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Pin-drop test pops Greek amphitheater’s acoustic claims

Analysis reveals that guidebooks overhype the site’s ability to carry sounds

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3:45pm, July 6, 2017
Greek amphitheater in Epidaurus

NOW HEAR THIS  This ancient Greek amphitheater in Epidaurus is renowned for its acoustics, but good luck hearing whispers if you’re sitting in the back row.

BOSTON — Guidebook claims about the superior acoustics of the ancient Greek amphitheater of Epidaurus are a tad melodramatic. An actor’s voice can be heard in the back row, but whispers and other quiet noises cannot, acoustician Remy Wenmaekers reported June 28 at a meeting of the Acoustical Society of America.

The acoustics of the 14,000-seat theater, which dates to the fourth century B.C., are often touted as carrying faint sounds with extraordinary clarity. Wenmaekers and colleagues at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands positioned microphones at 264 spots throughout the theater and recorded a slow whooping sound projected from the stage that went from low to high frequency with time like a fire truck siren. The team also recorded sounds made by a voice simulator that mimics the frequency spectrum of a male speaker. These tests provided acoustic parameters

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