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[Interview] Mobile Multimedia: Galaxy S9’s Audio Designers on the Shift to Stereo Sound
“With steps forward in sound volume and quality, the Galaxy S9 provides a true-to-life multimedia experience.”
As more people enjoy music and video through their smartphones, even greater importance is placed on the multimedia capabilities of our mobile devices. In the design of the Galaxy S9, Samsung set out to reimagine the smartphone’s speakers, joining with globally renowned audio specialists to achieve a premium stereo sound.
Sitting down with three of the flagship smartphone’s designers in the Mobile Communications Business – Dongsoo Kim from the Global Product Planning Group and Jaehyun Kim and Seongkwan Yang from the Audio Group – we took a closer look on how the speakers of the Galaxy S9 and S9+ were optimized for multimedia content.
More Speakers, More Sound
Dongsoo Kim reflected on what drove the team to bring the stereo speaker experience to the Galaxy S9: “As more and more people access content through their smartphones, greater emphasis was placed on the screen and creating bigger, higher-quality displays to view content with. Since display technology has already reached this point, we set out to design a high-performing speaker to equal the screen.”
The first step in Samsung’s journey towards stereo sound was equipping the device with two speakers. Whereas previous generations of the smartphone have placed a single speaker at the bottom of the phone, the Galaxy S9 has speakers at both the bottom and the top of the phone, creating a more immersive experience.
“The key was to develop speakers and amplifiers that serve the dual purpose of making phone calls and consuming media,” said Jaehyun Kim. “We poured our efforts into enhancing the quality of the sound and creating greater volume.”
The speaker holes were redesigned to be larger, producing higher quality audio, and the team was also able to increase the device’s volume, making it 1.4 times (3-4 dB) louder than the Galaxy S8.
Over 80 Designs Tested
There are strict procedures to ensure the reliability of Samsung products and multiple stages of testing were involved in designing the speakers of the Galaxy S9.
To achieve greater sound accuracy and precision, the audio designers paid close attention to enhancing the speakers’ dynamic range – the ratio of the quietest to the loudest sounds that the speakers can reproduce – and their frequency range, which controls the pitch.
“Our primary focus was to develop a speaker that is both high performing and stable,” Seongkwan Yang explained. “We carefully examined the quality of the components, testing more than 80 versions of the diaphragm before we were finally satisfied that we had a speaker that functioned seamlessly at both high and low pitches.”
Jaehyun Kim added: “We encountered unexpected challenges as we converted the mono speaker into stereo speakers, so we strived to optimize the device for viewing multimedia content.”
Partnering with Audio Experts
As part of their commitment to create a high-quality sound experience for the Galaxy S9, Samsung joined forces with two global experts in audio technology: premium Harman’s brand AKG, and Dolby.
The developers aimed to achieve high-fidelity sound quality and precision at any volume by leveraging the expertise of Harman’s AKG. Coordinating closely, it took half a year to fine- tune the speakers to meet AKG’s high standards.
“Users with a good ear for sound can immediately appreciate the difference. Samsung’s long dedication in search of enhanced audio, coupled with Harman’s expertise, resulted in the speakers satisfying both sound quality and volume,” commented Jaehyun Kim.
The Galaxy S9 also integrates Dolby Atmos® immersive sound technology, which brings entertainment to life with moving audio that flows all around you, be it over a device’s built-in speakers or through regular stereo headphones. Leveraging Dolby’s deep understanding of what listeners prefer in an audio experience, Dolby Atmos® on the Galaxy S9 makes you feel as if you are inside the action as the sounds of people, places, things, and music come alive with richness and depth and seem to move in three-dimensional space. This feature benefits other types of content in addition to Dolby Atmos® enabled content, through enhancements to sound quality and consistent playback volume across all content.
“During our testing, our results showed that immersive sound could bring a whole new experience to smartphone users,” Dongsoo Kim elaborated. “Since so many people now view premium content on their smartphones, it felt like the right moment to implement Dolby Atmos on our devices.”
Making the Most of an Optimized Audio Experience
The audio developers had plenty of tips about how to enjoy the stereo sounds of the Galaxy S9.
Jaehyun Kim recommended listening to classical music to gain a fuller understanding of the difference: “You can distinguish the individual sounds and characteristics of each instrument. It’s an amazing feeling to hear the audio how it was originally intended, picking out every interaction between soft and loud.”
“Head to the sounds and vibration settings on your phone,” advised Dongsoo Kim. “Take a look at sound quality and effects under the advanced features and turn on Dolby Atmos to enable immersive audio. Users can also enhance their headphone audio experience by turning on the UHQ upscaler and the Adapt Sound feature, taking their listening to a new level.”
Now, one month on from the launch of the Galaxy S9, the team is already carefully considering its next steps in audio design. Dongsoo Kim elaborated: “Our aim will be to create a mobile multimedia experience that is just like holding a cinema in your own hands.”