Humans accumulate immense information, including recognizing familiar songs or phrases, from highest-pitched ranges of voices, a new study has claimed.
Although current cell phone technology only transmits frequencies between 300 and 3400 hertz, musicians have known for decades that an unbalanced or cut-off treble range can ruin the quality of vocals at concerts.
Curious about whether the treble range was indeed more important for singing than for speech, Brian Monson teamed up with researchers from the University of Arizona to test what sort of information lies within the treble range for both spoken and sung words.
They recorded both male and female voices singing and speaking the words to the U.S. national anthem, and then removed all the frequencies below 5700 hertz.
"People are very sensitive to a change in the treble range," Monson said.
"They can tell immediately that something is different, he said.
When the volunteers listened to the high-frequency-only recordings, they were able to identify the sex of the voice, the familiar passages from the "Star-Spangled Banner," and whether the voice was singing or speaking the words.
"This was definitely an unexpected result," he said.
The findings of this study may also help explain why it can be especially difficult to understand cell phone conversations in trains or at cocktail parties.
In loud environments, the low-frequency range can become cluttered with noise and the higher frequency signals that might serve as a back-up in face-to-face communication are cut off by the cell phone transmission.