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Student conducting sound test

Sound Lab

Improving the quality of the sound environment
We research sound in the built environment and how sound and acoustics affect people, to improve environmental sound and acoustics, audio systems and sound design, and the auditory experience for building occupants.

Sound Lab brings together researchers in architecture, design and planning who work in sound. This comprises scientific work in acoustics and audio, interactive sound design, and sound production. In acoustics, the main areas of focus are architectural and psychological acoustics. In scientific audio, Sound Lab specialises in spatial audio, audio measurement techniques and applications of audio in acoustics. Interactive sound design includes the design of interactive systems (e.g., algorithmic systems) to support user experience. Sound production supports research in urban geography and other areas of the School. The work of Sound Lab is enabled by substantial facilities and equipment, including an acoustics laboratory and sound recording studio.

Lab Director: Associate Professor Densil Cabrera

Our researchers

Our Projects

Investigating physical and psychological aspects of open-plan office acoustics. This project was initially funded by the Australian Research Council (DP160103978 - de Dear, Cabrera, Kim, Yadav) in collaboration with the Indoor Environmental Quality Lab (IEQlab).

Selected outputs:

Yadav, M., Cabrera, D., Love, J., Kim, J., Holmes, J., Caldwell, H., de Dear, R. (2019). Reliability and repeatability of ISO 3382-3 metrics based on repeated acoustic measurements in open-plan offices. Applied Acoustics, 150, 138-146.

Yadav, M., Cabrera, D. (2019). Two simultaneous talkers distract more than one in simulated multi-talker environments, regardless of overall sound levels typical of open-plan offices. Applied Acoustics, 148, 46-54.

Cabrera, D., Yadav, M., Protheroe, D. (2018). Critical methodological assessment of the distraction distance used for evaluating room acoustic quality of open-plan offices. Applied Acoustics, 140, 132-142.

The emphasis of this research is on how spatial aspects of the sound field on auditorium stages affects acoustic quality for musicians. Initially funded by the Australian Research Council (DP120100484 – Cabrera, Martens, Jeong), and involving collaboration with Hanyang University (Korea) and the University of Tasmania.

Selected output:

Panton, L., Yadav, M., Cabrera, D., Holloway, D. (2019). Chamber musicians' acoustic impressions of auditorium stages: Relation to spatial distribution of early reflections and other parameters. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 145(6), 3715-3726.

This project is concerned with an unusual type of acoustic surface treatment (retroreflection), and how it might be usefully applied in the built environment. Funding support from the Australian Acoustical Society (Education Grant 2019).

Selected outputs:

Cabrera, D., Yadav, M., Holmes, J., Fong, O., Caldwell, H. (2020). Incidental acoustic retroreflection from building façades: Three instances in Berkeley, Sydney and Hong Kong. Building and Environment, 172:106733.

Cabrera, D., Holmes, J., Caldwell, H., Yadav, M., Gao, K. (2018). An unusual instance of acoustic retroreflection in architecture - Ports 1961 Shanghai flagship store facade. Applied Acoustics, 138, 133-146.

VIG uses a sub-millimetre vacuum layer between two panes of glass to provide very high thermal insulation. This project investigates sound insulation of VIG, and is a collaboration with Cenk Kocer (School of Physics).

Selected outputs:

Cabrera, D., Ashmore, N., Kocer, C. (2016). Airborne sound insulation of vacuum insulating glazing: General observations from measurements. Building Acoustics, 23(3-4), 193-206.

Projects in Sound Interaction Design

Researchers: Liam Bray, Kazjon Grace

A novel interactive system for music generation in Ableton Live using an Artificial Neural Network trained on techno music.

Researchers: Liam Bray, Ben Carey (Con of Music), Diana Chester (FASS)

Using data from a nano research initiative to develop a suite of creative arts projects using virtual reality and spatialised audio.

An ongoing suite of studies investigating the expert use of algorithmic composition techniques and the strategies practitioners employ to navigate technical thresholds particularly when using modular synthesisers. Associated Publications so far: 

Bray, L., Carey, B., & Bown, O. (2019). Modular Structure: Observations on managing compositional algorithms. In Proceedings of the 7th International Workshop on Musical Metacreation (MuMe), June.

Our approach to research

Our research is focused on the ways in which sound and acoustics affect people. Psychoacoustics – the field of research relating characteristics of audio (or auditory) signals to human sensation, perception and cognition – plays an important role in many of our research projects. Psychoacoustics is often used to assess sound quality, including the quality of sound environments, room acoustics, audio systems and auditory displays. We develop and use computational models to predict the human experience of sounds and acoustic systems. This allows us to improve the practice of sound design in the built environment. 

Sound field simulation, or auralization, is an important tool for research in psychoacoustics, and methods for simulation are part of our research. Our research uses:

  • binaural systems (eg headphone and loudspeakers with cross-talk cancellation)
  • oral-binaural systems
  • multi-loudspeaker installations.

We can create highly realistic simulations of acoustic environments and we have developed methods of measuring acoustic environments that are suited to particular simulation approaches. Our research mainly uses scientific or empirical methods, although some research also involves artists or designers. 

We have developed a variety of measurement and analysis methods. Some are focused on psychoacoustic algorithms, and we have published software (PsySound and AARAE) to implement our methods. In-room acoustics, spatial measurement techniques have developed quickly over the past decade. Our work uses both loudspeaker arrays and microphone arrays. 

Research in architectural acoustics is supported by physical and computational modelling. The school’s Design Modelling and Fabrication Lab provides substantial capabilities for physical modelling, for example, using robot fabrication, CNC milling, laser cutting, 3D printing, or manual fabrication. Computational modelling includes ray-based and wave-based acoustic modelling, including boundary element method and finite difference time domain method using high-performance computing facilities.

Tools & Link

AARAE is a Matlab-hosted set of tools for audio and acoustics measurement and analysis.

Cabrera D, Jimenez D, Martens WL. Audio and Acoustical Response Analysis Environment (AARAE): a tool to support education and research in acoustics. In INTER-NOISE and NOISE-CON congress and conference proceedings 2014 Oct 14 (Vol. 249, No. 6, pp. 1667-1676). Institute of Noise Control Engineering.

City Road Podcast

Vivid 2018


We welcome opportunities to collaborate with community groups, businesses, government and other external parties in formally funded research or through consultancy.

Please email Associate Professor Densil Cabrera.