Let’s take a look at the best smartphones on the market for audiophiles.
For many of us, having the smartphone with the best audio quality is an absolute necessity. In this article we’ll take a close look at the 2019’s smartphone lineup and what they each offer in terms of smartphone audio quality. We’ll also discuss the pros and cons of picking a phone with or without a headphone jack when it comes to audio quality.
In 2019, many phone manufacturers have sacrificed audio quality in order to focus on other areas.
If getting the best audio quality is an important factor in your purchasing decision then take a look at our breakdown below:
The 5 Best Smartphones for Audiophiles
Nerdivate Pick: LG V50 ThinQ
The absolute best smartphone for audiophiles period.
Release date: June 2019 | Weight: 183g | Dimensions: 159 x 76 x 8 mm | OS: Android 9 Pie | Screen size: 6.4-inch OLED| Resolution: 1440 x 3120 | Pixel density: 538 ppi | CPU: Snapdragon 855 | RAM: 6 GB | Storage: 128 (up to 1TB with card) | Battery: 4,000mAh | Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP + 16MP| Front camera: 8MP + 5MP
Audio Pros: 3.5mm Headphone Jack | 32-bit Quad-DAC | DTS: X Virtual Sound | Bluetooth 5 with aptX HD | Stereo Speakers |
Other Pros: 5G | High Performance Specs |Gorgeous Display | IP 68 Waterproof | Military Grade Drop Protection | Wireless Charging
Cons: 5G Battery Life | Pre-loaded Apps
Until the LG V50 ThinQ came out in June 2019, it’s predecessor, the LG V40 ThinQ was the best smartphone for audiophiles. The new V50 model improves upon it’s former model in most areas, including sound quality.
The LG V50 has a 32-bit Hi-Fi Quad digital-to-analog converter (DAC) capable of driving the highest-end headphones you could ever hope to use with a smartphone. LG caters to audiophiles who want full customization over their sound experience by enabling customizable EQ settings as well as 10 presets (pictured below). Users can also customize the short, sharp, and slow digital filter options to manipulate the spectral delay.
The LGV50 also includes DTS:X Virtual Surround which uses special digital signal processing to simulate the full immersive experience of 3D stereo surround sound, without using an elaborate speaker setup. To clarify, the DTS:X Virtual Surround feature is achieved through the wired audio jack connection, not the built-in phone speakers. This is an especially enjoyable feature when watching movies.
Nerdivate Verdict: The LG V50 is a pricey choice, but flaunts flagship specs and the best sound quality features of any smartphone on the market.
Budget Pick: Google Pixel 3a XL
The best audio quality on a non-flagship range phone.
Release date: May 2019 | Weight: 167g | Dimensions: 160 x 76 x 8 mm | OS: Android 9 Pie | Screen size: 6.0-inch | Resolution: 1080 x 2160 OLED | Pixel density: 402 ppi | CPU: Snapdragon 670 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64GB | Battery: 3,700mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 8MP
Audio Pros: 3.5mm Headphone Jack | LDAC Support | Stereo Speakers
Other Pros: Same Pixel 3 Camera | Budget Friendly | No Bloatware
Cons: No Wireless Charging | Not Waterproof
Google’s flagship Pixel 3 XL unfortunately does not have a headphone jack. Their budget friendlier Pixel 3a XL, however, does. Google cut a few corners to bring the price of the Pixel 3a XL down, but audio wasn’t one of them. They included stereo speakers that sound great for the phone’s price range, even despite firing in different directions. The loudspeakers reach a very adequate volume without distorting the audio quality, which makes for a great experience when watching videos and movies.
The most important feature the Pixel 3a XL has in terms of audio quality is its 3.5mm audio jack. As you know, simply having a headphone jack puts the Pixel 3a’s audio quality miles ahead of smartphones that depend on Bluetooth audio.
The Pixel 3a XL is a great budget phone in respect to features outside of audio quality. The Snapdragon 670 processor isn’t flagship level, but still more than enough for the average user. The chassis is plastic rather than metal or ceramic like most flagships, but if you keep your phone in a case you probably won’t even notice. It doesn’t have wireless charging or an IP68 waterproof rating like the LG V50, but it does have the same amazing camera as the Google Pixel 3 (considered the best on the market). At it’s current price point, the Pixel 3a XL is hard to beat for anyone who values both audio and camera quality.
Nerdivate Verdict: If you’re looking for a budget phone with excellent audio quality and a superb camera, then the Pixel 3a XL is impossible to beat.
Best Wireless Audio Experience:
The best smartphone for audiophiles (and gamers) without an audio jack.
Release date: October 2018 | Weight: 220g | Dimensions: 159 x 79 x 9 mm | OS: Android 9 Pie | Screen size: 5.7-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 2560 IPS | Pixel density: 513 ppi | CPU: Snapdragon 845 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 64GB + 1TB Card Slot | Battery: 4,000mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 8MP
Audio Pros: Front Facing Speakers | LDAC Support | Dolby Atmos Stereo Speakers | aptX HD Support
Other Pros: 8GB RAM | Amazing Display | 120 Hz Refresh Rate | Budget Friendly
Cons: Large Bezels | No Audio Jack
The Razer Phone 2 is the second smartphone iteration by the gaming hardware company and is designed specifically for mobile gamers. Though Razer didn’t have audiophiles specifically in mind when they built this phone, gamers have higher audio standards than the average consumer. Despite not having an audio jack, the Razer Phone 2 packs an audio punch with its front facing stereo loudspeakers. The speakers are very crisp for smartphone speaker and don’t distort at high volumes.
The Razer Phone 2 utilizes Android 9.0 Pie OS, so it offers the latest and greatest Bluetooth experience. Where the Razer Phone 2 really excels ahead of other smartphones that don’t have audio jacks is with it’s Dolby Atmos support for wired headphones, which is a considerable step up from most other phones without headphone jacks.
If you’re willing to take the hit of not having an audio jack, the Razer Phone 2 has a few really awesome non-audio related features. The screen resolution is crystal clear with a 2560 x 1440 resolution IPS screen with a 513 ppi pixel density (one of the highest pixel densities of any phone on the market). If you are the type of person who appreciates good audio, you may also be able to appreciate the ultra smooth 120 Hz screen refresh rate.
Nerdivate Verdict: The Razer Phone 2 is perfect for audiophiles who prioritize high quality audio from front facing speakers and have a discerning eye for sharp resolutions and high refresh rates.
Best Overall Phone Quality:
The best phone overall… that also has great audio quality.
Release date: March 2019 | Weight: 175g | Dimensions: 158 x 74 x 8 mm | OS: Android 9 Pie | Screen size: 6.4-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 3040 AMOLED | Pixel density: 522 ppi | CPU: Snapdragon 855 | RAM: 8-12GB | Storage: 128GB-1TB + 1TB Card Slot | Battery: 4,100mAh | Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP + 16MP | Front camera: 10MP + 8MP
Audio Pros: Stereo Speakers | Active Noise Cancellation | Audio Jack | Dolby Atmos/AKG sound
Other Pros: 12GB RAM |Insane Display | Superb Camera
Cons: Expensive | Pre-installed Apps
The Samsung Galaxy S10+ is an excellent flagship device that has top of the line specs in every department. One of those departments is audio, where Samsung made the popular decision to keep the audio jack. With Apple getting rid of their’s on the iPhone, there’s a certain portion of the market that demands a high quality flagship device equipped with an audio jack. If the LG V50 doesn’t speak to you, then consider the Samsung Galaxy S10+ or Galaxy S10 5G.
The Galaxy S10+ packs a quality DAC that will give most wired listeners higher quality audio than they require, however, some audiophiles will be able to discern the greater quality the LG V50’s quad DAC provides. The Galaxy S10+ also supports the LDAC and aptX Bluetooth audio codecs, so if you’re in a situation where Bluetooth audio is a necessity you’ll be getting the best quality wireless audio you could hope for.
What’s the difference between S10+ and S10 5G?
The S10 5G’s main selling point is its faster 5G internet, which provides up to twenty times faster speeds on just about everything you do online. It also has a 6.7 inch screen vs the 6.4 inch screen on the S10+, and packs in an extra fourth rear camera and better front facing cameras, for a grand total of 7 cameras. Its 4,500mAh battery is one of the largest batteries on the market fora phone it’s size (12% bigger than the S10+), and has faster 25W wired charging vs the 15W charging on the S10+.
Nerdivate Verdict: The Samsung Galaxy S10+ (and S10 5G) is the best overall flagship smartphone for all but the pickiest of audiophiles. The Galaxy S10+ is arguably the best phone on the market period, and part of that package is great audio quality and an audio jack.
Best iPhone for Audio:
If you are dead set on getting an iPhone, the iPhone XS is your best bet.
Release date: October 2018 | Weight: 177g | Dimensions: 144 x 71 x 8 mm | OS: iOS12 | Screen size: 5.8-inch | Resolution: 1125 x 2436 OLED | Pixel density: 522 ppi | CPU: Apple A12 Bionic | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64GB-512GB | Battery: 2,658mAh | Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP + 16MP | Front camera: 7MP
Other Pros: iOS 12 | Apple Ecosystem | Excellent Camera
Cons: Expensive | No Audio Jack
To be quite frank, if you’re an audiophile looking for a great smartphone audio experience, steer clear of Apple. They just aren’t built with audio quality in mind. I will, however, admit that Apple does a good job of making their audio experience convenient. Their AirPods are overpriced, yes, but they look good, connect automatically (and fast), and have a wireless charging case.
Nerdivate Verdict: iPhones aren’t known for their audio quality, but if you want to immerse yourself in the Apple ecosystem, we recommend the iPhone XS.
Do You Need an Audio Jack?
More and more phone manufacturers are opting out of including an audio jack for a few simple reasons. Leaving out the audio jack saves space, allowing for other components, like a bigger battery. Having an audio jack also adds another opening, making it much more difficult (and expensive) to waterproof the phone, a feature that is becoming a standard in flagship devices. Additionally, Bluetooth audio quality has risen to the point where the average consumer’s audio needs can be met by a ~$50 Bluetooth speaker or headphones.
So why is the audio jack such an important feature? To keep it simple, wired audio jack connections provide much better audio quality than wireless Bluetooth connections. While USB-C dongle adapters can work decently well, they are easy to misplace, can lead to worse audio quality, and they remove your ability to simultaneously charge your phone (unless you have wireless charging).
Other Smartphones with Audio Jacks: