Are There Cross-Cultural Preferences in Quality of Reproduced Sound?


WBF Technical Expert (Speakers & Audio Equipment)
Sep 6, 2010
Seattle, WA
Recently, we have begun testing cross-cultural sound quality preferences of music reproduced through different loudspeakers, equalizations, and automotive audio systems using American, Japanese and Chinese speaking listeners. While this work is still ongoing, the preliminary results do not show any evidence of cross-cultural preferences among the different groups. Accurate sound reproduction seems to be the common link across the preferences of the different cultures.
I think that Sean nails it on the head with this. I don't have comprehensive research on this, only anecdotal evidence having made presentations and demonstrations from the Middle East to China/Korea and Europe, but while there are preference for different recorded music, the system itself should be accurate. Then, when the system is accurate, the cross-cultural preferences can more easily manifest.

Should a system exhibit the same cross-cultural preference in the "sound" of the music, it is likely to become too much of a good thing. Nevertheless, as Bruce mentioned the different preference between him and Winston, I do believe that there are preferences in listeners.

I don't think that I am the only Chinese on this forum, but due to the tonal language that we grew up with, the requirement for accuracy for tone and pitch is very important. I get very irritated when for example a turntable is slightly slow or fast - whereas I've found that most people don't even hear the little wow and flutter that is going on.

Native speakers of tone languages (Chinese, Vietnamese, etc.) are much more likely to have perfect pitch than native speakers of non-tone languages.

ps. I don't have perfect pitch. Not even close, but I can hear when a piano is out of tune, even slightly.
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