Review on HtC 10 and Sound quality (AQstic Dedicated Integrated DAC)

Discussion in 'Portable Source Gear' started by whitigir, May 8, 2016.
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  1. Whitigir
    Looking for a new phone that does everything well, awesome signals and even watching Netflix ? The 10 maybe for you.

    *disclaimer* this is my personal review and impressions based on my own experiences. Your may varies, and therefore I suggest you to do a personal demo whenever possible to make purchase decisions.

    I just purchased the HtC 10 as I wanted a phone that can work with T-Mobile LTE on every bands even 700, unlocked, and on top of that the 10 also allow free wifi calling.

    image.jpg


    Having it on hand and spend sometime with it. I can say that so far I love it. It feel good in the hands, easily be held and operated on one hand. The home button or wake-up and finger scanner is on the front but as a solid button and not press-on like the Samsung. The finger print scanner does read super fast.

    The phone receptions toward T-Mobile LTE is ridiculously stable and it does really access into T-Mobile extended LTE networks. I used unlocked iPhone 5s, Xperia z, z2, z3, note 4, and at this special place, non of them worked with the LTE from T-Mobile. However, the unlocked 10 has full bars. Beside, I can always make calls and receive calls on wifi networks. Awesome !

    The 10 doesn't come with any bloat wares beside those from Google....not even a music playback app. I do have many apps for that and I pick out the Poweramp alpha

    The camera does focus excellence and snapping picture very fast, good quality so far.

    The phone charge so quick with Quick charge 3.0 and USB type C. I love this USB type C. It is an all in one cables, just as long as it fit into where you want it to, the 10 automatically prompt toward what the USB connection is doing, transferring files, multimedia or charging....etc. It means, you no longer need OTG cables, just buy the USB type C on one end, and the other end on what you want to connect, be it USB micro or USB A...etc....

    I tried gaming on it, and it is not as fast on running hearthstone or loading it log in steps. It gets warmer on longer than 15 mins gaming. Useful for winter fingers warming up or....more like bothersome.

    The screen is of typical quality of color, resolution, and quality

    image.jpg


    Upon connecting the headphones jack, the phone automatically turn on Boom sound, you can turn it off by pulling down the tab and do so. Boom sounds allow triggering on/off. It doesn't detect headphones load as I plugged in Z7 and it get loud enough at 100%. When I unplug and plug in Th900....I forgot to turn down the music, and it blasted my ears off for a couple seconds.....dang it.

    In term of power, it is damn powerful. It can drive Z7 to the uncomfortable loudness, and the controls is too good at loud level, so it is safe to say it has a powerful amplifier circuitry inside it

    In term of sound quality, the 10 doesn't do too well with Onkyo HF player app. I have yet to check out the other apps, but Poweramp Alpha was excellent. Again, remember to set your re-sampling rate to slowest and highest power consumption. I think I read some where that the Poweramp Alpha read the DAC as snap dragon variant 192khz (it is a bug to Poweramp software to always display this line). I am not too sure about the DAC brand. However, one member found out that the 10 use a DAC and not Snapdragon DAC, follow this post

    http://www.head-fi.org/t/662095/best-smartphone-for-audiophile/2730#post_12576215

    Boom sound: it automatically turn on when you play music using wired headphones. You can try to do some personal setting, and it is recommended for people who has imbalanced hearings. However, if you could, I prefer it being off and unchecked. It is still a very impressive features where it doesn't intrude too much into the final quality. I only prefer it off because some of the tonal balances may get a bit messy, but that is because I am picky.

    Now, what about the high quality audio on movies such as Netflix and other 3rd party app ? Netflix is awesome to watch on the 10 with boom sound offer sub bass that is so addicting with Z7, and then the Dolby soundstage. It is a 10/10. Not only music playbacks, but watching Netflix is also a Bliss.

    image.jpg


    Soundstage & soundscape : very wide and spacious, there is also this spherical and holographic staging as well. The 3rd dimensions are pretty well observed.

    Sound signature: I take that it is in the warmer kind of sounding, however it is not the kind of too warmth. It is a bit further away from being neutral, and packing a lot of pumps, slams, punches, dynamic together with very good clarity and transparency details with good controls. Is it good for a smartphone ? I say..hell yes. If V10 was more neutral and precise, the 10 is more musical and fun but still detailed and full of controls. I prefer the 10 over the V10. It has this tonal body balances and density of good controls. HTC is very serious about it audio prowess

    Bass: I actually find it hard to believe this level of pumping, slamming, punching yet well controlled and energetic bass is coming off from a smartphone. It was so impressive that I almost fell out of my chair, because I didn't expect it. The bass lines is very defined, the edges are snappy, the inner density is packed of power, balances and accuracy. It dives low, very low into the sub-bass range and very clean, no struggles. It level of finesse here suits my preferences better than V10 as it has more musicality and density, warmer, fun, yet still accurate. V10 is more neutral

    Mid: the transparency is very good, the vocal is clean and very detailed. Together with the transparency, mid spectrum is full of energies and details. Of course Vocal is very clean, smooth. It is surprisingly good for smartphones. However, if you are picky enough, the lower mid spectrum may lacks some micro energies variations and some dynamic (very little). But don't worry, unless you are picky like I am, who is just fine and still is surprised by the quality. It is smooth, detailed, musical, and satisfying to put.

    Trebles: very splashy, detailed, great energies, full of air. Some more emphasis into mid trebles to higher trebles , so lower trebles is a bit weakened. Trebles lines and edges are well defined.

    Conclusion: many people who would be satisfied with mid-tier DAPs and gears will find the 10 to be packing a lot of musical prowess and quality. V10 held in as a champ last year, but it has to watch out now. Some people may even prefer the 10 better than the V10 if we simply talking about audio quality alone. Yes, this is another phone that is stepping toward the dedicated audio players territory. It may even be too friendly with other apps and offer high fidelity everywhere. It is a winner this year for sure.

    HTC 10 as the transport toward external DAC: it is a breeze, like I mentioned above with the use of type C USB, it is so easy to find a cables that fit anything to your DAC, and it simply connect and feeding the DAC without problems at all.

    image.jpg

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hniu View Post

    Qualcomm Aqstic is an add-on feature in 820. Phone manufactures need to pay Qualcomm extra to use it. For example Oneplus3 choose to keep the price down and use 820 with the standard DAC.
    I doubt it is software only.

    This is exactly it, and people have been misunderstanding what Qualcomm is doing. Snapdragon has the compatibility to accommodate their own in house design of DAC. Before 820, it was all built in (standard), on 820, manufacturers has the option to "opt for" the superior and dedicated DAC which was "specially designed by Qualcomm" to work well in their own system on chip.

    1/ standard integrated DAC
    2/ AQstic DAC....(https://www.qualcomm.com/news/snapdragon/2016/06/02/qualcomm-aqstic-sets-new-standard-audiophiles)

    However the manufacture prefer, and good thing is that it is tunable too, HTC tuned it toward more warmth and colorations to be more appealing to the mass. It is not neutral or natural, but is enjoyable, none the less.


    This is an integrated DAC, but it is only an option....and it is qualified as discrete. The reason why HTC 10 is compatible with all 3rd party apps without constant upgrade is the "hardware comparability" as an integrated by Qualcomm. The V10 is more natural and neutral, but I dislike the fact that it constantly bump into 3rd party app bugs that need fix. The HtC10, on the other hand ? Is excellent

    The bonus thing on the HTC 10 is the audio quality over Bluetooth. It is very good, it is even better than my Zx2 Bluetooth to my Lexus....especially the soundstage presentation.

    I can tell you that as phone Eco system goes...every android phones with 3rd party DAC, including Axon 7, will always have problems with Android 3rd party app bugs. It is one of the down side of Android, unless it was built within the hardware like Qualcomm is doing.

    So my conclusion ? HTC 10 is the best phone for the money on usability, comparability, sound quality, connectivity out there. No other phones matches it, period.

    Some other phones is doing that too, including S7. However, S7 does not offer the network connectivity and unlocked accessibility as much as HTC 10 does....speaking of which, I have not tried the S7.

    Updated: 14/11/2016. Act as a transport for high resolution audio

    IMG_0593.jpg
    Tried HTC 10 today as a transport toward my HA-1 and via upgraded cables. This battle was a huge battle to de-bunk the myth between the differences from DAP vs Smartphone as Transportations.

    Same files on both device

    Same USB cables for both. DIY digital cables of Silver/Gold wires

    IMG_0501.jpg



    First thing first. HTC 10 uses Type C USB , so I needed an adaptor to use the same USB cables for both device, and Zx2 is perhap docked.

    IMG_0592.jpg


    Both is observed on SA5000 in balanced mode from HA-1.

    HTC 10: get charging out of the HA-1 while playing. It will never run out of juice. The HA-1 remote will nicely control the app that is opened and playing priority.

    The sound signature is thin, clean, great trebles, but cold. The edges of textures and lines are not sharpened or well expressed.

    Bass signature is punchy and fast, but is not slamming and or having good decay.

    Mid and vocal is of good solutions but is lacking the musicality and flow, reverbs and micro-energies.

    Treble is very airy, good resolution and details but is lacking smoothness and fluidity

    Soundstage is spherical, and of good depth. However it stream and imaginations are not as well represented

    Zx2 and dock: Zx2 and dock only got charged by a separated adaptor going to the dock. Which is leaving the Zx2 to totally dedicated toward it digital transportation. This isolate the noises generated from the charging and drawing of current from the power by the source.

    The sound signature is thick, warm, musical, fluidity, great trebles, much cleaner. The edges of textures and lines are sharpened with smoothness and is fully energetic.

    Bass is punchy, deep, fast, controlled, and slamming with great energy, great decay and reverberated

    Mid is excellent, fully musical and the flow is very fluidly and continuous. Vocals is smooth, sexy, forward, and so smooth. Reverberated and energies are fully energetic.

    Trebles is very airy, thick and filled with energies , excellent senses of speed, great extensions and sharpened edges lines while remaining very very smooth

    Soundstage is very holographical and spherical.

    Separations and instrumentations layering are excellent

    Tonality and timbres are vividly presenting together with projected placements and accurate positioning, panning.


    Rating as transportation from HTC 10 VS Zx2 and dock toward HA-1 ?

    HTC 10 : 6 out of 10
    Zx2 dock : 10 out of 10 (as a referenced point of device)

    Htc10 is good for a smartphone for direct plugged and played from it 3.5mm. As far as being an audiophile level Transportations, it is not there :D
     
  2. Gee Simpson
    Nice review! That's good to hear that the audio quality is great. I currently own a Samsung Galaxy Note II (International) which has a Wolfson DAC so I've been waiting for a smartphone that would be a worthy upgrade. It seems like this might be the one! [​IMG] 
     
  3. malifact
    Thanks for taking the time to write the review. I wasn't sure about the HTC 10 and I'm glad I cancelled my pre-order now.
     
  4. SteveOliver
     
    Why? The review is positive I thought, I'm looking forward to getting mine maybe sometime this week.
     
  5. malifact

    Yes, but if the sound signature is warmer than the LG V10 it will not pair well with my earphones. So it's personal preference. I'll wait for the Vivo Xplay 5 which I'll hopefully have soon.
     
  6. 2jono
    Like many i do appreciate your HTC 10  review .
    Can i ask how the external speakers sound , as it wasn't mentioned at least that i noticed ?
    Thanks for answering ..
     
  7. Whitigir

    Ah yes, the external speaker is good, clean and more clear than Samsung Note 4. It is just as loud but with more depth and clarity. Bass and trebles are very clean too, but most importantlyit is the soudstage. The first time I hear a smartphonewith external speaker to have this kind of depth. Bass is a bit weak though

    The quick camera access is very good. When the phone is off or locked, just stroke down on it screen twice and camera is on
     
  8. Ting Tiew Yik
  9. Gee Simpson
    What's wrong with capactive buttons?
     
  10. mx19
    Wow, that's a serious statement. I've been hunting for something with serious stuff onboard - preferably ESS Sabre DAC + TI op-amps but it's suprising to hear that no-dac smartphone sounds as good as hi-end packed one... On the other hand xduoo x2 also didn't have separate DAC and sounded very nicely from what I read...
     
  11. AudiOw
    Nice review, thanks! Now I just need to know how the Vivo Xplay 5 Elite is, comparing.
     
  12. axi6ne8us
    Thank you for this review. Its well appreciated. Presently I'm using the S7 Edge and have been thinking of jumping ship over to a smartphone with great quality audio. 
     
    I was considering the HTC 10 but was holding off until more in-depth feedback was done on the 10. Now i'm not so impress since it doesn't have a DAC.
    I thought about the LG V10, which was a top choice, but I felt I was going backwards from the s7 edge. 
     
    Then there was the Lenovo Vibe X3, which has three Texas Instruments OPA1612 amplifiers, a Cirrus Logic WM8281 codec for noise and echo cancellation to handle the input from the three mics, and a high-end Sabre 9018C2M DAC complimented with Dolby Atmos certification.  
    The problem is  ... it's not available in the US.
     
    On June 9th, lenovo will be launching the "project Tango" phone. Hopefully, it will have top-end specs with all those audiophile goodies. 
    I will probably hold-off on my decision until that live event. 
    malifact mentioned about the Vivo Xplay 5[​IMG]  ... 
    It has Hi-Fi: CS4398 DAC+AD45257, ES9028 and OPA1612. But again, still not for the US market.
     
    There are some very good options, but most are not available in this parts.  I can choice to import, but most also don't have 4G Lte bands to operate on T-Mobile.  
     
  13. Caruryn
    Props to Whitigir for taking again the time to write another detailed phone review.HTC 10 and LG G5 with the Hifi Plus Dac are probably the phones to go for SQ this year.
     
  14. AudiOw
     
    How would you describe the GS7E sound?
     
    Also, which is more appealing to you, the HTC 10 or the Vivo Xplay 5 Elite?
     
  15. Whitigir
    Vivo X play 5 elite doesn't have USB type C. The USB type C is very important to me. Also it doesn't have the removable battery.
     
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