HARMAN and Ford recently hosted a joint program at our Novi facility for 2 groups of local automotive media. The mission? To showcase the role that HARMAN’s Trained Listeners play in creating the ideal B&O PLAY listening experience inside Ford vehicles.

Starting in our world-class Reference Room, Ford’s North American speaker and amplifier supervisor Joe Kafati, HARMAN’s Senior Manager of Global Benchmarking Jonathan Pierce and Manager of Customer Acoustics Programs Brandon Wheeler teamed up for some intriguing show and tell modules that leveraged the launch of two new Ford SUVs: the new Ford EcoSport and Ford Expedition utility vehicles.


Our media guests learned how our specialized benchmarking and tuning processes – reinforced by feedback from our global team of Trained Listeners - enable HARMAN to create great sound in vehicles of all sizes, and for all occupants.


Key themes included:

  • System Design: Our guests learned how engineers from Ford and HARMAN closely work together during the vehicle development process to determine things like optimal speaker locations, system components, and sound targets for the vehicle.

  • Benchmarking: Pierce shared an overview of the HARMAN benchmarking process, which combines the best of art and science by using subjective measurements together with feedback from actual listeners to create and refine the optimal sound experience for each Ford vehicle. He discussed the innovative techniques and procedures we use to continually improve our assessment and measurement of car audio sound quality. These include using a consistent reference and music tracks, rigorous analytics, and data quality checks and balances – all in the name of delivering systems that meet or exceed the sound targets agreed upon with our OEM partners.

  • Trained Listening: Pierce walked our guests through the basics of our Trained Listener program and the “How To Listen” testing that must be completed to be eligible for the program.  You can try it here. He also played examples of program reference tracks and guided the group on specific elements to listen for before moving them to the Benchmarking Lab for some in-vehicle listening.

  • Tuning: To clearly demonstrate how important system tuning is to the end result, guests received guided reference track demos in both un-tuned and tuned EcoSport and Expedition vehicles. Using our new proprietary software, they got the chance to visually map the spatial characteristics of the system using our new software program and to compare the results. They could definitely see and hear the difference that HARMAN expertise makes in the quality of the listening experience.

HARMAN’s approach to in-car audio combines the best of art and science, and subjective and objective assessments. The “recipe” involves understanding the artist's intent in relation to listener preference, and then measuring it as accurately as possible.


But as our guests experienced first-hand that there’s even more to it than what meets the eye. To borrow an analogy from Jonathan and Brandon, even with the best ingredients you need a good chef to ensure that the meal is not bland. It’s our expert acoustic engineers who function as the “master chefs” to ensure our systems provide the auditory flavor that listeners prefer.

Feedback from the media in attendance was overwhelmingly positive. They enjoyed getting an inside look at an aspect in vehicle development that was new to them, and learn about it from the experts themselves.