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Similarity and pleasantness assessments of water-fountain sounds recorded in urban public spaces
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Water fountains are potential tools for soundscape improvement, but little is known about their perceptual properties. To explore this, sounds were recorded from 32 fountains installed in urban parks. The sounds were recorded with a sound-fieldmicrophone and were reproduced using an ambisonic loudspeaker setup. Fifty-seven listeners assessed the sounds with regard to similarity and pleasantness. Multidimensional scaling of similarity data revealed distinct groups of soft variable and loud steady-state sounds. Acoustically, the soft variable sounds were characterized by low overall levels and high temporal variability, whereas the opposite pattern characterized the loud steady-state sounds. The perceived pleasantness of the sounds was negatively related to their overall level and positively related to their temporal variability, whereas spectral centroid was weakly correlated to pleasantness. However, the results of an additional experiment, using the same sounds set equal in overall level, found a negative relationship between pleasantness and spectral centroid, suggesting that spectral factors may influence pleasantness scores in experiments where overall level does not dominate pleasantness assessments. The equal-level experiment also showed that several loud steady-state sounds remained unpleasant, suggesting an inherently unpleasant sound character. From a soundscape design perspective, it may be advisable to avoid fountains generating such sounds.
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