Recently purchased this phone after having used a Samsung Galaxy for about a half year. Funny enough, I never ever played a single piece of music on my old Galaxy phone because I used a 160 Gb "7th" Gen iPod Classic which had all my music in loss-less format and I assumed this unit gave me the best playback. Today, I decided to do a comparison of the three units for a high one... then I had my wife take a listen (she has much better ears than I do...)... I used quite a bit of music to compare (Green Day's "American Idiot", Sarah McLachlan's "Fallen", Daniel Lanois' "Falling at Your Feet" and "Here is What is", and Mark Knofler and Emmylou Harris' "Beyond my Wildest Dreams". My most critical listening was in the latter piece as it has some great competing guitars, symbols and the two harmonizing (Knofler singing in a gentle baritone and Harris harmonizing in a quite, sparkly almost ethereal voice). Here is what my wife and I noted using a pair of Grado SR60-i headphones with bowls:
Samsung Galaxy S: Very laid back sound, instruments and voices seem to be set up in front of you in a well damped room. The bizarre thing though was that while they felt almost veiled and missing sparkle, the imaging was incredible - I could pick out instruments from each other and voices were incredibly clear and distinct. Overall just incredibly relaxed, smooth, pleasant and neutral sounding presentation. Bass was well balanced, neither boomy nor bloomy.
Samsung Galaxy Nexus: The Nexus sounded very much like the Galaxy S, except that there was more high frequency detail and the presentation of the music was a bit more forward than the Galaxy S. It felt a bit like the veil of the Galaxy S had been removed, but curiously not improved in any way.
6th Gen iPod: I was quite shocked to find that the music was quite thin and very forward (almost in your face), the highs had a hazzy, sibliant quality which produced unpleasant harmonics and killed any imaging. What I had thought was detail was actually quite the opposite - siblant and fatiguing. Bass however, was deep and strong.
My favorite was the Galaxy S, my wife's favorite was the Nexus - we both agreed the iPod was terrible in comparison.
So I did some digging regarding the DACs. Seems the Galaxy S uses the fantastic Wolfson's WM8994 DAC. The Nexus uses a Texas Instrument's (slash Burr Brown...) TWL6040. And finally, while older iPods used Wolfson DACs, the current iPod Classic, Touch and iPhones all use Cirrus Logic chipsets. My iPod has the CS42L55. Of interest, my favorite gear at home uses Wolfson DACs, my previous gear (which I also loved) was all Burr Brown. The Burr Brown kit always seemed a bit more forward and detailed, while the Wolfson kit was a bit more relaxed sounding. I've never owned anything with Cirrus Logic chipsets that I know of - and I do not think I will be buying any soon given the garbage being put out by my current iPod.
Edited by bdesousa - 4/25/12 at 1:01pm