Product Sounds: Basic Concepts and Categories
Elif Ozcan, Rene vanEgmond, Jan Jacobs


In this paper we investigated which categories of product sounds listeners can distinguish. We explored the perceptual domain of product sounds in order to be able to derive perceptually similar categories and determine how users are able to describe these categories by merely listening to them. Employing two different experimental paradigms (free categorization and pairwise comparison), we determined six perceptually relevant product sound categories (air, alarm, cyclic, impact, liquid, mechanical) and nine basic concepts that mentally represent these categories (sound source, action, location, sound type, onomatopoeias, psychoacoustics, temporal descriptions, emotions, abstract meaning). The results indicate that these categories are not only a direct consequence of perceptual similarities in the spectral temporal structure but also result from similarities based on cognitive, emotional, and contextual evaluations of the sound. We conclude that sound is an intrinsic property of a product and, with the knowledge gathered in this study, designers will be able to relate the auditory property of a product to the overall product experience. In addition, this paper presents two methods for the perceptual evaluation of product sounds.

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