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The Effects of MP3 Compression on Perceived Emotional Characteristics in Musical Instruments

Musical instrument sounds have distinct timbral and emotional characteristics that can change when audio processing is applied. This paper investigates the effects of MP3 compression on the emotional characteristics of eight sustained instrument sounds using listening tests. The experimental paradigm involved a pairwise comparison of compressed and uncompressed samples at several bit rates over ten emotional categories. The results showed that MP3 compression strengthened neutral and negative emotional characteristics such as Mysterious, Shy, Scary, and Sad, and weakened positive emotional characteristics such as Happy, Heroic, Romantic, Comic, and Calm. Angry was relatively unaffected by MP3 compression, probably because the background “growl” artifacts added by MP3 compression decreased positive emotional characteristics and increased negative characteristics such as Mysterious and Scary. Compression effected some instruments more and others less; trumpet was the most effected and the horn the least.


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