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Best smartphones for audio – SoundGuys

Best smartphones for audio - SoundGuys

Now that the headphone jack is beginning to get left behind, it may be robust to seek out what you need in a smartphone. If you have already got headphones you want, how do you navigate the morass of Bluetooth codecs, headset help, and dongles? You would get USB-C headphones, however that’s some huge cash for little return. Most telephones available on the market are close to-good on the subject of wired listening, however our greatest suggestion is to seize one of many telephones under, as they’ll present you the most effective future-proofing available on the market, with some killer options to match.

So if all telephones are close to-good, why make this listing? The reality of the matter is, this record exists for individuals who need to to truly know what they’re stepping into once they purchase their subsequent handset. There are telephones that aren’t all that nice in terms of audio, and there are others which have some unusual foibles on this division that could possibly be a dealbreaker for you. However you possibly can’t know that till you both purchase the system for some huge cash… or learn this text for free.

The perfect smartphones for music are the LG G7, Razer Telephone, and Samsung Galaxy S9+

I do know, I do know, however earlier than you harangue me, it is best to know that my different day job is Head of Testing at Android Authority. In order you’ll be able to think about, I’ve gotten my palms, multimeter, and benchmarking suite on a boatload of telephones that means.

Primarily, these three telephones stand out in several methods, however we’re simply going to be wanting on the uncooked capabilities of every telephone. On paper, the LG G7 gives an impressive wired headphone expertise, the place the Razer Telephone reigns supreme with entrance-dealing with audio system and prime-of-the-line Bluetooth. The Samsung Galaxy S9 and Noet 9 each supply about the identical efficiency, but when music is your fundamental concern: save your self some cash and get the S9 or S9+.

The LG G7 is presently one of the best telephone on the market to pay attention with wired headphones, as its excessive amp output modes and quad DAC can drive even excessive-finish headphones pretty simply. Its noise flooring is someplace round -100dB and its measured complete harmonic distortion (THD) is extraordinarily low at (Zero.001%). Whereas many of those outcomes are far past the bounds of human notion, even minuscule errors can come to mild beneath sure circumstances. That’s why it’s all the time higher to err on the aspect of higher check outcomes.

Higher nonetheless, the telephone can output a a lot stronger sign than different telephones available on the market, even operating afoul of some esoteric EU laws on telephone output. Whereas that is solely an enormous deal for audiophiles with excessive-impedance headphones, it’s nonetheless good to know that your companion for the subsequent two years can deal with something you throw at it. Actually, the one method the LG G7 falls brief is that it doesn’t help Sony’s LDAC. However until you personal a set of excessive-finish wi-fi Sony headphones, this isn’t an issue. Most premium wi-fi headphones these days help aptX and aptX HD—competing greater-constancy codecs. You’re extremely unlikely to listen to the long-lasting Bluetooth hiss, and also you’re undoubtedly not going to note a lot—if any—degradation of audio high quality.

A photo of the LG V30 with its sound control screen displaying.

The LG G7 presents a dizzying array of controls over your sound.

In case you like to make use of your telephone as a transportable boombox, first: get a rattling bluetooth speaker. Second, think about getting the LG G7. Not solely is the speaker respectable, nevertheless it additionally has a “boombox” mode, permitting you to put your telephone on an merchandise with an open cavity (assume: acoustic guitar, cup) and use it as a pseudo amplifier. It’s fairly neat in case you don’t need to carry additional equipment aroudn with you, however it gained’t exchange a greater speaker.

Of the out there telephones right here, the microphone of the LG G7 is the perfect, sporting a sophisticated setup with redundancies and the power to report 24-bit/192kHz audio information and 24-bit, 48kHz output for video (taken from the LG V30). Whereas that’s undoubtedly overkill, having that a lot additional knowledge permits you to tweak the audio in publish-manufacturing in the event you so select. Nevertheless, in some modes you’ll wind up recording solely mono, so hold that in thoughts.

Sadly, the G7 oddly doesn’t have ahead-dealing with audio system, so in the event you care about sharing video together with your close by buddies: the Razer Telephone is the cellular for you.

Although it doesn’t have a headphone jack, the Razer Telephone’s current replace to Android eight.1 has given it all the Bluetooth options of the Google Pixel 2. Because it has a lot better audio system, and Dolby Atmos help by means of its dongle, this telephone edges out the smaller Pixel and takes a spot on the perfect 5 handsets.

A photo of the Razer Phone and its dongle.

Android Authority The Razer Telephone has rock-strong audio system, and the dongle provides Dolby Atmos help for wired headphones.

Razer will not be a family identify relating to smartphones fairly but, they do exit of their strategy to make a press release with audio. Although it doesn’t have a speedy replace schedule just like the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, Razer’s debut handset does have the newest and biggest on the subject of wi-fi listening. Solely a brand new codec or switch commonplace will change that, so subsequent updates to both the Pixel 2 or Razer telephone can be unlikely to vary a lot.

Whereas the wired efficiency is merely “really good,” dongle-haters will nonetheless discover the accent irritating. Nevertheless, including the Atmos help permits a simulated encompass sound impact that’s solely provided on the Galaxy S9+ in any other case. Given the worth distinction between the 2, the Razer choice has a better worth for those who’re okay with the dongle. In contrast to Apple’s ditching of the headphone jack, Razer no less than gives a damned good tradeoff for going dongle-solely for wired listening.

So far as killer options go, the Samsung Galaxy S9+ has quite a bit going for it. Nevertheless, the perfect function it has over all different telephones is Dolby Atmos help via its headphone jack. We have been capable of give it a whirl at MWC this yr, and it’s actually cool to lastly have the ability to take pleasure in a encompass sound-like expertise with over-ear headphones. Fact be informed, I feel most individuals would need that headphone jack again if this was out a bit sooner. The S9 and S9+ boast Android Oreo, so every telephone provides wi-fi efficiency on-par with any of the opposite choices on this record.

Although not one of the shortcomings of the onboard DAC and amp are what we’d time period “audible,” they’re undoubtedly ever-so-barely behind the LG V30. Nevertheless, we’d be mendacity if we stated we didn’t recognize the headphone jack’s look on the telephone, and the truth that it presents options to entice extra customers. If it weren’t for the LG V30’s capacity to drive extra energy-hungry headphones, this handset would take the highest spot.

The remainder of the specs on the Galaxy S9+ are pretty commonplace, and the efficiency is on par with the remainder of the fashions on this record. Adam and Josh weren’t impressed by the audio system, however then once more: we’re not impressed by any smartphone audio system on the market.

We do like the power to tailor frequency response at a system degree to filter out sounds you possibly can’t hear (based mostly on age). The auto-upscaling function is of doubtful benefit, however is a really cool factor to have in your again pocket.

Google’s Pixel 2 XL truly has a reasonably respectable efficiency general, and the newest Bluetooth codecs at each flip. Nevertheless, the shortage of a headphone jack signifies that you’re utilizing the dongle… and it’s not nice. Whereas the unit measures properly, you’re in all probability going to lose it until you simply depart it on the top of your headphones, and solely disconnect the USB aspect of issues once you’re able to cost.

In the event you don’t need to spend some huge cash

Once we examined telephones for the Best of Android collection at Android Authority, we got here throughout a finances star that may solely set you again round $450 unlocked: the Nokia eight. Whereas it’s not probably the most premium telephone on the market, HMD International did an excellent job resurrecting the model with a reasonably simple telephone. Despite the fact that we’re solely taking a look at audio right here, I’d place the Nokia eight because the religious successor of the unique Moto G.

A photo of the HMD Nokia 8, as awarded by Android Authority.

Android Authority discovered the Nokia eight to be a succesful finances contender in late 2017.

Primarily, this telephone has an honest wired audio efficiency, although the absence of LDAC help may annoy Sony WH-M1000X M2 house owners. In case you have a set of headphones that helps aptX HD, although, the Nokia eight has you coated. For roughly half the price of the iPhone X, the Nokia eight provides you a greater audio expertise in each wired and wi-fi listening. That’s not dangerous, and in case you’re on a price range: music addicts will discover a succesful ally within the Nokia eight.

Rotten Apples

I’m simply going to return out and say it: Apple is dangerous for the audio market.

Not solely is their Bluetooth subpar, however their struggle towards the three.5mm jack has additionally led to probably the most silly smartphone design memes of the day. It actually irritates me that folks look to them as some type of market chief, once they actually solely match the outline for those who’re taking a look at how a lot tax they dodge within the US.

I don’t need to advocate Apple’s iPhone for something audio-related, however I’m pressured to as a result of not everybody will abandon their entry into Apple’s walled backyard after investing a lot into issues just like the Apple Watch, AirPods, or HomePod. There are some benefits, nevertheless, like Apple’s W1 chip permitting for far more secure connections with different Apple peripherals and Beats headphones. Sadly the benefits provided by such a chip are doubtless going to be left within the rear-view mirror as soon as Qualcomm’s competitor will get off the bottom.

Although it’s actually not an amazing look, the iPhone X needs to be on this listing merely due to Apple’s market share. It isn’t the most effective telephones for audio, it’s merely the perfect iPhone for audio.

How we examined telephones

Utilizing a devoted interface, we used a three.5mm to 2×1/four″ TRS connector Y-cable to measure the output of every telephone. Through the use of a bit of software program referred to as Audio RightMark, we’re capable of measure issues like dynamic vary, distortion, noise, frequency response, and extra. By logging these outcomes, we will examine every telephone towards one another beneath the identical check circumstances with the identical check information and the identical gear.

A photo of the Scarlett 2i2 audio interface, which SoundGuys used to test current phones' headphone jacks and dongles.

It’s a easy setup, however it works.

When you might imagine that this check could be very concerned: it actually isn’t. There’s lots of info you possibly can glean from a easy 96kHz/24-bit check file, and actually that’s all we used. We load the file onto the telephones, play again, and document the outcomes. We didn’t use a better-bitrate/larger-pattern fee file as a result of the info would mislead you into considering it’s crucial. It’s not. CD high quality sound is “only” 44.1kHz/16-bit, and that’s greater than adequate to fulfill the perceptual limits of the overwhelming majority of people on Earth. Our checks are overkill.

As a result of we didn’t check the stupidly excessive-bitrate/excessive-pattern price information, there’s a sure restrict on how properly every unit might have carried out. Whereas there’s some debate as to what reviewers must be testing at, I personally go together with roughly double the very best widespread settings that most individuals will use. On this case, one thing that may meet or exceed CD high quality (44.1kHz/16-bit), as a result of no streaming service can do this at present.

A frequency response chart that details the performance of the Apple iPhone X's dongle, the Google Pixel 2's dongle, and the LG V30.

Just about each frequency response we got here throughout was close to-good.

Speaker testing is pretty rudimentary, however with out the supply of a very anechoic chamber, we will solely present gross SPL of every unit at one meter. By enjoying a pink noise pattern at full quantity, we will measure this with an electret microphone pointed instantly on the telephone. The entrance-dealing with models on the entire carry out higher than these on the underside of the telephone, given the sound is definitely directed on the consumer. However belief me once I inform you, nearly all audio system examined suck out loud. You don’t want them to be your main, secondary, and even tertiary technique of music consumption.

Clearly, the existence of additional options and different considerations like Bluetooth should issue into our selections, and we did that as nicely. Nevertheless, these are usually current on the flagship telephones and few others. Whereas our testing pool was artificially restricted, corporations need to shell out huge bucks for licensing Bluetooth profiles and codecs. It finally ends up being usually true that the inexpensive smartphones may also solely cowl a number of codecs, the place the flagships will cowl almost all of them.

What you need to know

Whereas objectively collected knowledge is all properly and good, it doesn’t precisely inform you every little thing you want to find out about a telephone’s efficiency. Now that digital media’s efficiency has began to sail past the bounds of human notion, check outcomes matter much less and fewer—whereas options matter increasingly. Only a few (if any) telephones will sound a lot worse than one other with fashionable streaming providers. And sure, I’ve examined this.

  Frequency response Dynamic Vary Complete Harmonic Distortion Noise flooring Speaker quantity LG V30 +Zero.04 / -Zero.16 dB 101.6dBA Zero.0009% -101.6dBA 71dB LG G7 ThinQ +Zero / -Zero.1 dB 100dBA Zero.001% -99.9dBA 78.9dB Samsung Galaxy S9+ +Zero.02 / -Zero.11 dB 98.5dBA Zero.0022% -100.5dBA 80.4dB Apple iPhone X +2.2 / -Zero.6 dB 99.3dBA Zero.0024% -99.9dBA (Pending replace) OnePlus 6 +Zero / -Zero.1 dB 97.2dBA Zero.001% -97.2dBA 74.3dB Google Pixel 2 XL +Zero.03 / -Zero.25 dB 100.3dBA Zero.0021% -101.4dBA 74.4dB Nokia eight +Zero.21 / -Zero.08 dB 101.7dBA Zero.0029% -101.3dBA 74dB Samsung Galaxy Observe 9 +Zero / -Zero.1 dB 100.1 Zero.0013% 100.1dBA 75.5dB

In terms of wired listening: the decrease distortion and noise are, the higher the outcome. Equally, the decrease the deviation present in testing frequency response is, the much less your audio might be altered. Whereas some individuals wish to artfully tune their music, any element that isn’t the headphones or the software program enjoying again the music shouldn’t have an effect on the sign in any respect. Solely deviations + / – 3dB will probably be noticeable in any respect.

A comparison chart showing the frequency response performance of the Apple iPhone X, LG V30, and Google Pixel 2.

Right here’s the identical chart as above with with audible deviations marked in purple. As you’ll be able to see, present smartphones simply don’t carry out badly in terms of audio.

Few telephones have points right here, however it’s not exceptional for a contemporary telephone to have some bizarre points right here (*cough* the unique Pixel *cough*). The frequency response check is extra move/fail than something.

It’s going to sound trite, however each single one of the telephones listed below are all what we’d categorize as close to “perceptually perfect,” given their efficiency meets or exceeds what your common human can hear. Nevertheless, they’re not truly good, and customers with extra energy-hungry headphones might run into points.

A chart showing the filter characteristics of the Apple iPhone X, Google Pixel 2, and the LG V30.

The Apple iPhone X and Google Pixel 2 (white, inexperienced) seem to make use of a filter to restrict excessive frequencies on the outer reaches of human listening to. The LG V30 (pink, cyan) doesn’t.

In our testing, we observed that the telephones with dongles (Apple iPhone, Google Pixel 2) refused to output sound on the specified pattern price. Why this occurred we do not know, however we have been capable of reproduce our outcomes virtually precisely between a number of totally different copies of every system with three testers (Adam, Nirave, and me). The upshot is that these telephones ought to have a neater time dispelling IM distortion, the tradeoff is that it technically isn’t performing as nicely.

When you shouldn’t actually have the ability to inform if you stream music, extremely-hardcore wired-listening-solely audiophiles won’t be glad with this. It’s simply as properly, as a result of that crowd ought to keep away from dongles in the event that they’re utilizing energy-hungry headphones anyway.

I’m a person who exhibits his work, so take heed to the above file. When you can’t hear it, or don’t just like the sound—this cutoff proven by each the iPhone X and Google Pixel 2 gained’t be noticeable to you in any respect. That filter isn’t such an enormous deal, is it?

Those that need to use Bluetooth audio should make it possible for their telephones and headphones converse the identical language, or codec. In the event that they don’t, then it’s extremely probably you gained’t be capable of take pleasure in your music in addition to you can. All telephones aren’t created equal with Bluetooth help, and it’s value understanding what codecs you need to use in your cellular.

  A2DP AAC aptX aptX HD LDAC Google Pixel 2 ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ LG V30 ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ Samsung Galaxy S9+ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ Nokia eight ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ Apple iPhone X ✓ ✓ HTC U11 Plus ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ OnePlus 5T ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ Razer Telephone ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ Huawei Mate 10 Professional ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ Sony Xperia XZ2 ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓

Nevertheless, software program updates can change the checkmarks on this listing, so put together for it to vary over time. Many of those telephones will find yourself supporting aptX and LDAC by way of updates to Android over time, whereas Apple’s help stays beholden to a troublesome-to-predict replace schedule.

Why you must belief Chris

Chris is the Government Editor of SoundGuys, and the Head of Testing at Android Authority. On the subject of amassing goal knowledge, many corporations have employed his providers as a laboratory daemon to check all types of issues. With a background in analysis strategies and journalism, he’s a really distinctive mix of technologically-certified and integrity-obsessed curmudgeon. Consequently, his full-time job has been analyzing shopper electronics for over 7 years now, and he continues his quest for knowledge-pushed evaluation and reporting within the tech sphere.

With a background in analysis strategies and journalism, he is a really distinctive mix of technologically-certified and integrity-obsessed curmudgeon.

In his time within the business, he’s needed to analysis his coated fields (shows, audio, imaging) to the purpose the place he’s thought-about an professional within the subject. If he’s saying one thing about one of the best merchandise, it wasn’t an off-the-cuff assertion or choice. There’s no approach it took him lower than 10 hours to reach at that conclusion.

Disclosure: We might obtain affiliate compensation in connection together with your buy of merchandise by way of hyperlinks on this web page. Although we might obtain compensation, we all the time give our trustworthy opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on every product. See our ethics coverage for extra particulars.

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