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MATT Test - The Listening Test


The MATT test signal is the brainchild of acoustical engineer Art Noxon, the man behind Acoustic Sciences Corporation (ASC) and the inventor of the Tube Trap. Following discussions with Art, we decided to re-create the signal by today's standards here at AudioCheck, and even offer some variants. These are all available from our MATT Test page. Today, Art comes back to us with more information about all the things we can do with his test, in the context of a listening test. By listening test, we mean a test that only uses the test signal and our own ears, no other test equipment involved. It is therefore a subjective test, but one derived from a scientifically engineered audio file. We'd like to thank Art Noxon for kindly providing the contents of this page.

Preamble

Using MATT as a Listening Test for Musical Quality instead of a Room Analysis Test.

Can your sound system playback 1/16th notes at 120 bpm? Your speakers can play it but can you hear it? Well, here’s the definitive audio test for the HiFi listening position, the ASC MATT audio playback test. It’s a 7 in 1 listening test. You’ll find you can’t listen to more than one thing at one time, even though in reality varying combinations of these separated listening experiences are going on all the time.

AudioCheck Version (2018)

MATT stands for Musical Articulation Test Tones. It was created to help the listener of an audio system to hear and measure the degrading effects of room acoustics on the audio signal. We provide here the updated AudioCheck version (digital). For all variants, including the original analog version, please refer to our MATT Test page.

7-in-1

1. First, you listen and concentrate on how the sound level varies over the first 5 octaves of sound. This is in effect sounding like the common sine sweep frequency response curve.

2. Play it again but this time concentrate on the clarity or blurring in the articulation of the staccato 1/16th notes as they play up and down the scale. Play it louder or quieter, explore how the musical quality of your play back setup varies with loudness.

3. Play it again and this time concentrate on imaging, the stability and focus of what should be a fixed and dime sized the center stage image throughout the first 5 octaves of sound.

4. Play it again and this time concentrate on the sound of the attack transient of each tone burst, a tick-thump type of sound. It will begin to disappear well before the staccato blurring effect takes place. [see note below].

5. Turn the volume up and this time listen outward, opening up to sounds from the room itself. Sympathetic tones, rattles, drones and tinging sounds that are not coming from the speakers but are coming from the sympathetic vibration of walls, floor or ceiling, cabinet doors, book shelves, windows, panel doors, lamp shades, vases and decorative art.

6. Turn the volume up, stand near a speaker and listen to it working. You’ll find that the box will buzz here and a hum there. Because the tone burst is so short, there is no risk of damaging the speaker.

7. Play it again, a number of times, and each time vary the loudness of the playback. At quieter levels the playback seems just fine but above some loud level the playback seems to get out of control. Back the loudness down a bit. Just below this out-of-control sound level is the maximum listening level for your system, essentially how fast you can go. In very good rooms this might be as high as 95 dBA but most can run in the 85 dBA range while some (lots of glass) rooms run as low as 75 dBA.

A note on attack transients and inter-burst noise floor

The MATT signal is a 1/16th second tone burst followed by a 1/16th second period of silence which ends with the beginning or attack transient of the next tone burst. What you hear isn’t the tone, but something more like a “tick-thump” type of sound which precedes the tone. This is the attack transient of the tone burst. As early reverberation and reflections fill the 1/16th second of quiet time preceding the onset of the next tone burst it raises the noise floor and masks or covers over the lower level leading edge detail in the attack transient. This masking effect reduces the listener’s ability to perceive the shape of the leading edge of the tone burst, the tick-thump begins to disappear and all we hear is the tone burst itself. This loss in the perception of attack transient detail occurs before any sense that the staccato of the notes are beginning to blur together. The information in the attack transient is what makes the sound from a particular instrument sound distinctly like it comes from that instrument. It puts the musicality into the music.

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