If you are an audiophile and looking for a new smartphone, our list of 8 smartphones with best music quality, should give you an idea what are your best options.
The way that technologies evolve is fascinating, almost 40 years ago Sony released the original Walkman cassette player(in 1979), and just five years later in 1984 Sony released first portable CD player. It took a little longer for the next portable music player innovation in the form of mp3 players to hit the market in the late 90s. Nowadays people mostly use their smartphones for playing music on the go, even though that is not their primary purpose, and this is why phone manufacturers are starting to release smartphones that are really made for playing music.
Digital to analog converter (DAC) is one of the most important parts of audio hardware because it directly affects the audio bit rate, and this is why smartphones targeted at audiophiles, have 24-bit, 32-bit DACs and even quad DACs that make the sound much better. DAC converts digital audio information into analog audio signal and sends it to the headphone amplifier, and that is the next important hardware component — obviously the stronger the amplifier is, the louder will your headphones sound. What is interesting is that both of these components become irrelevant if you are using wireless headphones. The reason is simple – music sent via Bluetooth is in digital form, that means that headphones themselves need to have some form of DAC integrated. There is no way for an integrated amplifier in the phone to deliver power to the wireless headphones, so again wireless headphones need to have their own amplifier. The final nail in the coffin, for the wireless headphones, is that music sent via Bluetooth needs to be compressed because Bluetooth has a limited bandwidth and therefore the music quality is degraded. Supposedly if you are not playing 24-bit high-quality audio, but just playing mp3s of the standard (but already horrible) quality, and doing that on the iPhone 7 you will not be able to notice the degradation, that is great, isn’t it? No matter what Apple and other companies that follow the trend of not providing 3.5mm jack on their phones would like you to believe in, if you are an audiophile, there is no way that wireless headphones are currently good enough substitute for the wired ones. That doesn’t mean they will never be, it is just that they are not right now. Just like we’ve gotten from the large players to super compact players, we will get to good sounding wireless headphones, but it will take time. As an audiophile you probably also care about having good speakers, so you can also check out our list of 8 smartphones with best loudspeakers, and see if some phones are on both lists.
For the formation of our list, we’ve looked at smartphone reviews at various phone review sites, such as Tech Radar, Mobile Scout, and Gadget Hacks, and chose those that had good ratings, have 3.5mm headphone jack, and have an emphasis on the sound quality, either through hardware or software enhancements. We did not rank phones in any specific way. There are two phones that we need to mention even though they didn’t end up on our list. Marshall London is a very special phone with two 3.5mm jacks, and you could even say that it is an audio player that has a bonus feature of being a smartphone. It is already a relatively old model, and it is available only in a small number of countries that don’t include the United States, and that is why it is not on the list. Another phone that needs to be mentioned is LG G6 – version for the South Korea and Australia is packed with quad DAC. Again limited availability is the reason for it not being on the list of 8 smartphones with best music quality. It is really weird that LG’s sales/marketing department thought that having wireless charging is a better feature for the US version, don’t you agree?