Discrimination of fundamental frequency of synthesized vowel sounds in a noise background

M.T.M. Scheffers

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    Abstract

    An experiment was carried out, investigating the relationship between the just noticeable difference of fundamental frequency (jndf0) of three stationary synthesized vowel sounds in noise and the signal-to-noise ratio. To this end the S/N ratios were measured at which listeners could just discriminate a series of changes in ?f0 in the range from 10% to 0.5%. Similar measurements were obtained for pulse trains and for pure tones as a reference for the results. A measure of S/N ratio based on an approximation of the critical bandwidth appeared to provide a fairly good predictor of the masked threshold of each signal, measured in a second experiment. Using this measure, it was found that a given change in the fundamental of a pulse train could be discriminated at a lower S/N ratio than in a pure tone with a frequency equal to that fundamental. The results for the vowel sounds were found to be in between those for a low-frequency pure tone and those for a pulse train. Owing to the signal-generation method (viz., changing ?f0 by changing the sampling frequency), three cues could in principle be used to discriminate a change in the fundamental of a vowel: A change in the residue pitch, a change in the pitch of a single prominent harmonic, or a change in the spectral envelope of the signal. It can be inferred from the results that the subjects used that particular cue which yielded best performance. Which cue was optimal depended not only on the vowel but also on ?f0 and on the presented change in ?f0. It seems, however, that the pitch of a single harmonic was the cue most often used. Another interesting result is that changes in ?f0 greater than about 5%, could for each signal be discriminated when the signal was just above masked threshold.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)428-434
    JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
    Volume76
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1984

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