Right now we have full data on four phones and partial data on a few more. We are working to compile as much data as possible to provide an overall look at the quality of audio from smartphones available today. The largest difference in current models is the power of the headphone output as some are much better equipped to drive more demanding headphones than others. As we compile data on more and more products we hope to see more differences arise.

We also have not seen much difference with different loads applied to the headphones. We will continue to test all three sets of headphones but the data here is for the Apple Earbuds. If different loads provide different results, then we will certainly report those different numbers in the future. It also appears that running Android phones in the automated routine causes the 20 kHz tone to be left out of the frequency response test. Humans usually can't hear this, I certainly can't, and so there isn't a huge amount of real-world ramification to this. It causes the reported THD+N to exclude that tone and provides a better result that phones that play it back. For the future, this will be done manually.

Here are the four phones we currently have, and more phones are being tested and reported on as quickly as possible to be added here.

Nexus 5 and LG G2 Issues Wrapping Up
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  • Friendly0Fire - Sunday, December 8, 2013 - link

    The Nexus S has some of the best DAC in the industry, actually... Most phones these days use the built-in Snapdragon DAC, but the S has a Wolfson DAC which is way superior.

    I think you either had a dud or you have another issue somewhere because the S was lauded for sound quality (just like the original Galaxy S).
    Reply
  • tedders - Sunday, December 8, 2013 - link

    I must have had a dud Galaxy S then too because my Captivate had abysmal audio. Reply
  • Samus - Monday, December 9, 2013 - link

    The captivate and epic 4G (sprint variant) were substantially different from the galaxy s, although I remember the epic 4G touch (S2) having decent audio quality. Reply
  • tipoo - Sunday, December 8, 2013 - link

    So I've heard, but I'm not the only one with shit audio on it, the running theory is they put in a good DAC but didn't bother properly making drivers or something for it. Reply
  • tipoo - Sunday, December 8, 2013 - link

    Or perhaps improper shielding of the audio circuit from the radios, since the static seemed to be radio related. Even modern phones have some of that, even the best sounding ones like the iPhone 5S, but it's much much reduced. Reply
  • cheinonen - Sunday, December 8, 2013 - link

    The DAC really means nothing without knowing everything else that goes into the circuit. Yes, the DAC might have superior SNR and THD+N but if you use an amplifier, or a volume control circuit, that are worse than other phones, you've now mitigated that advantage. It's there in the DAC but by the time it gets to the output stage it's been buried by noise elsewhere in the system.

    Using a better DAC is nice. But you can't just drop it in and get better results, everything else needs to be engineered around it as well.
    Reply
  • Friendly0Fire - Sunday, December 8, 2013 - link

    Using a higher end separate DAC hints that the manufacturer at least somewhat cares about sound quality. Using the built-in SoC DAC says that it's an afterthought.

    It's not a guarantee, but it's certainly an indicator.
    Reply
  • Galidou - Sunday, December 8, 2013 - link

    Totally agree with cheinonen, any high end audio stereo setup is as strong as it's weakest link. Take the excellent nuforce DAC-100 at ~1200$CAD, use it with a poor sub 400$ multi channel receiver and you won't get much out of it. The nuforce got plenty of amazing review, but it always depends on what it is paired with.

    The galaxy sure got a nice DAC but it's amplifier section is poorly engineered.
    Reply
  • cjl - Monday, December 9, 2013 - link

    Actually (and I know audiophiles everywhere will disagree with me on this, but whatever...), you can get audibly perfect sound with a dac worth only a couple hundred dollars at most, and an amp of similar cost. There's really no point in buying a >$1k dac, and the same goes for an amplifier (though expensive multi channel receivers can be justified, not for the quality of their amplifiers, but for the quality of their DSP, room correction, video upscaling, and variety of inputs and outputs). For an audio system, by far the most important component is the speakers. You should spend the vast majority of your audio budget on the transducers (speakers/headphones), then buy an amp with sufficient power to drive them to whatever level you need without distortion/clipping (which is almost always less power than recommended by audiophiles). The rest of the system can really be quite inexpensive - the built in DAC in most modern audio products is audibly flawless, and it's impossible to improve on 14AWG zip cord for the cables (from an audibility standpoint) unless you're running your wires over an extremely long distance.

    Now, that isn't to say that modern smartphones have reached that audibly flawless point yet - many of them haven't (especially when they have such blatant flaws as the single channel clipping shown in the review above), but many of them are a lot closer than people realize, and it really doesn't cost much to make a product audibly flawless. I remember seeing testing done on the latest iPod, and it was good enough to not contain any audible flaws. I would assume that the iPhone is similar, and the GS4 looks to also be audibly perfect in the review above (so long as 500mV p-p is sufficient to drive your headphones - this may not be the case for some less sensitive models).
    Reply
  • speculatrix - Tuesday, December 10, 2013 - link

    +1
    A lot of audiophile ideas simply don't stand up to basic engineering principles, and blind A:B tests show it.
    Reply

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