Automatic discrimination between front and back ensemble locations in HRTF-convolved binaural recordings of music

Sławomir Zieliński, Paweł Antoniuk, Hyunkook Lee, Dale Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


One of the greatest challenges in the development of binaural machine audition systems is the disambiguation between front and back audio sources, particularly in complex spatial audio scenes. The goal of this work was to develop a method for discriminating between front and back located ensembles in binaural recordings of music. To this end, 22, 496 binaural excerpts, representing either front or back located ensembles, were synthesized by convolving multi-track music recordings with 74 sets of head-related transfer functions (HRTF). The discrimination method was developed based on the traditional approach, involving hand-engineering of features, as well as using a deep learning technique incorporating the convolutional neural network (CNN). According to the results obtained under HRTF-dependent test conditions, CNN showed a very high discrimination accuracy (99.4%), slightly outperforming the traditional method. However, under the HRTF-independent test scenario, CNN performed worse than the traditional algorithm, highlighting the importance of testing the algorithms under HRTF-independent conditions and indicating that the traditional method might be more generalizable than CNN. A minimum of 20 HRTFs are required to achieve a satisfactory generalization performance for the traditional algorithm and 30 HRTFs for CNN. The minimum duration of audio excerpts required by both the traditional and CNN-based methods was assessed as 3 s. Feature importance analysis, based on a gradient attribution mapping technique, revealed that for both the traditional and the deep learning methods, a frequency band between 5 and 6 kHz is particularly important in terms of the discrimination between front and back ensemble locations. Linear-frequency cepstral coefficients, interaural level differences, and audio bandwidth were identified as the key descriptors facilitating the discrimination process using the traditional approach.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3
Number of pages29
JournalEurasip Journal on Audio, Speech, and Music Processing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2022


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