Do you hear Yanny or Laurel? Debate takes over Internet

Audio clip causes stir among listeners

By Daniel Dahm - Digital Manager

ORLANDO, Fla. - Do you hear what I hear?  Nope.

Much like the blue or gold dress debate that owned the Internet a few years ago, there's a new topic taking the world by storm: "Yanny" or "Laurel"?

The dilemma stems from a computer-generated audio clip, with some hearing the word "Laurel" in a deep male voice and others hearing "Yanny" in a higher-pitch.

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The topic first surfaced on Reddit and was later posted on Twitter.

Audio expert sounds off

There's a simple explanation for why people perceive one thing so differently -- and science can explain it.

"Part of it involves the recording," said Brad Story, Professor of Speech, Language and Hearing at The University of Arizona. "It's not a very high quality. And that in itself allows there to be some ambiguity already."

Then, he said, you have to take into account the different ways people are listening to this -- through mobile phones, headphones, tablets, etc.

That aside, Story ran an acoustic analysis on the viral recording of the computerized voice. He also recorded himself saying "Yanny" and "Laurel," for comparison.

"When I analyzed the recording of Laurel, that third resonance is very high for the L. It drops for the R and then it rises again for the L," he said. "The interesting thing about the word Yanny is that the second frequency that our vocal track produces follows almost the same path, in terms of what it looks like spectrographically, as Laurel."

OK, so what does that all mean?

"If you have a low quality of recording, it's not surprising some people would confuse the second and third resonances flipped around, and hear Yanny instead of Laurel."

Story also said that, if you change the pitch of the original recording, you can hear both words.

"Most likely the original recording was 'Laurel,'" he said.

If you heard "Laurel," you are the winner and have earned bragging rights for this round of internet debate.

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For the record, the musician Yanni says he's certain which name it is.

Let us know what you hear by voting below and commenting at the bottom of this story.

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