Type of Resources
A listener’s preferred listening level (PLL) for music under headphones has been found to be related to factors such as music genre, external noise, and headphone fit. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between a listener’s PLL and the amount of low frequency sound in music. The study also investigated the relationship between a listener’s PLL, their music preference, and familiarity with the songs used in the experiment. For the study, 44 participants aged 18 to 35 years old with normal hearing were recruited from a university population. Participants completed listening tasks comprised of 16 experimental stimuli representing the pop, rock, and classical genres, as well as a self-selected song of their preference. High-pass filtering with corner frequencies of 100, 173, and 300 Hz was applied to 12 of the stimuli while 4 stimuli remained unfiltered. Participants adjusted the volume setting to their preference for each stimulus. A post-test survey was administered to rate the participants’ familiarity with the songs used in the listening task. A two-way repeated measures ANOVA analysis demonstrated that there were significant differences between the songs (p = 0.009) and the filter settings that removed low frequency sound (p = 0.009), as well as interaction effects between these groups (p = 0.018). A post-hoc analysis revealed that the PLLs for the classical song were significantly lower than the other 3 songs, and only the 300 Hz high-pass filter setting was significantly higher in PLL than the baseline “no filter” setting. No significant correlation
was found between participant ranking of song familiarity and volume setting for that song. The use of a preferred or familiar song did not have a significant effect when measuring a listener’s PLL in this study. These results demonstrate that the absence of low frequency sound can lead to an increase in listener PLL for music. However, observations from the data revealed that this trend may not be true for all listeners. The real-implications of these findings suggest that a transducer with poor low-frequency response may lead to higher listener PLLs. Similar future studies should consider other methods to further clarify the influence of low frequency sound on PLL and how other known influences on PLL (i.e., environmental noise) may interact.