It is commonly known that music expresses emotion. In music production, the role of the mix engineer is to take a piece of recorded music and convey the emotions expressed as professionally sounding as possible. This is achieved through the manipulation of the recorded audio by applying signal processing techniques. In this work, we investigated the relationship between music production quality and musically induced and perceived emotions. We performed a listening test where 10 critical listeners and 10 non-critical listeners evaluated 10 songs. There were two mixes of each song, the low quality mix and the high quality mix, where the mixes were rated for mix quality in a previous independent experiment. We measured each participant’s subjective experience, peripheral physiological changes, change in facial expressions and the number of head nods and shakes they made as they listened to each mix. By examining self-report scores, we showed that music production quality has more of an emotional impact on critical listeners. We also showed through facial expression analysis and head nod-shake detection that critical listeners have significantly different emotional responses to non-critical listeners for the high quality mixes and to a lesser extent the low quality mixes. These findings have implications on the importance of a mix engineer's skill to a typical listener. The findings suggest that having a high level of skill in mix engineering only seems to matter in an emotional context to a subset of music listeners that happen to be in a minority, such as those with critical listening skills.


Manager: David Ronan