Galaxy Earbuds_201909301318

SAMSUNG X AKG: Q&A with HARMAN’s Dr. Sean Olive

From hardware to software and services, HARMAN and Samsung have a long history of embedding innovation across everything they do. One of HARMAN and Samsung’s most recent joint project involved the development of Samsung Galaxy Buds. The savvy, IPX2 water resistant Bluetooth buds mark the first time AKG by HARMAN is bringing outstanding sound quality to a truly wireless product. But what defines excellent sound quality? We caught up with HARMAN’s Acoustic Senior Research Fellow, Dr. Sean Olive to learn more about the secrets behind Samsung’s Galaxy Buds’ premium audio performance and his advice to consumers looking for top-notch wireless headphones.

Galaxy Earbuds

Tuned by AKG is more than a tagline – what exactly does that headline mean when it comes to innovative products like the latest Samsung Galaxy Buds?

The latest were largely influenced by HARMAN’s research regarding the headphone sound quality consumers prefer. For the last seven years, my team, Todd Welti, Omid Khonsaripour and I, have completed listener-testing studies with hundreds of people from several different countries to characterize preferred headphone sound under controlled conditions. Our testing studies proved that good sound is achieved when headphones accurately reproduce music without adding any distortion to the original sound.

How was the HARMAN Target Curve developed? What differentiates it from the standard sound curve that most of HARMAN’s competitors leverage?

My team and I developed a unique tool to measure and predict the audio quality of headphones following our consumer tests with a wide range of listeners. We defined a preferred headphone frequency response known as the HARMAN Target Curve that mirrors the perceived tonal balance of an accurate loudspeaker in a reference listening room.  The tool allows headphone engineers to measure the response of a headphone and automatically predicts how listeners would rate its overall sound quality.

Our research over the past 7 years has led to the Harman Target Curve, a frequency response preferred by the majority of listeners, and a measurement tool and model that accurately predicts listeners’ sound quality ratings of a headphone based on how much it deviates from the Harman Target Curve.  The Harman Target Curve is becoming known in the industry as a benchmark of headphone sound quality.

Do wireless products provide any unique challenges in terms of creating sonic purity and peak performance?

Not at all – but with any truly wireless product, consumers need to make sure their devices are charged and that they have good Bluetooth connectivity. An interesting fun fact is that an individual’s head and body can block the Bluetooth connectivity from the phone to the headphones, which can interfere with connectivity

A brilliant solution Samsung came up with for the Galaxy Buds is the use of Samsung’s unique adaptive audio codec called Scalable Codec. This means depending on the quality of the connection, the Galaxy Buds can adapt the audio rate a bit. For example, if a consumer is in a weak connection with their Galaxy Buds, the Scalable Codec automatically encodes the audio information with a higher compression ratio, allowing the Galaxy Buds to receive data without interruptions.

The default tuning on many of the new AKG headphones is a near perfect representation of the HARMAN Target Curve. However, what options do customers have to personalize and customize their headphones?

In the course of our research, we found that younger consumers tend to prefer a little more bass in their sound vs. older individuals who typically prefer less bass. More treble may be preferred to compensate for hearing loss which typically occurs at higher frequencies. Individuals in general usually favor neutral sound without resonance.

The goal for AKG products is to be as neutral, accurate and transparent as possible for each of these attributes. Additionally, the majority of AKG headphones - including the Samsung Galaxy Buds - allow users to tailor the tone to suit their tastes by using the customizable equalizer, which features five unique settings. Galaxy Buds let users listen to their favorite tunes undisturbed by noise in their surroundings due to the seal provided by the eartips. In contrast, concha-type devices provide little or no attenuation of background noise and bass performance is significantly compromised.

Any final thoughts for someone looking for the cream of the crop in wireless headphones?

My advice for consumers is to go out and test products in stores! They should play their favorite song on a few different pairs of headphones to get a true flavor of the sound quality.

If it’s an AKG headphone, I can assure that there will be plenty of bass as long as the headphone fits properly. Alternatively, if consumers aren’t big fans of bass in their tunes, I advise that they adjust the bass via the AKG app. Similarly, with on-ear and around-ear headphones, individuals can test the seal by pressing the cups tightly to their head and listening for an increase in the amount of bass. If there is little change, then they probably have a good seal. At the end of the day, I strongly believe that a proper fit and proper seal are crucial to the end user experience.

With superior sound by AKG, Samsung’s Galaxy Buds deliver calls, consumer’s favorite podcasts and music they love – all while keeping users aware of their surroundings when working, walking or working out. Learn more about Galaxy Buds by visiting: https://www.samsung.com/us/mobile/audio/galaxy-buds/