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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  • brusselwilson - Sunday, December 8, 2013 - link

    Is sample variation an issue of relevance for smartphone audio systems? Reply
  • cheinonen - Sunday, December 8, 2013 - link

    No more than it would be with anything else I would think. For the Nexus 5 I tested two different samples (one from Brian, one from a friend of mine) and both exhibited this issue. So you might see small variations, as you would with any display or anything else, but nothing major I wouldn't think. Reply
  • vailr - Sunday, December 8, 2013 - link

    Another factor to consider: certain cell companies can enable enhanced audio quality for cell phone calls, but only on selected cell phone models. The IPhone 5 has that ability, as I recall. Not sure about the specifics, but I believe that both ends of the cell call must be using supported phones, as well as: the cell provider must enable that feature. That would enable cell calls to have better voice quality than land line calls, via increased audio frequency response. Reply
  • shenkey - Sunday, December 8, 2013 - link

    Could we also get Windows Phone devices included in the test. Lumia 920 and 1520 should fit in the range. Reply
  • cheinonen - Sunday, December 8, 2013 - link

    I'll add whatever I can when I get a chance. This first run has taken almost all my time up since the week of Thanksgiving. Reply
  • hopfenspergerj - Sunday, December 8, 2013 - link

    It's not useful to measure noise/dynamic range at the highest volume setting. You have to measure at one of the lowest settings to determine whether the phone truncates bits, whether the noise floor does not decrease with the volume setting, etc.

    I have an htc dna and it is completely, totally, utterly useless for playing music with sensitive IEMs; I suspect many android phones with "-90db" thd+n measurements are similarly bad in practice.
    Reply
  • hopfenspergerj - Sunday, December 8, 2013 - link

    Not to mention poor shielding on the dna causes the phone to output chirping and static and other loud extraneous noises whenever it transmits data. Reply
  • cheinonen - Sunday, December 8, 2013 - link

    We have stepped output level charts as well that measure this, they just aren't included here right now. I can start to pull those out for current and future tests if we want to use them. Reply
  • evonitzer - Monday, December 9, 2013 - link

    I saw that one graph included when you compared the Nexus 5 and G2 at different levels and I think it should be in all the reviews. I always run my IEM's in the lower half of the volume range so I am quite interested in how they perform. As others have said, excellent work! Reply
  • DoctorG - Tuesday, December 10, 2013 - link

    Same here -- I always run my good IEM's below half volume at least (usually more like a third.) No point in having good headphones & music if the volume is turned up so loud it hurts....

    BTW Great job Chris! I have always wanted more in-depth reviews about smartphone audio quality. It's very important to me, but so far there haven't been any reliable/objective tests available. Thanks! Just a thought, but maybe it would be possible to test against a pro-quality amp/DAC? When I use my GNex, the quality is obviously very different from my audio interface that I use with ProTools. It'd be interesting to see just how much of that is measurable...
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