Samsung credits data transfer software for Galaxy Buds Pro's newest features

Samsung's road towards creating its latest earbuds culminated in the creation of new data transfer software to allow for reduced delay times, active noise cancelling, and ambient sound capabilities.
Written by Cho Mu-Hyun, Contributing Writer on
Image: Samsung

During the development process of Samsung's latest Galaxy Buds Pro, the company prioritised lowering delay and latency problems, which it said was eventually made possible through the development of new data transfer software technology.

Moon Han-gil, Samsung Mobile's Advanced Audio Lab head, said the software not only reduced delays and improved latency, but it also allowed the company to add the active noise-cancelling (ANC) and ambient sound features into the Galaxy Buds Pro.

"Delay is the biggest concern for consumers jumping from conventional wired earphones to wireless earbuds," Moon told ZDNet. "Then there is the sound quality. Since the first Galaxy Buds that launched in 2019, we have been using software that varies the bitrate of the audio data, depending on the surrounding wireless environment."

"Most other earbuds in the market receive compressed audio data sent by the handset at a consistent bitrate in all sound environments. But when there are many signals in the surrounding area, this process may be interrupted and cause sound interruptions in the earbuds for the wearer. 

"Galaxy Buds are different. When it doesn't receive audio data properly, it will notify the handset which will, in turn, vary the bitrate of the audio data it sends to make sure they are properly received."

This type of technology is already widely used in video streaming but Samsung has so far been the "best at adapting it for audio", Moon claimed. 

"Audio data is smaller than video data. Because audio data is smaller, when audio data sent at a higher bitrate becomes lower, the wearer immediately notices a drop in sound quality. The key to this technology is that it reduces the bitrate just enough so that the wearer doesn't feel a drop in sound quality," the executive explained.

Samsung has also been actively collaborating with its subsidiary Harman since the release of the first generation of Galaxy Buds, the executive said. Harman has extensive research experience in earphones and deep knowledge on what sound characteristics listeners prefer, he said, which has allowed Samsung to up its capability when setting up the basic tuning for the Galaxy Buds line-up.

Looking at the Galaxy Buds Pro's hardware specs, the earbuds sport dual-driver speakers -- an 11mm woofer for bass and a 6.5mm tweeter for treble. According to Moon, Samsung chose these specific speakers are it felt they were most appropriate size-wise when it came to balancing the sound, design, and fit of the earbuds. 

"Ultimately, we feel earbuds should continue to become smaller for the best fit. A bigger speaker doesn't necessarily mean better sound. A large woofer means better bass, but weaker treble. It really depends on the form factor."

The earbuds also have three microphones and a voice pickup unit (VPU), which were implemented for ANC, ambient sound, and voice detection, with Moon saying voice detection was a feature desired by its customers. 

"We have been working on the ANC concept for a while now. So one of the questions we asked ourselves during development was whether to be satisfied with just offering ANC. We concluded that we wanted to provide additional value. This led to the addition of voice detection for the Galaxy Buds Pro," the audio boss said.

"We conducted very comprehensive research to find out what were some of the unmet needs of consumers currently using ANC supporting products. One of the bigger complaints was that they had to take off their earphones to talk to someone. So this is why we put in voice detection to resolve this problem.

The VPU, which is a vibration sensing microphone that can sense when a person's head vibrates, enables the Galaxy Buds Pro to filter out other external sounds and focus on picking up the user's voice. The Galaxy Buds Pro, via software, will also decide in what portions the three microphones and VPU will be used, dependent on the surrounding sound environment.   

After adding these microphones and the VPU, Samsung tested tens of thousands of noise scenarios to make sure the ANC on Galaxy Buds Pro worked properly, the executive said. 

"We conduct a large user test first. When we find a problematic scenario, we send a developer to solve the problem. There are also many 'corner' cases in which we ensure that the ANC works, such as checking whether the slamming of a door in the room interrupts ANC or whether it works on the road at night," he said.

Looking at the next iteration of the Galaxy Buds, the executive said it would focus on making them more "intelligent" through providing more features. 

"Up to now, our priorities have been basic things, such as whether we can offer quality sound without interruption and call quality similar to that in smartphones.

"We feel like we got this down, and sound quality in our devices will continue to evolve while they continue to become smaller. 

"Our next priority will be to try to deliver something beyond that in wireless earbuds and deliver additional values. Like most manufacturers, Samsung has partnerships with big data companies. We really want to integrate this data to offer products, including the Galaxy Buds line, that are intelligent, which do things for the consumers by themselves."

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