Bernhard Laback

  • Proposal for a Master studentship (f/m)


    Title: Measurements of auditory time-frequency masking kernels for various masker frequencies and levels.


    Duration: 6 months, working time = 20 hours/week.


    Starting date: ASAP.


    Closing date for applications: until the position is filled.



    Background:Over the last decades, many psychoacoustical studies investigated auditory masking, an important property of auditory perception. Masking refers to the degradation of the detection of a sound (referred to as the “target”) in presence of another sound (the “masker”). In the literature, masking has been extensively investigated with simultaneous (spectral masking) and non-simultaneous (temporal masking) presentation of masker and target. The results were used to develop models of either spectral or temporal masking. Attempts were made to simply combine these models to account for time-frequency masking in perceptual audio codecs like mp3. However, a recent study on time-frequency masking conducted at our lab [1] revealed the inaccuracy of such simple models. The development of an efficient model of time-frequency masking for short-duration and narrow-band signals still remains a challenge. For instance, such a model is crucial for the prediction of masking in time-frequency representations of sounds and is expected to improve current perceptual audio codecs.


    In the previous study [1], the time-frequency masking kernel for a 10-ms Gaussian-shaped sinusoid was measured at a frequency of 4 kHz and a sensation level of 60 dB. A Gaussian envelope is used because it allows for maximum compactness in the time-frequency domain. While these data constitute a crucial basis for the development of an efficient model of time-frequency masking, additional psychoacoustical data are required, particularly the time-frequency masking kernels for different Gaussian masker frequencies and sensation levels.


    The proposed work is part of the ongoing research project POTION: “Perceptual Optimization of audio representaTIONs and coding”, jointly funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and the French National Research Agency (ANR).


    Aims:The first goal of the work is to conduct psychoacoustical experiments to measure the time-frequency masking kernels for three masker sensation levels (20, 40, and 60 dB) and three masker frequencies (0.75, 4.0, and 8.0 kHz) following the methods in [1]. This part will consist in experimental design, programming, and data collection. The second goal of the work is to interpret the data and compare them to literature data for maskers with various spectro-temporal shapes. This step shall involve the use of state-of-the-art models of the auditory periphery to predict the data.


    Applications:The data will be used to develop a new model of time-frequency masking that should later be implemented and tested in a perceptual audio codec.


    Required skills: Qualification for a Master thesis, knowledge in psychophysical methods andpsychoacoustics, experience with auditory models would be a plus, Matlab programming, good communication, proper spoken/written English.


    Gross salary: 948.80€/month.


    Supervisors: Thibaud Necciari and Bernhard Laback
    Emails: Diese E-Mail-Adresse ist vor Spambots geschützt! Zur Anzeige muss JavaScript eingeschaltet sein! / Diese E-Mail-Adresse ist vor Spambots geschützt! Zur Anzeige muss JavaScript eingeschaltet sein!
    Tel: +43 1 51581-2538



    [1] T. Necciari. Auditory time-frequency masking: Psychoacoustical measures and application to the analysis-synthesis of sound signals. PhD thesis, Aix-Marseille I University, France, October 2010. Available online.

  • AABBA is an intellectual open group of scientists collaborating on development and applications of models of human spatial hearing

    AABBA's goal is to promote exploration and development of binaural and spatial models and their applications.

    AABBA members are academic scientists willing to participate in our activities. We meet annually for an open discussion and progress presentation, especially encouraging to bring in students and young scientists associated with members’ projects to our meetings. Our activities consolidate in joint publications and special sessions at international conferences. As a relevant tangible outcome, we provide validated (source) codes for published models of binaural and spatial hearing to our collection of auditory models, known as the auditory modeling toolbox (AMT).


    • Executive board: Piotr Majdak, Armin Kohlrausch, Ville Pulkki

    • Members:

      • Aachen: Janina Fels, ITA, RWTH Aachen
      • Bochum: Dorothea Kolossa & Jens Blauert, Ruhr-Universität Bochum
      • Cardiff: John Culling, School of Psychology, Cardiff University
      • Copenhagen: Torsten Dau & Tobias May, DTU, Lyngby
      • Dresden: Ercan Altinsoy, TU Dresden
      • Ghent: Sarah Verhulst, Ghent University
      • Guangzhou: Bosun Xie, South China University of Technology, Guangzhou
      • Helsinki: Ville Pulkki & Nelli Salminen, Aalto University
      • Ilmenau: Alexander Raake, TU Ilmenau
      • Kosice: Norbert Kopčo, Safarik University, Košice
      • Lyon: Mathieu Lavandier, Université de Lyon
      • Munich I: Werner Hemmert, TUM München
      • Munich II: Bernhard Seeber, TUM München 
      • Oldenburg: Bernd Meyer, Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg
      • Oldenburg-Eindhoven: Steven van de Par & Armin Kohlrausch, Universität Oldenburg
      • Patras: John Mourjopoulos, University of Patras
      • Rostock: Sascha Spors, Universität Rostock
      • Sheffield: Guy Brown, The University of Sheffield
      • Tabriz: Masoud Geravanchizadeh, University of Tabriz
      • Toulouse: Patrick Danès, Université de Toulouse
      • Troy: Jonas Braasch, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy
      • Vienna: Bernhard Laback & Robert Baumgartner, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Wien
      • The AMT (Umbrella Project): Piotr Majdak
    AABBA Group 2019
    AABBA group as of the 11th meeting 2019 in Vienna.


    Annual meetings are held at the beginning of each year:

    • 12th meeting: 16-17 January 2020, Vienna
    • 11th meeting: 19-20 February 2019, Vienna. Schedule.
    • 10th meeting: 30-31 January 2018, Vienna. Schedule. Group photo
    • 9th meeting: 27-28 February 2017, Vienna. Schedule.
    • 8th meeting: 21-22 January 2016, Vienna. Schedule.
    • 7th meeting: 22-23 February 2015, Berlin.
    • 6th meeting: 17-18 February 2014, Berlin.
    • 5th meeting: 24-25 January 2013, Berlin.
    • 4th meeting: 19-20 January 2012, Berlin.
    • 3rd meeting: 13-14 January 2011, Berlin.
    • 2nd meeting: 29-30 September 2009, Bochum.
    • 1st meeting: 23-26 March 2009, Rotterdam.


    • Upcoming: Special Session "Binaural models: development and applications" at the ICA 2019, Aachen.
    • Special Session "Models and reproducible research" at the Acoustics'17 (EAA/ASA) 2017, Boston.
    • Structured Session "Applied Binaural Signal Processing" at the Forum Acusticum 2014, Krakòw.
    • Structured Session "The Technology of Binaural Listening & Understanding" at the ICA 2016, Buenos Aires.

    Contact person: Piotr Majdak

  • BiPhase:  Binaural Hearing and the Cochlear Phase Response

    Project Description

    While it is often assumed that our auditory system is phase-deaf, there is a body of literature showing that listeners are very sensitive to phase differences between spectral components of a sound. Particularly, for spectral components falling into the same perceptual filter, the so-called auditory filter, a change in relative phase across components causes a change in the temporal pattern at the output of the filter. The phase response of the auditory filter is thus important for any auditory tasks that rely on within-channel temporal envelope information, most notably temporal pitch or interaural time differences.

    Within-channel phase sensitivity has been used to derive a psychophysical measure of the phase response of auditory filters (Kohlrausch and Sanders, 1995). The basic idea of the widely used masking paradigm is that a harmonic complex whose phase curvature roughly mirrors the phase response of the auditory filter spectrally centered on the complex causes a maximally modulated (peaked) internal representation and, thus, elicits minimal masking of a pure tone target at the same center frequency. Therefore, systematic variation of the phase curvature of the harmonic complex (the masker) allows to estimate the auditory filter’s phase response: the masker phase curvature causing minimal masking reflects the mirrored phase response of the auditory filter.

    Besides the obvious importance of detecting the target in the temporal dips of the masker, particularly of the target is short compared to the modulation period of the masker (Kohlrausch and Sanders, 1995), there are several indications that fast compression in the cochlea is important to obtain the masker-phase effect (e.g., Carlyon and Datta, 1997; Oxenham and Dau, 2004). One indication is that listeners with sensorineural hearing impairment (HI), characterized by reduced or absent cochlear compression due to loss of outer hair cells, show only a very weak masker-phase effect, making it difficult to estimate the cochlear phase response.

    In the BiPhase project we propose a new paradigm for measuring the cochlear phase response that does not rely on cochlear compression and thus should be applicable in HI listeners. It relies on the idea that the amount of modulation (peakedness) in the internal representation of a harmonic complex, as given by its phase curvature, determines the listener’s sensitivity to envelope interaural time difference (ITD) imposed on the stimulus. Assuming that listener’s sensitivity to envelope ITD does not rely on compression, systematic variation of the stimulus phase curvature should allow to estimate the cochlear phase response both in normal-hearing (NH) and HI listeners. The main goals of BiPhase are the following:

    • Aim 1: Assessment of the importance of cochlear compression for the masker-phase effect at different masker levels. Masking experiments are performed with NH listeners using Schroeder-phase harmonic complexes with and without a precursor stimulus, intended to reduce cochlear compression by activation of the efferent system controlling outer-hair cell activity. In addition, a quantitative model approach is used to estimate the contribution of compression from outer hair cell activity and other factors to the masker-phase effect. The results are described in Tabuchi, Laback, Necciari, and Majdak (2016). A follow-up study on the dependency of the masker-phase effect on masker and target duration, the target’s position within the masker, the masker level, and the masker bandwidth and conclusions on the role of compression of underlying mechanisms in simultaneous and forward masking is underway.
    • Aim 2: Development and evaluation of an envelope ITD-based paradigm to estimate the cochlear phase response. The experimental results on NH listeners, complemented with a modeling approach and predictions, are described in Tabuchi and Laback (2017). This paper also provides model predictions for HI listeners.
      Besides the consistency of the overall pattern of ITD thresholds across phase curvatures with data on the masking paradigm and predictions of the envelope ITD model, an unexpected peak in the ITD thresholds was found for a negative phase curvature which was not predicted by the ITD model and is not found in masking data. Furthermore, the pattern of results for individual listeners appeared to reveal more variability than the masking paradigm. Data were also collected with an alternative method, relying on the extent of laterality of a target with supra-threshold ITD, as measured with an interaural-level-difference-based pointing stimulus. These data showed no nonmonotonic behavior at negative phase curvatures. Rather, they showed good correspondence with the ITD model prediction and more consistent results across individuals compared to the ITD threshold-based method (Zenke, Laback, and Tabuchi, 2016).
    • Aim 3: Development of a ITD-based method to account for potentially non-uniform curvatures of the phase response in HI listeners. Using two independent iterative approaches, NH listeners adjusted the phase of individual harmonics of an ITD-carrying complex so that it elicited maximum extent of laterality. Although the pattern of adjusted phases very roughly resembled the expected pattern, there was a large amount of uncertainty (Zenke, 2014), preventing the method from further use. Modified versions of the method will be considered in a future study.


    This project is funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF, Project # P24183-N24, awarded to Bernhard Laback). It run from 2013 to 2017


    Peer-reviewed papers

    • Tabuchi, H. and Laback, B. (2017): Psychophysical and modeling approaches towards determining the cochlear phase response based on interaural time differences, The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 141, 4314–4331.
    • Tabuchi, H., Laback, B., Necciari, T., and Majdak, P (2016). The role of compression in the simultaneous masker phase effect, The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 140, 2680-2694.

    Conference talks

    • Tabuchi, H., Laback, B., Majdak, P., and Necciari, T. (2014). The role of precursor in tone detection with Schroeder-phase complex maskers. Poster presented at 37th Association for Research in Otolaryngology (ARO) Meeting, San Diego, California.
    • Tabuchi, H., Laback, B., Majdak, P., and Necciari, T. (2014). The perceptual consequences of a precursor on tone detection with Schroeder-phase harmonic maskers. Invited talk at Alps Adria Acoustics Association, Graz, Austria.
    • Tabuchi, H., Laback, B., Majdak, P., Necciari, T., and Zenke,K. (2015). Measuring the auditory phase response based on interaural time differences. Talk at 169th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
    • Zenke, K., Laback, B., and Tabuchi, H. (2016). Towards an Efficient Method to Derive the Phase Response in Hearing-Impaired Listeners. Talk at 37th Association for Research in Otolaryngology (ARO) Meeting, San Diego, California.
    • Tabuchi, H., Laback, B., Majdak, P., Necciari, T., and Zenke, K. (2016). Modeling the cochlear phase response estimated in a binaural task. Talk at 39th Association for Research in Otolaryngology (ARO) Meeting, San Diego, California.
    • Laback, B., and Tabuchi, H. (2017). Psychophysical and modeling approaches towards determining the cochlear phase response based on interaural time differences. Invited Talk at AABBA Meeting, Vienna, Austria.
    • Laback, B., and Tabuchi, H. (2017). Psychophysical and Modeling Approaches towards determining the Cochlear Phase Response based on Interaural Time Differences. Invited Talk at 3rd Workshop “Cognitive neuroscience of auditory and cross-modal perception, Kosice, Slovakia.


    • Carlyon, R. P., and Datta, A. J. (1997). "Excitation produced by Schroeder-phase complexes: evidence for fast-acting compression in the auditory system," J Acoust Soc Am 101, 3636-3647.
    • Kohlrausch, A., and Sander, A. (1995). "Phase effects in masking related to dispersion in the inner ear. II. Masking period patterns of short targets," J Acoust Soc Am 97, 1817-1829.
    • Oxenham, A. J., and Dau, T. (2004). "Masker phase effects in normal-hearing and hearing-impaired listeners: evidence for peripheral compression at low signal frequencies," J Acoust Soc Am 116, 2248-2257.

    See also


  • ITD MultEl: Binaural-Timing Sensitivity in Multi-Electrode Stimulation

    Binaural hearing is extremely important in everyday life, most notably for sound localization and for understanding speech embedded in competing sound sources (e.g., other speech sources). While bilateral implantation has been shown to provide cochlear implant (CIs) listeners with some basic left/right localization ability, the performance with current CI systems is clearly reduced compared to normal hearing. Moreover, the binaural advantage in speech understanding in noise has been shown to be mediated mainly by the better-ear effect, while there is only very little binaural unmasking.

    There exists now a body of literature on binaural sensitivity of CI listeners stimulated at a single interaural electrode pair. However, the CI listener’s sensitivity to binaural cues under more realistic conditions, i.e., with stimulation at multiple electrodes, has not been systematically addressed in depth so far.

    This project attempts to fill this gap. In particular, given the high perceptual importance of ITDs, this project focuses on the systematic investigation of the sensitivity to ITD under various conditions of multi-electrode stimulation, including interference from neighboring channels, integration of ITD information across channels, and the perceptually tolerable room for degradations of binaural timing information.

    Involved people:

    Start: January 2013

    Duration: 3 years

    Funding: MED-EL

  • Bilateral Cochlear Implants: Physiology and Psychophysics

    Current cochlear implants (CIs) are very successful in restoring speech understanding in individuals with profound or complete hearing loss by electrically stimulating the auditory nerve. However, the ability of CI users to localize sound sources and to understand speech in complex listening situations, e.g. with interfering speakers, is dramatically reduced as compared to normal (acoustically) hearing listeners. From acoustic hearing studies it is known that interaural time difference (ITD) cues are essential for sound localization and speech understanding in noise. Users of current bilateral CI systems are, however, rather limited in their ability to perceive salient ITDs cues. One particular problem is that their ITD sensitivity is especially low when stimulating at relatively high pulses rates which are required for proper encoding of speech signals.  

    In this project we combine psychophysical studies in human bilaterally implanted listeners and physiological studies in bilaterally implanted animals to find ways in order to improve ITD sensitivity in electric hearing. We build on the previous finding that ITD sensitivity can be enhanced by introducing temporal jitter (Laback and Majdak, 2008) or short inter-pulse intervals (Hancock et al., 2012) in high-rate pulse sequences. Physiological experiments, performed at the Eaton-Peabody Laboratories Neural Coding Group (Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Harvard Medical School, PI: Bertrand Delgutte), are combined with matched psychoacoustic experiments, performed at the EAP group of ARI (PI: Bernhard Laback). The main project milestones are the following:

    ·        Aim 1: Effects of auditory deprivation and electric stimulation through CI on neural ITD sensitivity. In physiological experiments it is studied if chronic CI stimulation can reverse the effect of neonatal deafness on neural ITD sensitivity.

    ·        Aim 2: Improving the delivery of ITD information with high-rate strategies for CI processors.

      A. Improving ITD sensitivity at high pulse rates by introducing short inter-pulse intervals

      B. Using short inter-pulse intervals to enhance ITD sensitivity with “pseudo-syllable” stimuli.

    Co-operation partners:

    ·        External: Eaton-Peabody Laboratories Neural Coding Group des Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary an der Harvard Medical School (PI: Bertrand Delgutte)

    ·        Internal: Mathematik und Signalverarbeitung in der Akustik


    ·     This project is funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH).

    ·     It is planned to run from 2014 to 2019.

    Press information:

    ·     Article in DER STANDARD:

    ·     Article in DIE PRESSE:

    ·     OEAW website:


    See Also

    ITD MultEl