Simple beeps were the only sounds my first phone could produce. Having The Flintstones theme as my ringtone was pretty cool at the time, but playing actual music on that brick was practically impossible. Today, even the cheapest phones play audio of all sorts. In fact, most new models sound remarkably good given their size – and they should when a phone could be its owner’s primary entertainment device. But which phone has the best speakers? This is the question I wanted to answer, so I did my own experiment involving six of the top high-end phones you can get today: the iPhone 11 Pro Max, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+, the OnePlus 7T Pro, the LG G8X, the Google Pixel 4 XL, and the Asus ROG Phone II. For the purpose of this test, I played the same 10 songs to 15 people and asked them to give each phone a score from 1 to 10. All songs were played at maximum volume through Spotify, and to avoid differences in bitrate that might occur when streaming audio, all tracks were downloaded offline at the highest quality setting. In case you’re wondering, here’s a list of the tracks I played to the participants:
- Shawn Mendes, Camila Cabello – Señorita
- Daddy Yankee & Snow – Con Calma
- Ed Sheeran & Justin Bieber – I Don’t Care
- Halestorm – I miss the misery
- The Cat Empire – Still Young
- Klaus Badelt – He’s a pirate (The theme from the Pirates of the Caribbean movie)
- Skrillex – Bangarang
- Sting – Englishman in New York
- Norah Jones – Turn Me On
- Selah Sue – Alone
Yeah, it’s my test so I get to pick the songs. Don’t @ me.
The most important part of the test was that all participants were blindfolded for the duration of the listening session. In other words, they had no idea which phone they were listening to. They could only rate it based on its audio performance, unaffected by its brand name.
The iPhone 11 Pro Max, which came in second place, was also ranked highly by the participants in the test. Its sound reproduction is very similar to that of the Pixel – music sounds full, balanced, with a good amount of bass for a phone.
In last place, the LG G8X didn’t win the hearts of the audience. It’s the best sounding yet compared to previous LG smartphones, but it can’t quite challenge rivals from other brands. Clearer, more balanced sound with extra bass should do the trick.
A few interesting observations
Apparently, “good sound” is defined differently by different people. Many of the participants admitted that they ranked one phone higher than others primarily because it had more bass. However, a few people paid more attention particularly to how clear the vocals were.
Also, people rarely complained about a phone being too loud, but they did point out when one phone was quieter than others. In general, participants rarely mentioned volume in their comments, which leads me to believe that they didn’t score a phone highly solely for being louder. But I often heard people liking a particular phone for sounding more balanced, as in the mids did not overpower the lows and the highs.
Finally, it is worth pointing out that the great majority of people could easily hear the differences in audio quality. Only one person said that they had a hard time and that all phones sounded pretty much the same to them.
Surprised by the results? Let us know in the comments, and tell us what kind of blind tests you’d like to see us do next!