Categorisation of Distortion Profiles in Relation to Audio Quality

Alex Wilson; Bruno Fazenda
DAFx-2014 - Erlangen
Since digital audio is encoded as discrete samples of the audio waveform, much can be said about a recording by the statistical properties of these samples. In this paper, a dataset of CD audio samples is analysed; the probability mass function of each audio clip informs a feature set which describes attributes of the musical recording related to loudness, dynamics and distortion. This allows musical recordings to be classified according to their “distortion character”, a concept which describes the nature of amplitude distortion in mastered audio. A subjective test was designed in which such recordings were rated according to the perception of their audio quality. It is shown that participants can discern between three different distortion characters; ratings of audio quality were significantly different (F (1, 2) = 5.72, p < 0.001, η 2 = 0.008) as were the words used to describe the attributes on which quality was assessed (χ2 (8, N = 547) = 33.28, p < 0.001). This expands upon previous work showing links between the effects of dynamic range compression and audio quality in musical recordings, by highlighting perceptual differences.