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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  • dylan522p - Sunday, December 8, 2013 - link

    Just because you have a good DAC,doesn't mean you have great audio. S4 has a great DAC but it can't even power high impedence headphones. Reply
  • cjl - Monday, December 9, 2013 - link

    The S4 powers moderately hard to drive headphones just fine - sure, it won't drive something like an HD650 adequately, but the majority of consumer headphones out there will go plenty loud driven straight out of an S4. That having been said, it would be nice if it had a bit more power for hard to drive headphones. Reply
  • oktrav - Monday, December 9, 2013 - link

    I can't believe how many people on the internet are singing this song... Does it really matter who makes the DAC if the output sounds like crap? The DAC is just one of many components that affect the sound quality. You can have the best components in the world and still produce absolutely dreadful sound. Ask any wannabe audiophile who's dabbled in assembling home systems out of separates. This is akin to saying that your car must be very powerful BECAUSE it has Bosch coil packs --and Bosch makes the BEST coil packs (just play along for the sake of the analogy, I'm not actually asserting that Bosch makes the best coils --I don't know). Reply
  • nomopofomo - Sunday, December 8, 2013 - link

    So glad you went into such depth.

    Best case scenario, the public and manufacturer are both made aware of the flaws.
    Reply
  • drwho9437 - Sunday, December 8, 2013 - link

    This has been needed badly for some time. Phones displacing media players this matters a whole lot. To me far more than actually anything else about a phone. Reply
  • probedb - Sunday, December 8, 2013 - link

    You also have to remember with some measurements about what is actually audible and what isn't. It's crazy seeing people moaning about nanoseconds of jitter on DACs yet they're quite happy with milliseconds of the equivalent of jitter on vinyl. Then again some of these companies sell ethernet cable at £1600/m and claim it makes a difference to sound ;) Reply
  • matagyula - Sunday, December 8, 2013 - link

    Great to see something like this on anand!
    I would like to see some older high-end phones compared to the ones we have now - for example the Nokia N900, or maybe even some of the ooold Sony-Ericsson Walkman phones (W810 and up). I'd find such comparison interesting ^^
    Reply
  • chubbypanda - Monday, December 9, 2013 - link

    Great stuff Chris!

    I was also wondering if it's possible to add some ancient phone with cult following from audio geeks. You know, Nokia N91 and similar. According to some, sound quality on the phones were never better, so that'd be nice to see what is really happening.
    Reply
  • wrkingclass_hero - Sunday, December 8, 2013 - link

    So, how long before Arstechnica "discovers" the audio problems with the Nexus 5? Reply
  • crabperson - Sunday, December 8, 2013 - link

    YES! Thank you so much for doing this, its awesome. I didn't realize audio/amp quality was a huge thing until I upgraded my headphones. Being able to hear the difference between the same audio file on two different devices made me realize how little manufacturers care about audio quality.
    Then using an FM transmitter in my car showed me how some devices can't pump out enough power over the headphone jack. My Galaxy Nexus has pretty good audio quality (and does optical audio out through the dock, also awesome) served me fine for pumping up music through the FM transmitter. The Galaxy S3 I'm temporarily using does not though, and produces noticeable clipping at max volume. It also isn't properly shielded and when charging there is interference on the headphone jack (something you should also test if you haven't thought of it). I'm looking at upgrading if I can't fix my Nexus, and hope the HTC One is as good as it in terms of audio quality (with Beats disabled of course).
    Reply

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