The sensory unpleasantness of high-frequency sounds of 1 kHz and higher was investigated in psychoacoustic experiments in which young listeners with normal hearing participated. Sensory unpleasantness was defined as a perceptual impression of sounds and was differentiated from annoyance, which implies a subjective relation to the sound source. Listeners evaluated the degree of unpleasantness of high-frequency pure tones and narrow-band noise (NBN) by the magnitude estimation method. Estimates were analyzed in terms of the relationship with sharpness and loudness. Results of analyses revealed that the sensory unpleasantness of pure tones was a different auditory impression from sharpness; the unpleasantness was more level dependent but less frequency dependent than sharpness. Furthermore, the unpleasantness increased at a higher rate than loudness did as the sound pressure level (SPL) became higher. Equal-unpleasantness-level contours, which define the combinations of SPL and frequency of tone having the same degree of unpleasantness, were drawn to display the frequency dependence of unpleasantness more clearly. Unpleasantness of NBN was weaker than that of pure tones, although those sounds were expected to have the same loudness as pure tones. These findings can serve as a basis for evaluating the sound quality of machinery noise that includes strong discrete components at high frequencies.
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