Laurel VS Yanny explanation: A visual look at sounds

Chris Burns - May 16, 2018
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Laurel VS Yanny explanation: A visual look at sounds

Overnight the internet became obsessed with an audio clip called Laurel VS Yanny. Today we’re going to make the distinction simple – with pictures and everything. In a nutshell: both “yanny” and “laurel” are in the original sound clip – and it wasn’t originally meant to be a trick. It’s just the way the audio clip was processed that makes the big difference.

The original clip comes from Reddit where a highschool student posted the sound clip in a forum where mysteries are solved. They call it BlackMagicF***ery because the forum is dedicated to experiencing the unexplained.

The sound clip’s ORIGIN is over at Vocabulary dot com on a page for the word “Laurel”. The “yanny” bit comes from the recording of that sound clip through a computer’s speakers and onto a 3rd-party device. It was then uploaded again to the internet – at which point the sound’s been distorted several times over.

Thanks to audio dude Dylan Bennett, we’ve got the following video. This video shows the sound file in all its glorious bit-ness. Here you’ll also see sound bits erased and replayed.

Next we’ve got a set of audio clips from Twitter user Steve Pomeroy with pitch-shift action in play. Experience the changes – down 30%, down 20%, up 20%, up 30%, up 40%. At which point does it change for you?

The L and the Y match, the aur and the ann match, and the EL and the EE match at the end. It just depends on what part of the sounds you’re focusing on – and what parts you’re literally able or not able to hear. There is no one right answer.

There is no trick, no nonsense having to do with sounds planted in on other sounds. It’s really only about your perception of the sounds that are actually being made. If you’ve got a lot of hearing loss because you used to blast your ears with low-quality headphones and your Walkman as a child – or went to too many METAL concerts – you probably hear Laurel first.

Have a peek at the paper “Acceleration of Age-Related Hearing Loss by Early Noise Exposure: Evidence of a Misspent Youth” as published in JNeurosci to learn more about hearing loss in adults. Therein lies the truth about the lack of high-pitched perception. That paper was authored by Sharon G. Kujawa and M. Charles Liberman and can be found in the February 15th, 2006 edition of Journal of Neuroscience, with DIO: doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4985-05.2006 in full effect.


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