Echo thresholds for reflections from acoustically diffusive architectural surfaces
When sound reflects from an irregular architectural surface, it spreads spatially and temporally. Extensive research has been devoted to prediction and measurement of diffusion, but less has focused on its perceptual effects. This paper examines the effect of temporal diffusion on echo threshold. There are several notable differences between the waveform of a reflection identical to the direct sound and one from an architectural surface. The onset and offset are damped and the energy is spread in time; hence, the reflection response has a lower peak amplitude, and is decorrelated from the direct sound. The perceptual consequences of these differences are previously undocumented. Echo threshold tests are conducted with speech and music signals, using direct sound and a simulated reflection that is either identical to the direct sound or has various degrees of diffusion. Results indicate that for a speech signal, diffuse reflections are less easily detectable as a separate auditory event than specular reflections of the same total energy. For a music signal, no differences are observed between the echo thresholds for reflections with and without temporal diffusion. Additionally, echo thresholds are found to be shorter for speech than for music, and shorter for spatialized than for diotic presentation of signals. (C) 2013 Acoustical Society of America.