in the human
auditory system.
 How it works:
1. Start with a noise that has all of its power distributed
over just a small “slice” of frequencies and listen to
how loud it is.
2. Now spread the noise power over a slightly wider
range of frequencies and listen to the loudness again.
3. Keep doing this over and over and at some point most
people find that the noise will get louder.
 The point where this happens is the point at
which the noise “spills over” into neighboring
critical bands.