Loudness Spectrogram

The purpose of a loudness spectrogram is to display some psychoacoustic model of loudness versus time and frequency. Instead of specifying FFT window length and type, one specifies conditions of presentation, such as physical amplitude level in dB SPL, angle of arrival at the ears, etc. By default, it can be assumed that the signal is presented to both ears equally, and the listening level can be normalized to a ``comfortable'' value such as 70 dB SPL.8.7

A time-varying model of loudness perception has been developed by Moore and Glasberg et al. [87,182,88]. A loudness spectrogram based on this work may consist of the following processing steps:

  1. Compute a multiresolution STFT (MRSTFT) which approximates the frequency-dependent frequency and time resolution of the ear. Several FFTs of different lengths may be combined in such a way that time resolution is higher at high frequencies, and frequency resolution is higher at low frequencies, like in the ear. In each FFT, the frequency resolution must be greater than or equal to that of the ear in the frequency band it covers. (Even ``much greater'' is ok, since the resolution will be reduced down to what it should be by smoothing in Step 2.)

  2. Form the excitation pattern from the MRSTFT by resampling the FFTs of the previous step using interpolation kernels shaped like auditory filters. The new spectral sampling intervals should be proportional to the width of a critical band of hearing at each frequency. The shape of each interpolation kernel (auditory filter) should change with amplitude level as well as center frequency [87]. This step effectively converts the uniform filter bank of the FFT to an auditory filter bank.8.8

  3. Compute the specific loudness from the excitation pattern for each frame. This step implements a compressive nonlinearity which depends on the frequency and level of the excitation pattern [182]. The specific loudness can be interpreted as loudness per ERB.

  4. If desired, the instantaneous loudness can be computed as the the sum of the specific loudness over all frequency samples at a fixed time. Similarly, short- and long-term time-varying loudness estimates can be computed as lowpass-filterings of the instantaneous loudness over time [88].

The specific loudness gives a useful definition of the ``loudness spectrogram.'' However, one might well prefer to filter it across the time dimension in the same manner that instantaneous loudness is filtered to produce short- and long-term loudness estimates versus time and frequency.

A Note on Hop Size

Before Step 2 above, the FFT hop size within the MRSTFT of Step 1 would typically be determined by the shortest window length used (and its type). However, after the non-uniform downsampling in Step 2, the effective window lengths (and shapes) have been modified. If the spectrum is not undersampled by this operation, the effective duration of the time-domain window at each frequency will always be shorter than that of the original FFT window. In principle, the shape of the effective time-domain window becomes the product of the original FFT window used in the MRSTFT times the ``auditory window,'' which is given by the inverse Fourier transform of the auditory filter frequency response (spectral interpolation kernel) translated to zero center-frequency. (This is only approximately true when the auditory filter frequency response spans multiple frequency ranges for which FFTs were performed at different resolutions.)

Since the time-domain window durations are shortened by the spectral smoothing inherent in Step 2, the proper step size from frame to frame is something less than that dictated by the MRSTFT windows. One reliable method for determining the maximum allowable hop size for each FFT in the MRSTFT is to study the inverse Fourier transform of the widest (highest-frequency) auditory filter shape (translated to 0 Hz center-frequency) used as a smoothing kernel in that FFT. This new window can be multiplied by the original window and overlapped and added to itself, as in Eq.$ \,$ (7.2), at various increasing hop-sizes $ R$ (starting with $ R=1$ which is always valid), until the overlap-add begins to show ripple at the frame rate $ f_s/R$ . Alternatively, the bandwidth of the highest-frequency auditory filter can be used to determine the appropriate hop size in the time domain, as elaborated in Chapter 9 (especially §9.8.1).


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Loudness Spectrogram Examples
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Auditory Filter Banks