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Timbre Perception

Timbre is that characteristic of sound that distinguishes between the perception of two sounds with identical loudness, duration, and pitch. Timbre is often described in terms of the material of the sound source (e.g., woody, metallic), its vocal quality (e.g., nasal, hoarse), its resemblance to musical instruments (e.g., flutelike, bell-like), or its sensory or emotional effect (e.g., sweet, unpleasant). Cross-modal tactile or visual associations can illustrate the timbre of a sound as well (e.g., soft, coarse, dark, bright). Finally, timbre can describe the inferred spatial and reverberant qualities of a sound (e.g., distant or cavernous). This entry covers spectral and temporal attributes of timbre, as well as multi-dimensionality and exploratory approaches to timbre.

Spectral Attributes

Sounds with discernible pitch generally comprise the sum of multiple sinusoids ...

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