Reconciling frequency selectivity and phase effects in masking

Andrew J. Oxenham, Torsten Dau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


The effects of auditory frequency selectivity and phase response on masking were studied using harmonic tone complex maskers with a 100-Hz fundamental frequency. Positive and negative Schroeder-phase complexes (m+ and m-), were used as maskers and the signal was a long-duration sinusoid. In the first experiment, thresholds for signal frequencies of 1 and 4 kHz were measured as a function of masker bandwidth and number of components. A large difference in thresholds between the m+ and m- complexes was found only when masker components were presented ipsilateral to the signal over a frequency range wider than the traditional critical band, regardless of the absolute number of components. In the second experiment, frequency selectivity was measured in harmonic tone complexes with fixed or random phases as well as in noise, using a variant of the notched-noise method with a fixed masker level. The data showed that frequency selectivity is not affected by masker type, indicating that the wide listening bandwidth suggested by the first experiment cannot be ascribed to broader effective filters in complex-tone maskers than in noise maskers. The third experiment employed a novel method of measuring frequency selectivity, which has the advantage that the overall level at the input and the output of the auditory filter remains roughly constant across all conditions. The auditory filter bandwidth measured using this method was wider than that measured in the second experiment, but may still be an underestimate, due to the effects of off-frequency listening. The data were modeled using a single-channel model with various initial filters. The main findings from the simulations were: (1) the magnitude response of the Gammatone filter is too narrow to account for the phase effects observed in the data; (2) none of the other filters currently used in auditory models can account for both frequency selectivity and phase effects in masking; (3) the Gammachirp filter can be made to provide a good account of the data by altering its phase response. The final conclusion suggests that masker phase effects can be accounted for with a single-channel model, while still remaining consistent with measures of frequency selectivity: effects that appear to involve broadband processing do not necessarily require across-channel mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1525-1538
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number3 I
StatePublished - 2001


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