Spatial Hearing: The Psychophysics of Human Sound Localization
I like to read about headphones and how we hear things. Pretty geeky, I know, but if you've got a passion for something and really want to understand what's going on, you need to read what others have learned and written on the subject ... and I'm not talking about forum posts here. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) I like to read Audio Engineering Society papers. It's rather expensive ($99/yr to join the AES, and $145/yr for e-library subscription), but there are loads of papers on headphones and audio localization for speakers and headphones. The papers can get pretty technical, I reckon about 30% is over my head on average, but following the gist of the papers and watching the graphs fly by can be a pretty entertaining and educational, albeit hit-or-miss education.
Fortunately, for those of us who really want a clear and comprehensive overview of how the human hearing system works to identify the location of sounds, there is one book cited above all others that serves as the text on the subject: Jens Blauert's "Spatial Hearing: The Psychophysics of Human Sound Localization." (Some of the book can be read at this link, but a bound volume works better in bed, and the author would appreciate the purchase, no doubt.)
In it you'll find myriad tasty tidbits like:
- "The spatial resolution limit of the auditory system is, then, about two orders of magnitude less than that of the visual system."
- "Von Hornbostel (1962) reported that the songs of birds constantly change position, though the bird may not," when commenting on the improper localization of narrowband high-frequency signals.
- "...in cases of asymmetrical hearing loss and of total deafness in one ear, localization blur decreases with experience and localization becomes more normal; with time the direction of the auditory event coincides better and better with that of the sound source."