An opera singer is the surprising source of the Yanny or Laurel recording

Mind blown.

Sean Hollister Senior Editor / Reviews
When his parents denied him a Super NES, he got mad. When they traded a prize Sega Genesis for a 2400 baud modem, he got even. Years of Internet shareware, eBay'd possessions and video game testing jobs after that, he joined Engadget. He helped found The Verge, and later served as Gizmodo's reviews editor. When he's not madly testing laptops, apps, virtual reality experiences, and whatever new gadget will supposedly change the world, he likes to kick back with some games, a good Nerf blaster, and a bottle of Tejava.
Sean Hollister
2 min read

Regardless of whether you hear "Yanny" or "Laurel" in that crazy audio sample that's blowing up the internet right now, you're probably curious where that robotic voice came from, and why it's saying "Laurel" at all. 

Watch this: Yanny or Laurel? Both are right!

We now have the answer, according to Wired (paywall), and it's a pretty astounding one.

It's not a robot. 

It's an opera singer. 

A member of the original Broadway cast of Cats. 

And he allegedly recorded the audio you're hearing -- the word "Laurel" -- for this specific page at Vocabulary.com.


If you go to the site, and click that little volume icon to the right of the word, you'll hear something very familiar.

Screenshot by Sean Hollister/CNET

"We hired a bunch of opera singers to record 200,000 words, basically," Vocabulary.com co-founder Marc Tinkler told Wired.

"We set [the singers] up with laptops with really great microphones in a DIY sound booth. They would just sit there and a word would appear on the screen and they would say it. They did this thousands of times," he added.

In other words, he disputes one of the four current scientific explanations for why you'd hear "Yanny" instead. Yes, there are at least four

Jay Aubrey Jones, the 64-year-old man who's the voice behind "Yanny"/"Laurel," told Time that he found out about the viral recording on Wednesday and is surprised it's gotten so much attention.

"I thought, well, it couldn't be that huge," he told the publication. "Then I heard the recording again online and I realized what a brouhaha this whole thing was -- and it just amused me to no end." (For the record, he hears "Laurel," though he also hears a trace of "Yanny.")

But how did this Vocabulary.com audio go viral? Wired traces that back to a Georgia high school freshman, Katie Hetzel, who was looking up the word "Laurel" for her world literature class, and Fernando Castro, a senior at the same school who saw her Instagram story and polled his fellow classmates -- much like you might be doing with your friends and family now. 

Then it made its way to Reddit, and the rest is history.

So there's no question left: It's "Laurel." That's undisputable. You can totally go win that argument now.

First published May 16, 12:17 p.m. PT.
Update, May 17 at 2:59 p.m.: Adds quote from Jay Aubrey Jones.