Understanding the broadcast listening experience with the BBC

Our world leading Acoustics Research Centre has helped the BBC understand more about how people perceive sound on the TV and radio shows they consume at home.

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The Problem

Loudspeaker-based spatial audio systems are often designed to create an auditory event or scene to a listener who is in a central listening position. 

However, in real-world domestic listening environments, listeners can be distributed across the listening area.

Our Solution

The BBC’s Research and Development Centre wanted to understand how sound produced by spatial audio rendering systems is perceived by people across different listening positions. To do so they collaborated with our world-leading Acoustic Research Centre, bringing PhD student Darius Satongar into the project through an EPSRC sponsored industrial CASE studentship. 

Darius’ role was to investigate, implement and validate state-of-the-art testing methods to find out the differing perceptions of sound. The research focused on domestic listening environments and covered psychoacoustic modelling, objective measurements and subjective testing using Auditory Virtual Entertainment (AVE). 

The AVE used a binaural simulation system that we developed in collaboration with the BBC. Binaural technologies allow the creation of virtual sound environments through only headphone reproduction and a motion tracking system. They work by simulating the filtering effect performed by the human head, torso and outer ear. 

The effect can be so realistic that many listeners struggle to differentiate between a real loudspeaker and a virtual loudspeaker. Low latency motion tracking is achieved using a state-of-the-art optical motion tracking system that also gives data for biomechanical analysis of listener characteristics. This allowed us to test many perceptual features of the spatial audio system such as their spatial attributes or perceived colouration and how these change across the listening area.

The team published six conference papers during the course of the research, contributing significantly to the field of applied acoustics.

As part of the project Darius was given the opportunity to undertake a fully paid industrial internship with the Audio Hardware Team at Apple Inc. in Cupertino, California. Darius was so successful that he is now a full time Apple employee. 

This unique experience gave me the ability to work with two leaders in acoustics and audio research together with other experts in my field. The industrial influence stimulates a more practical outlook of my research, which is important to me and is also attractive to future employers. I would highly recommend an ICASE studentship to anybody considering doing a PhD”. 
Darius Satongar, PhD Student