It’s all in the frequencies. Jacob Shamsian/INSIDER The internet has been torn asunder for the past day over whether an audio recording, which…
It’s all in the frequencies.
The internet has been torn asunder for the past day over whether an audio recording, which originated from the user RolandCamry on Reddit, says “laurel” or “yanny.” The debate has already inspired countless memes .
As it turns out, the recording can sound like either depending on which frequency you hear best. At higher frequencies, it sounds more like “yanny.” At lower frequencies, more like “laurel.”
But where did this recording come from? Why would someone make such a thing where different phrases come through different frequencies? And can solving that mystery help settle the debate?
The original audio recording came from the “laurel” page on Vocabulary.com (it’s a type of wreath, by the way). Reddit user RolandCamry, whose real name is Roland Szabo, said a friend sent it to him, hearing “yanny” instead of “laurel,” and then he recorded it from his speakers.
So there are two versions of the audio: The original from Vocabulary.com, and the viral one from Szabo’s speakers. I asked Stephen Parkhurst, INSIDER’s supervising video producer and an audio wizard, to analyze each file.
Using Adobe Audition, an audio editing and analysis software, Parkhurst was able to replicate what others have found. If you look at the viral Szabo recording, the higher frequency sounds more like “yanny” and the lower one like “laurel.”
Here’s the frequency shape of a channel for the viral Reddit recording in Adobe Audition. Depending on which part you isolate, it can sound different.
Then we took a recording of the Vocabulary.com audio file and tried isolating higher and lower frequencies as well. No matter which frequency we listened to, it sounded like “laurel.”
It’s all “laurel” for the original recording.
The distortion, then, comes from some external factor — possibly the quality of Szabo’s speakers. He attributes it to “black magic” from Vocabulary.com.
“They are adding distortion,” he wrote . “I also had friends saying they hear ‘yanny’ from the vocabulary.com audio. Trust me, I don’t know what’s going on either. It is black magic.”
Szabo didn’t immediately respond to INSIDER’s request for comment.
Brad Story, Professor of Speech, Language and Hearing at The University of Arizona, told CNN that, because the recording quality is low, the hardware used to listen to the audio can distort the sound. So Szabo’s speakers could have possibly caused the distinction.
“Part of it involves the recording,” he said. “It’s not a very high quality. And that in itself allows there to be some ambiguity already.”
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