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Engadget's comparison of the iPhone 5/4S, Galaxy S3 and the One X for 'Audiophiles'.

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

Conclusion:

 

Quote:

We're now able to round this musical journey off with a cadence that -- we hope -- does justice to all the handsets we've tried. The main conclusion is quite straightforward: tests one, two and three all deliberately gave preferential treatment to the loudest phones with the least distortion, which resulted in a unanimous victory for the iPhone 4S. By extension, some of that glory also belongs to the iPhone 4, which as far as we can tell possesses virtually identical audio circuitry.

The iPhone 5, meanwhile, joins the ranks of smartphones which generally sound great but which aren't especially well-suited to those audiophiles who want to stick with high-impedance headphones. In terms of pure audio quality, it was above average in the subjective tests and probably deserves to tie in second place with the global HTC One X, which has its own peculiar but attractive sound.

We need to ask Apple why it has now joined in with other manufacturers in limiting the volume on its newest handset. It's possible that there are very good reasons, such as avoiding the risk of hearing damage. Or perhaps restricting the headphone amp is seen as a way of maximizing battery life. Either way, it's curious that some manufacturers seem to be moving in the exact opposite direction: for example, we're told the voltage has been bumped up on the headphone jack of the forthcoming HTC Windows Phone 8x specifically in order to cater for hefty headphones, which leaves us very keen to give that phone a listen.

As for the majority of smartphone users who prefer low-impedance or closed-back headphones that are designed for mobile devices, and that are better suited to an office environment or public transport, then the first three tests aren't especially relevant. The only test that really matters is the fourth one, which broadened the scope of comparison.

If you demand a flexible OS, then Android shines in that area. If you need a sensible price for at least 32GB, then a Galaxy S III and iPhone 4S stand out as the smartest options in the US, alongside the global HTC One X and PureView 808 in other lands (or on import). If battery life is all-important, pick the iPhone 5, Galaxy S III or AT&T HTC One X. But if you want a phone that really shines on all of those criteria, then we'd have to recommend the Samsung Galaxy S III. Although it didn't win us over to the same degree as the global One X in terms of subjective audio quality, it excels in every other respect: it's a great smartphone with the advantage of LTE in the States (missing on the iPhone 4S, for example), it can be heavily tweaked with apps and third-party mods, and it's every inch an audiophile device.

 

http://www.engadget.com/2012/10/02/iphone-vs-rivals-audio-tests/

 

With a weird, confusing ending...


Edited by sulkoudai - 10/2/12 at 9:36am
post #2 of 19

Thanks for sharing. Great to see a mainstream media-outlet like Engadget focussing on SQ! This could push smartphone makers to focus a bit more on better sound from their next generation of smartphones.


Edited by Vibemerchant - 10/2/12 at 11:44am
post #3 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vibemerchant View Post

Thanks for sharing. Great to see a mainstream media-outlet like Engadget focussing on SQ! This could push smartphone makers to focus a bit more on better sound from their next generation of smartphones.

 

Good to see yes, but fairly horrible article in the details.

 

They fail to mention USB audio for the S3 at all, or the hardware additions available to the iPhone to improve SQ - for the purported intent of the article that seems like a bad omission. I don't think it needed a lot of print space, since it won't be relevant to the majority of readers, but it still should have been mentioned (with links to other sources about the details for interested readers).

 

They mention that ALAC is supported by Android phones via third party players, but fail to mention that FLAC is available to the iPhone by third party players too.

 

They used the 990 Pro with 250ohm impedance for some of the testing, straight out of the headphone jack.

 

They did not volume match in their subjective comparison, which basically invalidates the whole section.

post #4 of 19

Agreed that the article was pretty confusing and could have been much more clear while providing more/better information. But I did like the 3rd party testing.
 

I'm pretty happy with the 4S and the Fostex HP_P1.  I'm going to test the new Sony PHA-1 as well as it looks to be a strong performer.


Edited by gkanai - 10/2/12 at 5:45pm
post #5 of 19

Good thing I stuck with my iPhone 4. :)

post #6 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by NZtechfreak View Post

 

Good to see yes, but fairly horrible article in the details.

 

They fail to mention USB audio for the S3 at all, or the hardware additions available to the iPhone to improve SQ - for the purported intent of the article that seems like a bad omission. I don't think it needed a lot of print space, since it won't be relevant to the majority of readers, but it still should have been mentioned (with links to other sources about the details for interested readers).

 

They mention that ALAC is supported by Android phones via third party players, but fail to mention that FLAC is available to the iPhone by third party players too.

 

They used the 990 Pro with 250ohm impedance for some of the testing, straight out of the headphone jack.

 

They did not volume match in their subjective comparison, which basically invalidates the whole section.

 

Probably the worst audio review i have ever read in a while.

 

The whole of the low impedance 'subjective test' was done with the Sennheiser IE80 alone.

 

Even though it was subjective. I think a big site like Engadget, especially because cause the title was called 'Smartphones for Audiophiles', should have used multiple different IEMs, sound signature wise and price wise (For e.g. Westone 4, Sony EX1000, FA DBA-02, Vsonic GR07 and Head Direct RE0 would be a good combination)

 

For the whole review, there are no mentions of: transparency, soundstage, sound signature, how 'clean' it is, equalisers and enhancements, etc.

post #7 of 19

Going along these same lines, does anyone know if the new dock from the iPhone 5 could be used with the CLAS/HP-P1, with a different style cable? I've read that the new dock is "all digital". Not sure if that plays much a part in my question though.

post #8 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by sulkoudai View Post

 

Probably the worst audio review i have ever read in a while.

 

The whole of the low impedance 'subjective test' was done with the Sennheiser IE80 alone.

 

Even though it was subjective. I think a big site like Engadget, especially because cause the title was called 'Smartphones for Audiophiles', should have used multiple different IEMs, sound signature wise and price wise (For e.g. Westone 4, Sony EX1000, FA DBA-02, Vsonic GR07 and Head Direct RE0 would be a good combination)

 

For the whole review, there are no mentions of: transparency, soundstage, sound signature, how 'clean' it is, equalisers and enhancements, etc.

 

Yep, confusing piece when you look at its title because the title clearly makes it sound like an audiophile-targeted thing when it clearly isn't.

post #9 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by NZtechfreak View Post

 

Yep, confusing piece when you look at its title because the title clearly makes it sound like an audiophile-targeted thing when it clearly isn't.

 

It seems like the person that wrote the article doesn't know much about headphones, but trying to look like an audiophile by doing useless tests and comparisons.

 

Of course, a normal person that isnt into headphones will believe what ever they say.

post #10 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by sulkoudai View Post

 

It seems like the person that wrote the article doesn't know much about headphones, but trying to look like an audiophile by doing useless tests and comparisons.

 

Of course, a normal person that isnt into headphones will believe what ever they say.

 

...and that's a problem. Lots of comments there along the lines of "great post Engadget, good job and really great information, nice to see audio being paid attention!". Ug.

post #11 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by NZtechfreak View Post

 

...and that's a problem. Lots of comments there along the lines of "great post Engadget, good job and really great information, nice to see audio being paid attention!". Ug.

 

I concur. They don't even consider the balanced armature scenario where output impedance can ruin the aural day.

 

Still somehow by a fluke  the nailed that iPhone 4/4S are above any other handset.


Edited by elfary - 10/3/12 at 7:15am
post #12 of 19

The iPhone 5 has great soundquality( nice tight punchy bass and overall crisp and detailed) and better than all iPods i tested.

post #13 of 19

I know this isn't a popular opinion (and that I'm new to posting in this forum), but I really appreciated the Engadget article.

 

I get that it was somewhat subjective and only covered one set of headphones (and no other music players, external DAC's, other headphone comparisons, etc.), but I appreciate the attempt at covering the basics which is a pair of headphones with each source.  

 

Part of the reason I appreciate it is when I've asked for objective comparisons in various forums I get responses like "The iPhone 5 has the best sound quality and sounds much better than all previous iPod's or android phones!", which is far more subjective than the Engadget article.

 

Thanks for sharing the post!

post #14 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by elfary View Post

 

I concur. They don't even consider the balanced armature scenario where output impedance can ruin the aural day.

 

Still somehow by a fluke  the nailed that iPhone 4/4S are above any other handset.

 

No fluke, they listened to phones at max volume - their objective ranking are basically just listing them in order of loudest output to quietest, and the 4S is the loudest of that bunch.

post #15 of 19

I'm not surprised with the tests with the iPhone 4S as i find the SQ on my 4S simply awesome. The SQ is just as good if not better than the SQ of my Samsung Galaxy S (voodoo) Cowon J3 and Sony A729 and X1060. It is the best mobile phone I have ever owned. However is saying this I haven't heard the HTC and Samsung GIII yet.

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