New York AES Section Blog

Past Event: The Perception and Measurement of Headphone Sound Quality: Do Listeners Agree on What Makes a Headphone Sound Good?

Dr. Sean E. Olive

Dr. Sean E. Olive

February 25, 2014 at 7:00 pm

Location: Harman Flagship Store. 527 Madison Ave @ 54th St

Moderated by: David Bialik

Speaker(s): Dr. Sean E. Olive, Harman International

The popularity of headphones has now exploded to produce annual worldwide sales of almost $10 billion.  Market research indicates sound quality is a driving factor in headphone purchases with brand and fashion also being important factors among younger consumers. Yet, ironically the science behind what makes a headphone sound good and how to measure it is poorly understood. This combined with the lack of perceptually meaningful headphone standards may explain why purchasing a headphone today is like playing Russian Roulette with your ears.  The magic bullet to achieving more consistent headphone sound quality is science.

Harman recently conducted a series of controlled double-blind listening tests on popular headphones (both real and virtualized models) to better understand the relationship between their perceived sound quality and acoustic performance.The results of this research show that when the influence of brand, fashion and celebrity endorsement are removed from headphone tests, both trained and untrained listeners generally agree on which headphones sound best, and this correlates to their acoustical performance.

Dr. Sean E. Olive is Director of Acoustic Research for Harman International. He directs the Northridge, Corporate Technology Acoustics group, and oversees the subjective evaluation of new audio products. Prior to 1993, he was a research scientist with Dr. Floyd Toole at the National Research Council of Canada. Sean received a Bachelors in Music from the University of Toronto, and his Masters and Ph.D. degrees in Sound Recording from McGill University in Montreal. He has written over 35 research papers on the perception and measurement of audio for which he was awarded the Audio Engineering Society (AES) Fellowship Award in 1996, and two Publication Awards (1990 and 1995). In 2013 he was awarded the ALMA Titanium Driver Award for scientific contributions to the loudspeaker and headphone industry. Sean is the current President of the AES.

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Posted: Saturday, January 25, 2014

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