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Dr. Sean Olive, center, is testing headphones with his researchers. Courtesy of Samsung Electronics

Galaxy Buds & AKG Acoustics

When Samsung Electronics spent $8 billion to acquire Harman International Industries in 2017, analysts pointed out the Korean firm tried to secure a next-generation growth engine.

However, the U.S. automotive part supplier has hidden assets, which help Samsung strengthen its competitiveness in other businesses including smartphones.

For example, Harman took over AKG Acoustics in 1994, which focuses on microphones, headphones, wireless audio systems, and related accessories for professional and consumer markets.

Samsung took advantage of AKG’s competency to improve Galaxy Buds, its Bluetooth-powered wearable earbuds.

Dr. Sean Olive, an acoustic researcher at Harman International, said that his team had carried out in-depth research into the perception and measurement of headphone sound quality.

Good sound is achieved when the headphones accurately reproduce the music without adding any audible distortion or noise to the original sound,” he said.

Through testing the response of people, the researcher and his underlings have worked on building an objective tool to measure the sound quality of headphones together with audio engineers.

Sound quality involves different attributes, including spectral or timbral qualities, spatial qualities and distortion, and noise. The goal for AKG is to be as neutral, accurate and transparent as possible for each of these attributes,” he said.

The sound quality of the new Galaxy Buds is impressive. It is difficult to say they have any sonic personality, which is the ultimate compliment I can give.”

He praised Galaxy Buds as “a perfect marriage between science, engineering, and art.”

Wireless earbuds have emerged as a new battlefield among global smartphone manufacturers including Apple and Huawei on top of business bellwether Samsung.

Over the past several years, Samsung and Apple competed to take the top spot in the smartphone market. And recently, Chinese players like Huawei have chalked up fast growth to overtake them.

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