Dynamic Range

The dynamic range of the phone indicates the difference between the loudest possible sound and the background noise. The more residual noise in the background, the lower the dynamic range. Phones with more powerful amplifier sections will typically produce a greater dynamic range. The residual noise level is often constant, so as the overall volume level increases the difference between the music and the noise increases as well.

The best performer here is the iPhone 5 again, with 92.214 dB of range. The worst is the Nexus 5 with only 89.332 dB. A difference of 3 dB is not something I would concern myself over. If we see a phone or tablet that drops down below 80 dB then I will start to show more concern.


Crosstalk, like dynamic range, is just a number here. This is the measurement how much signal leaks from one channel into another. If an instrument should only be in the right ear, some of that signal will leak into the left ear, but we want that as low as possible. The results are expressed in -dB, or how much quieter one ear is than the intended ear.

On the Note 3 we see a wonderful crosstalk measurement of -117.2 dB so the sounds in one ear are -117 dB quieter in the other ear. This makes them impossible to hear. The worst is the iPhone 5, with only -75.624 dB of isolation.

Stepped Response

The stepped response uses a 1 kHz 0 dBFS tone but measures output level from maximum volume to minimum volume. We can see how large the volume steps are and how many there are. It doesn’t produce a number we can use, but it ties back into our other results. For a good example, we can look at the Note 3.

We see steps that are around -5 dBu each. The final level is muted and just the background noise of the device. Each step is clean and even but as we get lower and lower we see noise start to intrude. This is the background noise starting to become audible in the signal. The flatter the levels are, the quieter it will be. Now, let us look at the Nexus 5.

Notice at the very top how the right and left channels do not overlap. That is the clipping we talked about at the very beginning. It isn’t until the 4th volume setting that the level difference is down to nothing. Because of this, I would consider the top 3 volume settings of the Nexus 5 as ones that should be avoided. They each have enough THD+N introduced into them that it will sound poor, and one ear will be louder than the other.

Maximum Level and Frequency Response Nexus 5 and LG G2 Issues


View All Comments

  • UsernameAlreadyExists - Friday, December 13, 2013 - link

    That would be great. I believe most display tests are run with the same light output to have more reasonable comparisons... I would like to see the same principle here. As a curiosity (or a warning) it would be good to know that above certain levels the sound will deteriorate. Reply
  • bob11d50 - Sunday, December 8, 2013 - link

    I would love to see the distortion of the apple on a standard headphone (16 ohms). They have notoriously bad sound quality all they way back to the first ipod. Apple is a profit company not a quality company.

    I would also like to see a real comparison of battery life on apple products. Like battery life VS screen size in SQ inches. The screen is so small who cares if it can brows the web for 10 hours if you cant see it.

    Also frame rate VS pixel count. Once again I can refresh a 1 pixel screen at 1Mhz but it does not do me any good nor does a 1M Pixel screen at 1 Hz but the spec is the same 1M pixels a second.

  • NeoteriX - Monday, December 9, 2013 - link

    I am not an Apple evangelist having only owned Android (and WM and Palm) smartphone devices. So with that said, this is a truly ignorant statement. Apple has led the way on several different design and hardware fronts, including display quality and size, camera quality, GPU power, etc., and it's not clear that without their leadership there would be the kind of robust hardware competition there is in the PC and Android space. Reply
  • deasys - Monday, December 9, 2013 - link

    "They have notoriously bad sound quality all they way back to the first iPod"

    Sure, Bob, whatever you say. Of course, there are authoritative sources that disagree with you. For example: http://www.stereophile.com/content/apple-ipod-port... which summarizes by stating, "Excellent, cost-effective audio engineering from an unexpected source."

    I think I'll take Stereophile's word over yours, Bob…
  • akdj - Monday, December 9, 2013 - link

    deasys hit the nail on the head Bob---Not sure which iPod/iOS device YOU'VE hear/listened to/had experience with....but as an absolute audio nerd, I can assure you decent audio files sound excellent....my favorite cans right now are the B&W P5s currently, but I've also got 2 pairs of Grados, Sony MDR 7520s, and Sennheiser HD800s for our studio mixing (with B&W Nautilus 802 speakers and Focal SM9 studio monitors). You couldn't be more dead wrong about Apple's sound quality. Perhaps you need to find a new way to 'rip' your music or quit listening to low bitrate MP3s to judge sound quality?
    As far as screen/battery life----WTF does that have to do with this incredibly extensive, exhaustive sound quality review and comparison/contrast between three Android phones and an iPhone?
    Bone to pick, eh?
    LoL----Doesn't matter does it....regardless of the article, review, discussion----always SOMETHING to do with Apple isn't it?
  • winchuff - Wednesday, December 18, 2013 - link

    The devil is always in the detail... Unfortunately deasy, the detail you failed to pick up on is that the 'stereophile' tests were performed into the mackintosh powerbook 'line in' impedance and so did not uncover the limitations of the analogue output stage when listening via headphones. Reply
  • winchuff - Wednesday, December 18, 2013 - link

    You're dead right Bob (whatever the other numpties say). The problem with the ipods (except for the first gen iPod nano, which was superb) is down to an underpowered analogue output stage. There is no problem when driving a high impedance 'line out', but it results in clipping and poor bass response when driving (low impedance) headphones. For those of us listening via headphones, the most crucial objective test is performed when driving into a low impedance. If anandtech do the low impedance tests, you will be vindicated for identifying the shortcomings of the apple devices. And the numpties who know no better will eat humble pie. Reply
  • FYoung - Sunday, December 8, 2013 - link

    I commend you for taking this initiative. I agree that audio testing by sites like Anandtech could eventually lead to phones with better sound quality, which is something that has been neglected so far.

    However, I wish you tested the audio quality of phone calls as well. Cell phones are phones, after all. It doesn't look to me that these tests measure the ability of a phone to selectively capture the spoken voice in a loud environment (without omitting the first syllable of a sentence) and reproduce the voice reasonably accurately and reasonably loudly through its speaker, which is what a cell phone must do to function as a phone in real life.

    If no objective and reproducible test currently exists to do this, why not invent one?

    As for me, I have an S3, and I find the speaker volume barely sufficient to hear the caller's voice. I consider this a significant and entirely unnecessary weakness of the S3. A phone's ability to carry a conversation is far more important than its competence as a camera or music player.
  • Impulses - Monday, December 9, 2013 - link

    Those might be your priorities, not necessarily everyone else's though. I can tell you I'd be much more concerned how a phone would fare with music than with calls... I use maybe 200-300 voice minutes a month but I probably spend at least twice as long listening to music/podcasts on my phone (if not thrice as long).

    In the same vein, I couldn't care less about the camera as long as it's usable enough for basic stuff like snapping a pic of something as a reminder while I'm at a store... I still use my pocket camera or my micro four thirds camera for any picture of any moment I'd truly like to remember.

    However I KNOW that's not a majority view and for many many people a smartphone is now their primary camera, so I can appreciate the efforts Brian puts towards evaluating those. I'd imagine that anyone who speaks a ton on their smartphone probably uses a Bluetooth device and I'd bet that's ultimately a bigger factor in call quality (along with the network).

    Not saying it wouldn't be interesting to test mind you, just adding some perspective.
  • DarkXale - Monday, December 9, 2013 - link

    Aside from lacking more precise test methodology, and having way too many variables compared to reality to make the tests reliable in reality - such evaluations are already fairly regularly performed during reviews of the device.

    Do keep in mind most carriers will not support frequencies outside the 300-3400mHz range; inadequate for a decent voice conversation.

    If you are concerned about voice quality, your first priority should be to get the carriers to support wideband audio. Without it, the phone manufacturers themselves can't do that much.

    Apple only introduced it with the iPhone 5, but others like Nokia have supported it in their phones far longer, even prior to the release of Windows Phone (7), including support in virtually every device they've released. (Whether its a low end Asha, Lumia 500/520, or a high end 900/920).
    Even the popular Galaxy 2, 3, and 4 support it - so there is no shortage of devices with the capability.

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