Thibaud Necciari

  • 04.02.2015 Master Studentship offer at the ARI

    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: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
    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.

  • Amadee: Frame Theory for Sound Processing and Acoustic Holophon

    S&T cooperation project 'Amadee' Austria-France 2013-14, "Frame Theory for Sound Processing and Acoustic Holophony", FR 16/2013

    Project Partner: The Institut de recherche et coordination acoustique/musique (IRCAM)

  • Binaural Hearing and the Cochlear Phase Response (BiPhase)

    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


  • FLAME: Frames and Linear Operators for Acoustical Modeling and Parameter Estimation.

    START project of P. Balazs.



    This international, multi-disciplinary and team-oriented project will expand the group Mathematics and Acoustical Signal Processing at the Acoustic Research Institute in cooperation with NuHAG Vienna (Hans G. Feichtinger, M. Dörfler, K. Gröchenig), Institute of TelecommunicationVienna (Franz Hlawatsch), LATP Marseille (Bruno Torrésani) LMA (Richard Kronland-Martinet). CAHR (Torsten Dau, Peter Soendergaard), the FYMA Louvain-la-Neuve (Jean-Pierre Antoine), AG Numerics (Stephan Dahlke), School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (Damian Marelli) as well as the BKA Wiesbaden (Timo Becker).

    Within the institute the groups Audiological Acoustics and Psychoacoutics, Computational Acoustics, Acoustic Phonetics and Software Development are involved in the project.

    This project is funded by the FWF as a START price . It is planned to run from May 2012 to April 2018.






    General description:

    We live in the age of information where the analysis, classification, and transmission of information is f essential importance. Signal processing tools and algorithms form the backbone of important technologieslike MP3, digital television, mobile phones and wireless networking. Many signal processing algorithms have been adapted for applications in audio and acoustics, also taking into account theproperties of the human auditory system.

    The mathematical concept of frames describes a theoretical background for signal processing. Frames are generalizations of orthonormal bases that give more freedom for the analysis and modificationof information - however, this concept is still not firmly rooted in applied research. The link between the mathematical frame theory, the signal processing algorithms, their implementations andfinally acoustical applications is a very promising, synergetic combination of research in different fields.

    Therefore the main goal of this multidisciplinary project is to

    -> Establish Frame Theory as Theoretical Backbone of Acoustical Modeling

    in particular in psychoacoustics, phonetic and computational acoustics as well as audio engineering.



    For this auspicious connection of disciplines, FLAME will produce substantial impact on both the heory and applied research.

    The theory-based part of FLAME consists of the following topics:

    • T1 Frame Analysis and Reconstruction Beyond Classical Approaches
    • T2 Frame Multipliers, Extended
    • T3 Novel Frame Representation of Operators Motivated by Computational Acoustics

    The application-oriented part of FLAME consists of:

    • A1 Advanced Frame Methods for Perceptual Sparsity in the Time-Frequency Plane
    • A2 Advanced Frame Methods for the Analysis and Classification of Speech
    • A3 Advanced Frame Methods for Signal Enhancement and System Estimation

    Press information:




  • Frames for Psychoacoustics

    This page provides resources for the research article:

    "Frame Theory for Signal Processing in Psychoacoustics"

    by Peter Balazs, Nicki Holighaus, Thibaud Necciari, and Diana Stoeva

    to appear in the book "Excursions in Harmonic Analysis" published by Springer.

    Abstract: This review chapter aims to strengthen the link between frame theory and signal processing tasks in psychoacoustics. On the one side, the basic concepts of frame theory are presented and some proofs are provided to explain those concepts in some detail. The goal is to reveal to hearing scientists how this mathematical theory could be relevant for their research. In particular, we focus on frame theory in a filter bank approach, which is probably the most relevant view-point for scientists in audio signal processing. On the other side, basic psychoacoustic concepts are presented to stimulate mathematicians to apply their knowledge in this field.

    The present ZIP archive features Matlab/Octave scripts that will allow to reproduce the results presented in Figures 7, 10, and 11 of the article.

    IMPORTANT NOTE: The Matlab/Octave toolbox Large Time-Frequency Analysis (LTFAT, version 1.2.0 and above) must be installed to run the codes. This toolbox is freely available at Sourceforge.

    If you encounter any issue with the files, please do not hesitate to contact the authors.


  • POTION: Perceptual Optimization of Audio Time-Frequency Representations and Coding.

    French-Austrian bilateral research project funded by the French National Agency of Research (ANR) and the Austrian Science Fund (FWF, project no. I 1362-N30). The project involves two academic partners, namely the Laboratory of Mechanics and Acoustics (LMA - CNRS UPR 7051, France) and the Acoustics Research Institute. At the ARI, two research groups are involved in the project: the Mathematics and Signal Processing in Acoustics and the Psychoacoustics and Experimental Audiology groups.

    Principal investigators: Thibaud Necciari (ARI), Piotr Majdak (ARI) and Olivier Derrien (LMA).

    Running period: 2014-2017 (project started on March 1, 2014).


    One of the greatest challenges in signal processing is to develop efficient signal representations. An efficient representation extracts relevant information and describes it with a minimal amount of data. In the specific context of sound processing, and especially in audio coding, where the goal is to minimize the size of binary data required for storage or transmission, it is desirable that the representation takes into account human auditory perception and allows reconstruction with a controlled amount of perceived distortion. Over the last decades, many psychoacoustical studies investigated auditory masking, an important property of auditory perception. Masking refers to the degradation of the detection threshold of a sound in presence of another sound. 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 (t-f) masking effects in perceptual audio codecs. We recently conducted psychoacoustical studies on t-f masking. They revealed the inaccuracy of those models which revealed the inaccuracy of such simple models. These new data on t-f masking represent a crucial basis to account for masking effects in t-f representations of sounds. Although t-f representations are standard tools in audio processing, the development of a t-f representation of audio signals that is mathematically-founded, perception-based, perfectly invertible, and possibly with a minimum amount of redundancy, remains a challenge. POTION thus addresses the following questions:

    1. To what extent is it possible to obtain a perception-based (i.e., as close as possible to “what we see is what we hear”), perfectly invertible, and possibly minimally redundant t-f representation of sound signals? Such a representation is essential for modeling complex masking interactions in the t-f domain and is expected to improve our understanding of auditory processing of real-world sounds. Moreover, it is of fundamental interest for many audio applications involving sound analysis-synthesis.
    2. Is it possible to improve current perceptual audio codecs by considering a joint t-f approach? To reduce the size of digital audio files, perceptual audio codecs like MP3 decompose sounds into variable-length time segments, apply a frequency transform, and use masking models to control the sub-quantization of transform coefficients within each segment. Thus, current codecs follow mainly a spectral approach, although temporal masking effects are taken into account in some implementations. By combining an efficient perception-based t-f transform with a joint t-f masking model in an audio codec, we expect to achieve significant performance improvements.

    Working program:

    POTION is structured in three main tasks:

    1. Perception-based t-f representation of audio signals with perfect reconstruction: A linear and perfectly invertible t-f representation will be created by exploiting the recently developed non-stationary Gabor theory as a mathematical background. The transform will be designed so that t-f resolution mimics the t-f analysis properties by the auditory system and possibly no redundancy is introduced to maximize the coding efficiency.
    2. Development and implementation of a t-f masking model: Based on psychoacoustical data on t-f masking collected by the partners in previous projects and on literature data, a new, complex model of t-f masking will be developed and implemented in the computationally efficient representation built in task 1. Additional psychoacoustical data required for the development of the model, involving frequency, level, and duration effects in masking for either single or multiple maskers will be collected. The resulting signal processing algorithm should represent and re-synthesize only the perceptually relevant components of the signal. It will be calibrated and validated by conducting listening tests with synthetic and real-world sounds.
    3. Optimization of perceptual audio codecs: This task represents the main application of POTION. It will consist in combining the new efficient representation built in task 1 with the new t-f masking model built in task 2 for implementation in a perceptual audio codec.

    More information on the project can be found on the POTION web page.


    • Chardon, G., Necciari, Th., Balazs, P. (2014): Perceptual matching pursuit with Gabor dictionaries and time-frequency masking, in: Proceedings of the 39th International Conference on Acoustics, Speech, and Signal Processing (ICASSP 2014). Florence, Italy, 3126-3130. (proceedings) ICASSP 2014: Perceptual matching pursuit results

    Related topics investigated at the ARI: