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Audio Signals and Psychoacoustics - ELE00164M

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  • Department: Electronic Engineering
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Frank Stevens
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

This module provides an introduction to the fundamentals of audio signal processing, acoustics, and psychoacoustics. The theory covered will be supported with practical design and implementation.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

Subject content aims:

This module aims to introduce students to the following areas of theory and practical application:

  • Audio signals: sound sources and wave propagation; decibel scales.

  • Signal conversion: microphones, sampling, quantisation.

  • Practical application of signal processing

  • Fundamentals of room acoustics

  • 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:

  • To develop report writing skills

  • To be able to specify, design, implement, test, and review a process in software

  • To increase understanding of acoustic theory with regard to rooms and instruments.

  • To develop understanding of human hearing in relation to music

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 localisation 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, including 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 a binaural audio system in MATLAB.

  • Design a demonstration of a psychoacoustic phenomenon in MATLAB

Graduate skills learning outcomes

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

  • 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

Module content

  • Digital Sound and Sampling

  • Binaural audio systems

  • Convolution

  • The Fourier Transform

  • Block-based audio processing

  • Audio filtering

  • Introduction to psychoacoustics

  • Structure of the human auditory system

  • Perception of pitch, loudness, and timbre

  • Masking

  • Spatial hearing and auditory localisation

  • Timbral analysis

  • Time- and frequency- domain audio analysis

  • MATLAB audio synthesis and processing


Task Length % of module mark
Coursework : Binaural Audio Demonstration and Report
N/A 60
Coursework : Psychoacoustic Phenomenon Demonstration and Report
N/A 40

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Binaural Audio Demonstration - The students develop a binaural audio demonstration in MATLAB, making use of multiple sounds source, auralisation, filtering and other signal processing methods to create c. 30-second long soundscape example. This is accompanied with a technical report covering the relevant theory underpinning the demonstration, and offering a commentary on the conception, design, implementation, and evaluation of the finished product.

Psychoacoustic Phenomenon Demonstration - The students use MATLAB to synthesise audio examples demonstrating a chosen psychoacoustic phenomenon. This work will be based on the students’ own research into their chosen phenomenon. A report will be submitted explaining this phenomenon, offering a review of relevant literature, and presenting a time- and frequency- domain analysis of the output audio


Task Length % of module mark
Coursework : Binaural Audio Demonstration and Report
N/A 60
Coursework : Psychoacoustic Phenomenon Demonstration 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.

The School of PET 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. The School will endeavour to return all exam feedback within the timescale set out in the University's Policy on Assessment Feedback Turnaround Time. The School would normally expect to adhere to the times given, however, it is possible that exceptional circumstances may delay feedback. The School 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.

Formative Feedback

  • Regular lab sessions will allow students to work through some lab scripts and set exercises, after which they will use those sessions to work on their assessments. In these sessions they will receive verbal help and feedback on their design and implementation.

  • Workshops throughout the term will be used to address questions/problems from students to support the lectures and lab sessions.

  • Emails to the Module Coordinator with Questions / Comments will be answered as soon as possible.

  • A formative assessment, where students write a short (2-3 pages) document investigating the acoustic properties of a musical instrument will take place in this module, with hand-in week 5 and feedback in week 7. Students will receive written individual feedback on their report and there will be a group feedback session workshop.

Summative Feedback

For each summative assessment, students will receive an individual feedback sheet. This sheet will contain a mark breakdown in terms of the areas being assessed, and personalised feedback including suggestions for improvement. These suggestions will be in terms of the work itself, and advice for future assessments.

Indicative reading

Howard DM and Angus JAS, (2009). Acoustics and psychoacoustics, 4th Ed., Oxford: Focal Press.

Smith JO, Mathematics of the Discrete Fourier Transform (DFT) with Audio Applications. CCRMA

Vorländer, M. Auralization. Springer International Publishing, 2020.

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.