The effects of production and presentation level on the auditory distance perception of speech

D. S. Brungart*, K. R. Scott

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Although both perceived vocal effort and intensity are known to influence the perceived distance of speech, little is known about the processes listeners use to integrate these two parameters into a single estimate of talker distance. In this series of experiments, listeners judged the distances of prerecorded speech samples presented over headphones in a large open field. In the first experiment, virtual synthesis techniques were used to simulate speech signals produced by a live talker at distances ranging from 0.25 to 64 m. In the second experiment, listeners judged the apparent distances of speech stimuli produced over a 60-dB range of different vocal effort levels (production levels) and presented over a 34-dB range of different intensities (presentation levels). In the third experiment, the listeners judged the distances of time-reversed speech samples. The results indicate that production level and presentation level influence distance perception differently for each of three distinct categories of speech. When the stimulus was high-level voiced speech (produced above 66 dB SPL 1 m from the talker's mouth), the distance judgments doubled with each 8-dB increase in production level and each 12-dB decrease in presentation level. When the stimulus was low-level voiced speech (produced at or below 66 dB SPL at 1 m), the distance judgments doubled with each 15-dB increase in production level but were relatively insensitive to changes in presentation level at all but the highest intensity levels tested. When the stimulus was whispered speech, the distance judgments were unaffected by changes in production level and only decreased with increasing presentation level when the intensity of the stimulus exceeded 66 dB SPL. The distance judgments obtained in these experiments were consistent across a range of different talkers, listeners, and utterances, suggesting that voice-based distance cueing could provide a robust way to control the apparent distances of speech sounds in virtual audio displays.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)425-440
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


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