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Smartphones as Sources

post #1 of 48
Thread Starter 

Hadn't seen much talk about smartphones as a source, outside of the iPhone and a couple mentions of the Galaxy S/II, so I figured I'd start off. I use two, a rooted Inspire 4g with Cyanogen Mod 7, and a stock Sensation 4g. IME the Inspire has a legitimate sound card, but the Sensation falls short; I don't know much about mobile sources and I was curious to see if anyone knew much about the sound cards in cell phones, if rooting/running an alternate operating system could affect sq, etc.

post #2 of 48
Thread Starter 

Bump? I see lots of activity about iphone and galaxy today...anyone know anything about htc?

post #3 of 48
I use a Droid 3, and while it is rooted, I don't think that contributes to sound quality at all.

The new Power Amp (version 2) is fantastic. It has limiter code so the EQ never distorts... and the UI is great. Totally worth the $5 in my opinion. Check out the uncrippled 2-week trial.

The SQ from the headphone out sounds good enough to me... enough to enjoy, but not quite a proper rig. I don't think there's much you can do about it until we find a way to drive USB DACs with a USB OTG dongle. smily_headphones1.gif
post #4 of 48
Thread Starter 
Interesting. A friend of mine was saying that the software could have something to do with it; my phones are both made by htc and use similar processors, both manufactured by Qualcomm, and yet the Inspire has VERY noticeably better bass extension and overall better sq. My SE215 sound really great out of it, it really makes the sub bass shine, whereas with the unrooted sensation, bass extension and soundstage both suffer noticeably.
post #5 of 48

It's very possible to cripple the sound by bad firmware/software.

post #6 of 48
Thread Starter 

Alright then.

post #7 of 48
Originally Posted by Gilly87 View Post

Interesting. A friend of mine was saying that the software could have something to do with it; my phones are both made by htc and use similar processors, both manufactured by Qualcomm, and yet the Inspire has VERY noticeably better bass extension and overall better sq. My SE215 sound really great out of it, it really makes the sub bass shine, whereas with the unrooted sensation, bass extension and soundstage both suffer noticeably.


My sensation xe (using poweramp-no eq) exhibits the best bass extension and imaging/separation of any pmp I have ever used including ipods/clowns and iPhones.

As a specific source out I don't know though as its not something I'd use for a source tbf.
post #8 of 48
Thread Starter 

I'm about 90% certain the Sensation XE has plenty of hardware deviations from the original, but good to know in any case. If the XE was available with bands for T-Mobile's HSPA+ I would grab one in a heartbeat...and root it ^_^

post #9 of 48

xe review here


relevant part below:




Most of you might have skipped right to this part and for good reason. HTC has really put in a lot of money behind this particular phone and marketed it as the go-to smartphone for all music lovers. It is after all their first love child with Dr. Dre. Lets first look at what HTC and Dr. Dre have to say about what you can expect from the Sensation XE:

  • Music on the cellphone should sound and feel great and we don’t want you to just download bad sounding mp3s and play them on bad sounding $3 earbuds. Why spend hundreds of dollars on a phone or a tablet and listen to music out of $3 earbuds? It just doesn’t add up.”
  • Beats by Dr Dre and HTC will work together to reengineer how sound is delivered so that the consumer feels the music the way that the artist intended.
  • The tailor-made headset is specially engineered to deliver extraordinary sound. Finally, hear what you’ve been missing.

The first step HTC has taken to make ‘music sound like the artist intended’ is to bundle great headphones in the box. I cannot remember the last time a phone came with headphones that I did not want to throw away. Thankfully HTC has acknowledged that and bundled the iBeats by Monster into the retail box. These are slightly different from what you’d get from Monster, mostly minor visual and technical changes(more on that later). You get a neat little carrying pouch and different sized eartips.

To test the audio performance of the phone I copied a few Pink Floyd and Coldplay songs which were encoded in MP3 @ 128-320kbps depending on the song. Why MP3? Well because the default music player doesn’t play FLAC or lossless. That’s a big minus for a product claiming to be the best for music. When you plug in the Beats headphones and start the music player, you’ll see a ‘Beats Audio enabled’ notification. Listening to Comfortably Numb or Viva la Vida was not a pleasant experience. What ‘beats audio’ does basically is apply an EQ preset that boosts the bass to such an extent that it’s all you hear throughout the song. The low frequencies completely overshadows the mids and the highs. Even the guitar solo at the end of Comfortably Numb felt terrible. In its defense the ‘Beats Audio’ did amplify the volume without which i was forced to use maximum volume. To test whether it’s the equalizer preset that ‘Beats Audio’ applies when its enabled or whether the supplied headsets were tuned for excessive bass I hooked up the iBeats to my iPod and also to my PC which has a dedicated creative sound card (Xtreme Music). Despite having a much better audio hardware, even my PC and iPod struggled to produce good clean sound. There is just too much bass in these headphones. Don’t get me wrong, bass lovers are going to have a field day with this but for someone like me, not so much. Clearly these headphones have been tampered with by Monster before being sent to HTC. If you love bass, by all means buy this and enable ‘Beats Audio’ and you’ll have a fantastic experience. However if you disable ‘Beats Audio’ the resulting volume will be quite low and you’ll be forced to put volume to its maximum so for a ‘better’ experience I suggest you keep it on. These little monsters can go really low and produce some thumping bass that is usually associated with bigger headphones.

Since I established the supplied headphones weren’t all that great to begin with, I plugged in my Sony MDR-V6. Any detail Dr. Dre wanted you to pick up in your music, the V6 will make sure you hear it. HTC said the ‘Beats Audio’ will only work with supplied headsets but for some reason it worked with the V6 as well. And just as I said before, this applied an EQ preset that blows the bass way out of proportion. To get acceptable quality I had to disable it. The sound quality was still way off from what I’ve listened to on dedicated PMPs but it was tolerable. The V6 do a better job of coping without ‘Beats Audio’ than the Beats headphones. With ‘Beats Audio’ enabled however the supplied headphones are slightly ahead. The EQ preset and the Beats headphones were tuned for each other i.e excessive bass.

What about the music player then? Well unfortunately it’s completely identical to what you’ve used on the Sensation. I was expecting some more settings to play with or a visual makeover but I suppose HTC didn’t have the time for that. What I cannot excuse HTC for however is the lack of any EQ settings which was present in the original Sensation. Yep you heard it right, the music player does not allow you to tweak the EQ. You either get the Beats or the HTC settings. And if you think you can download a different music player from the market then I have worse news; ‘Beats Audio’ only works with the default music player.

Here’s my conclusion regarding music on the Sensation XE. Firstly there is no special audio processing hardware inside the phone. The Beats Audio is merely an equalizer setting which you can set on any media player (except the default one). It’s an S equalizer curve which means the bass is boosted, the mids remain the same and the highs get only a slight boost. This is why you get the excessive bass. If you already have a Sensation then simply apply this curve and you’ll get your Beats Audio. Excessive bass also means you can throw the ‘the way the artist intended’ theory out the window. If you really want to hear a song the way the artist intended, then turn off the equalizer, which unfortunately you can’t do with the default music player. You can also forget about a pure music experience with the supplied headphones. The iBeats retail for around 100$. In this price you can get Westone UM1 which will obliterate the Beats. If HTC was true to its marketing we’d get better supplied headphones, a software with FLAC and lossless playback capability and custom EQ settings.

I know I’m being harsh on HTC here, but why shouldn’t I? They’ve made sensationalist claims regarding the sound quality on this phone and as a result we get a severely lacking music player, an EQ preset that ruins sound quality and mediocre headphones. If you want a decent music experience on a smartphone, get an iPhone 4 or Samsung Nexus S. HTC Sensation XE I’m afraid just doesn’t cut it. Truth be told Beats by Dr. Dre was never known for good quality headphones in the first place so perhaps this partnership between the two companies was purely a commercial move.

post #10 of 48
Thread Starter 

So it's an overly expensive step in kind of the right direction, and makes a lot of false claims.


I know it has a different processor from the original Sensation; apparently they were stupid enough to just shovel the old sound hardware in the XE and hope that people fell for the EQ...? Most HTC phones come with the SRS WOW HD preset thing; my guess is this is just a rebranding of what is likely the same EQ settings as what was already on the Sensation.


Guess I'll stick with my rooted Inspire :) My SE215 sound great out of it.

Edited by Gilly87 - 11/13/11 at 5:58am
post #11 of 48

I've got a Droid 2, which I would not recommend as a source. The internal electronics aren't that great, so it adds a fair amount of noise to the signal.

post #12 of 48
Well that's one way to look at the xe. But in its defense, the beats are far, far from carp and best just about any other pair of earphones I have owned except ny ie7's.

Are they the best vfm for the retail price? Dunno but the price premium for the xe over stock is way less than the beats.
And that's not all the story is it? IPhones don't play flac and have the absolute worst eq ever invented. So asking people to get the iPhone with its massive mark up and pathetic earphones over the xe is missing the whole point.
Disappointingly, the review didn't plug in his own earphones and use a third party player ( poweramp) to give us a proper indication of what the xe sounds like straight from the board.

Imho it (xe) is better than the 3gs. I won't comment on the 4 because I actually don't like how that sounds.
Out of the box with supplied earphones it trounces any mass engineered pmp.

Change the phones and it still sounds better than the iPhone.

So yea, still looking for a rational review on the xe with or without stock earphones/player.
post #13 of 48
Originally Posted by superpiper View Post

IPhones don't play flac and have the absolute worst eq ever invented.

True, but they do play ALAC and you can buy an app to fix the EQ for $2.99. I'm not an Apple fanboy, but in the interests of full disclosure ....


(the inevitable question is 'how do I convert my FLAC to ALAC ?', and Google is your friend in that endeavour. In my case, I rip everything as WAV and do my conversions from there - easy peasy)


post #14 of 48
Had some more quality time listening to the XE.
I changed the music app to "playerpro" and locked in the dsp module.

I'm blown away tbf. Outstanding imho with the dsp onboard.

I'd love someone else with better ears to give an opinion, especially with playerpro/dsp running.
I've read that the XE has a dedicated dsp processing chip. I wouldn't be surprised tbf.
post #15 of 48

XE's internal electronics have been messed with. not sure if it's hardware or software, but the output is generally bass boosted, as in permanently EQed.


GSMArena did a review of this phone where they hook it up to an M-Audio and measure signal distortion and frequency response.

Be my guest:



You can see the bass is exagerated with or without headphones

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