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How do Humans Perceive Simultaneous Sounds?

John Segrave segravej at R_E_M_O_V_E.tcd.ie
Wed Mar 24 11:56:11 EST 1999


I am a final year computer science student in Ireland.  My research thesis
is to develop a program that lets musicians play music together across a
computer network (not the internet unfortunately!).

One question I have been unable to answer is this (I hope this is within the
domain of audiology!):
What is the longest time delay you can have between two different sounds
starting, such that the ear still thinks they started simultaneously?

For example:  If a guitar player and a drummer are sitting in a room and
they start playing a tune, then the ear should perceive them to be in sync.
(even though there is a short time delay before the sound waves from the
guitar reach the drummers ears, and vice-versa).

However, if the drummer and the guitar player were very far away from each
other, that delay would be much longer.  So how long would the delay need to
be before they can no longer play together?  (because the delay is messing
up their ability to be in sync).

I have tried to perform some simple tests at home, and have arrived at a
rough figure of about 30 milliseconds, but I am no audiologist!!  I was
hoping someone in this newsgroup might know something about this aspect of
human hearing.  Maybe someone could suggest a book that deals with this kind
of topic?

I have searched the web, but have found nothing so far.  Any help you can
offer would be very much appreciated.

John Segrave
segravej at tcd.ie

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