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Louder sounds can produce less forward masking: Effects of component phase in complex tones
GOCKEL, H., Moore, B.C.J., Patterson, R.D. & Meddis, R.
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 114(2), 978-990
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The influence of the degree of envelope modulation and periodicity on the loudness and effectiveness of sounds as forward maskers was investigated. In the first experiment, listeners matched the loudness of complex tones and noise. The tones had a fundamental frequency (F0) of 62.5 or 250 Hz and were filtered into a frequency range from the 10th harmonic to 5000 Hz. The Gaussian noise was filtered in the same way. The components of the complex tones were added either in cosine phase (CPH), giving a large crest factor, or in random phase (RPH), giving a smaller crest factor. For each F0, subjects matched the loudness between all possible stimulus pairs. Six different levels of the fixed stimulus were used, ranging from about 30 dB SPL to about 80 dB SPL in 10 dB steps. Results showed that, at a given overall level, the CPH and the RPH tones were louder than the noise, and that the CPH tone was louder than the RPH tone. The difference in loudness was larger at medium than at low levels and was only slightly reduced by the addition of a noise intended to mask combination tones. The differences in loudness were slightly smaller for the higher than for the lower F0. In the second experiment, the stimuli with the lower F0 were used as forward maskers of a 20-ms sinusoid, presented at various frequencies within the spectral range of the maskers. Results showed that the CPH tone was the least effective forward masker, even though it was the loudest. The differences in effectiveness as forward maskers depended on masker level and signal frequency; in order to produce equal masking, the level of the CPH tone had to be up to 35 dB above that of the RPH tone and the noise. The implications of these results for models of loudness are discussed and a model is presented based on neural activity patterns in the auditory nerve; this predicts the general pattern of loudness matches. It is suggested that the effects observed in the experiments may have been influenced by two factors: cochlear compression and suppression.