These days you can plug a pawn-shop guitar into a computer and emulate the guitars of B.B. King, Carlos Santana, or Jimi Hendrix. So why has no one yet modeled the million-dollar sound of the Stradivarius violin?
Scientists say the violin is one of the hardest instruments to mimic. But MacArthur Award-winning violin maker Joseph Curtin has been working for several years with physicist Gabi Weinreich, along with sound engineer John Bell and industrial designer Alex Sobolev, to create a digital violin. They say its sound will be hard to tell from a recording of a Stradivarius.
In this piece, neuroscientist Daniel Levitin — author of the best-selling "This Is Your Brain on Music," listens to audio samples of the digital violin and an actual instrument by Antonio Stradivari. And he tries to tell from the sound which is which. The results may come as a surprise.