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Audio Signals & Psychoacoustics - ELE00087M

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  • Department: Electronic Engineering
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Frank Stevens
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module summary

This module provides an introduction to the fundamentals of audio signal processing, acoustics and psychoacoustics that will provide the foundation for all other aspects of the MSc in Audio and Music Technology. This is delivered in the context of the core software development platforms we use for assessment and research work throughout the programme, MATLAB and Pure Data (PD), thereby also providing an introduction to some of the programming languages and methodologies the students will be engaging with.

The module will provide an enhanced understanding and increased knowledge of acoustics and psychoacoustics in the context of audio, music production and listening, informed by recent developments in the field. One practical aim of this module is to develop a simple immersive audio system via headphones. This requires an understanding of some fundamental signal processing concepts and techniques, basic competence in coding and handling audio signals using MATLAB, and an appreciation of the human spatial hearing system. In parallel, the visual programming language Pure Data (PD) will be used to put psychoacoustic theory in relation to our perception and understanding of sound into practice. This will be done through the development of a listening test in PD, thereby also introducing research skills valuable for later module work.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2022-23

Module aims

Subject content aims:

  • Audio signals: sound sources, acoustic environments and wave propagation; decibel scales.
  • Signal conversion: microphones, sampling, quantisation.
  • Practical application of signal processing.
  • Room acoustics and how to modify them in practice.
  • The structure and operation of the human auditory system.
  • Perception of pitch, loudness, and timbre.
  • Human perception of sound in three dimensions including inter-aural time delay (ITD), inter-aural intensity delays (IID) and the head related transfer function (HRTF).
  • Spatial audio systems, including stereo, amplitude panning, ambisonics, wavefield synthesis, binaural audio.

Graduate skills aims:

  • Apply theoretical knowledge and understanding of audio signal processing for designing basic processes.
  • Specify, design and implement a process in software, with due regard to testing and demonstrating functionality.
  • Increased understanding of acoustic theory with regard to rooms and instruments.
  • Developed understanding of human hearing in relation to mu

Module learning outcomes

Subject content learning outcomes

After successfully completing this module, students will be able to:

  • Describe the fundamental properties of sound in relation to audio signals and acoustic systems.
  • Describe the principal hearing mechanisms for sound source localization in the context of spatial audio system design.
  • Describe the principal hearing mechanisms relating to perception of pitch, timbre, loudness and auditory streaming.
  • Explain the theory of signal representation in time and frequency domains, the Fourier series, the Fourier transform, the short-time Fourier transform.
  • Explain the practical and theoretical application of audio signal processing, the sampling theorem, linear time-invariant systems, convolution, the z-transform.
  • Evaluate the acoustic and psychoacoustic features of different sounds.
  • Design, analyse and simulate basic digital filters.
  • Design audio applications in the visual programming language Pure Data (PD).
  • Design an immersive spatial audio system in MATLAB.
  • Design a methodology for psychoacoustic perceptual testing in PD.

Graduate skills learning outcomes

After successful completion of this module, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate group working and interpersonal skills
  • Apply numeracy skills
  • Demonstrate problem solving
  • Assess and review progress
  • Demonstrate independent learning research skills
  • Apply written communication skills.
  • Apply analytical skills
  • Demonstrate autonomous task planning and implementation


Task Length % of module mark
Binaural audio exercise and report
N/A 60
Psychoacoustic phenomenon exercise and report
N/A 40

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Binaural audio exercise and report
N/A 60
Psychoacoustic phenomenon exercise and report
N/A 40

Module feedback

'Feedback’ at a university level can be understood as any part of the learning process which is designed to guide your progress through your degree programme. We aim to help you reflect on your own learning and help you feel more clear about your progress through clarifying what is expected of you in both formative and summative assessments.

A comprehensive guide to feedback and to forms of feedback is available in the Guide to Assessment Standards, Marking and Feedback. This can be found at

The Department of Electronic Engineering aims to provide some form of feedback on all formative and summative assessments that are carried out during the degree programme. In general, feedback on any written work/assignments undertaken will be sufficient so as to indicate the nature of the changes needed in order to improve the work. Students are provided with their examination results within 20 working days of the end of any given examination period. The Department will also endeavour to return all coursework feedback within 20 working days of the submission deadline. The Department would normally expect to adhere to the times given, however, it is possible that exceptional circumstances may delay feedback. The Department will endeavour to keep such delays to a minimum. Please note that any marks released are subject to ratification by the Board of Examiners and Senate. Meetings at the start/end of each term provide you with an opportunity to discuss and reflect with your supervisor on your overall performance to date.

Indicative reading

  • Bech, S., & Zacharov, N. (2007). Perceptual audio evaluation-Theory, method and application. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Bregman, A.S. (1990). Auditory Scene Analysis, Cambridge: MIT Press.
  • Everest, F.A. (2000). The master handbook of acoustics, 4th Ed., McGraw Hill/TAB books Inc.
  • Hall, D.E. (1980). Musical Acoustics: An introduction, Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing Company.
  • Howard DM and Angus JAS, (2009). Acoustics and psychoacoustics, 4th Ed., Oxford: Focal Press.
  • Loy, G., (2011). Musimathics: The Mathematical Foundations of Music (Vol 2), MIT Press, ISBN-13: 978-0262516556
  • Lynn, P. A., and Fuerst, W., (1998). Introductory Digital Signal Processing with Computer Applications, 2nd Ed., John Wiley and Sons Ltd., ISBN 0471976318.
  • Puckette, M., (2007). Theory and Techniques of Electronic Music, World Scientific, ISBN 13 978-9812700773. Available online:
  • Pulkki, V., and Karjalainen, M., (2015). Communication Acoustics: An Introduction to Speech, Audio and Psychoacoustics, John Wiley and Sons Ltd. ISBN-13: 978-1118866542
  • Roads, C., (1996). The Computer Music Tutorial, MIT Press, ISBN-10: 0262680823
  • Rossing, T.D. (1989). The Science of Sound, New York: Addison Wesley.
  • Sundberg, J. (1989). The Science of Musical Sounds, San Diego: Academic Press.
  • Zolzer, U., Ed., (2011) DAFX: Digital Audio Effects, 2nd Ed. John Wiley and Sons Ltd., ISBN 13 978-0470665992

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.