Some New Evidence that Teenagers May Prefer Accurate Sound Reproduction By Sean Olive


Some New Evidence that Teenagers May Prefer Accurate Sound Reproduction By Sean Olive

Tues. Oct. 18th, 7pm Fulton Hall – Room 511 – Boston College
*Note room change from recent AES Meetings*

Sound quality in mainstream music recording and reproduction is all but dead according to recent media reports. Record producers are squashing the life and dynamics out of recorded music. On the playback side, these recordings are increasingly auditioned over acoustically compromised laptop computers, earbuds, and portable media player docking stations. The general decline in the quality of recorded and reproduced sound has led the New York Times to report that younger audio consumers have become either indifferent to sound quality, or worst, they may actually prefer bad sound to good sound.

To explore this issue, the author recently conducted two listening experiments on a group of high school students to determine their sound quality preferences for a) lossy versus lossless music file formats, and b) different qualities of loudspeakers. When given the opportunity to directly compare different qualities of sound reproduction, the teenagers preferred the most accurate, higher quality options.

Other topics to be discussed include some research related to cross-cultural sound quality preferences, and the efficacy of commercial room correction products. Finally, the author will demonstrate a new training software application “How to Listen” aimed at teaching listeners to become better critical listeners.

Sean Olive is Director of Acoustic Research for Harman International, a manufacturer of audio products for consumer, professional and automotive applications. He currently directs the Corporate research group, and oversees the subjective evaluation of new audio products. Prior to 1993, he was a research scientist at the National Research Council of Canada where his research focused on the perception and measurement of loudspeakers, listening rooms, and microphones.

Sean received Bachelors in Music from the University of Toronto, and his Masters and Ph.D. degrees in Sound Recording from McGill University in Montreal. His Ph.D. research was on acoustical interactions between loudspeakers and rooms, and listener adaptation to room acoustics. He has written over 30 research papers on the perception and measurement of audio for which he was awarded the Audio Engineering Society (AES) Fellowship Award in 1996, and two AES Publication Awards (1990 and 1995). Sean currently sits on three AES Technical Committees, and is past chairman, secretary and committee member of the Los Angeles AES section, and a former AES Governor. He is currently serving his second term as AES Vice President for Western region for USA-Canada. Sean has taught courses in sound recording, perception of sound and critical listening at McGill University, and UCLA. He infrequently writes about the science of audio on his blog, “Audio Musings” at

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