07-23-2013 08:55 PM
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  1. LoganK's Avatar
    I really like my S III, and I don't have the complaints that some others do. It's a great phone ... except for the audio quality. I plug in a pair of ear buds and the wash and hiss is so distracting it makes listening to music unpleasant. I was recently appeased somewhat by installing the Faux kernel and FauxSound, and it turned out that a lot of the wash was simply the result of a gain that was too high. (This isn't too surprising considering one of the biggest complaints about the international S III, which came out first, was the low volume of the audio. On that model, though, you could increase the gain by editing a config file rather than having to change out the kernel.)

    So I was pretty disappointed when the GSMArena tests showed that the Galaxy S 4 suffered from lower quality audio, as well. (And happy as it meant my decision to not buy a phone was pretty much made for me.)

    I found out today that they screwed up their test (and they received the final firmware update): Samsung Galaxy S4 review: Supernova - GSMArena.com

    (Ignore the HTC One in the linked comparison chart. It was also re-tested and had much better results than the old scores embedded in the Galaxy S 4 review.)

    It turns out that the Snapdragon Galaxy S 4 has the best audio quality of any phone they've tested. I didn't expect that from Qualcomm considering the performance we've seen so far.

    This change makes my decision a lot more difficult. I'm still going to wait for Google I/O and go into a store with a set of earbuds to hear for myself, but this phone just went from "definitely not" to "I'm listening...".
    coggster likes this.
    04-19-2013 05:11 PM
  2. Suda's Avatar
    Finalized software also improved camera, video, benchmarks, and usability of smart scroll.
    satannik likes this.
    04-19-2013 06:03 PM
  3. Suda's Avatar
    Audio




    Speakerphone



    Went ahead and put the updated tests for both phones in the thread. Whatever Samsung did for audio they did a cracking good job. Just like the international S3 last year, the international Octa core version is supposed to have a Wolfson audio chip, which was an upgrade over the Qualcomm audio chip that America saw in its S3. Unless the version America also has the Wolfson chip and this test was ran on the S4 with said chip, then the octa core will have even better performance. Either way, whichever version, Samsung found a way to outdo HTC's Boomsound in both in-ear and speaker audio.
    coggster likes this.
    04-19-2013 07:17 PM
  4. LoganK's Avatar
    Went ahead and put the updated tests for both phones in the thread. Whatever Samsung did for audio they did a cracking good job. Just like the international S3 last year, the international Octa core version is supposed to have a Wolfson audio chip, which was an upgrade over the Qualcomm audio chip that America saw in its S3. Unless the version America also has the Wolfson chip and this test was ran on the S4 with said chip, then the octa core will have even better performance. Either way, whichever version, Samsung found a way to outdo HTC's Boomsound in both in-ear and speaker audio.
    There are multiple issues that could come into play to introduce sound problems, including board layout, any amplifiers (I'm pretty sure the Wolfson includes a headphone amp, but the old MSM8960 typically has a separate part for this task), and configuration.

    If you read the comments, you can see that part of the reason the S 4 tested so well, and slightly better than the HTC One, is because the output is more quiet (less gain meaning less amplified noise). This doesn't really bother me because I'm usually on volume level 1 on the S III unless I'm at the gym with my open-air headphones.

    Considering that the HTC One also tested extremely well, I'm guessing the Snapdragon 600 may include an on-board amplifier and have a better overall DSP.

    The other reason for the improved score was that GSMArena admitted they tested improperly (so it wasn't just updated firmware). What they screwed up they don't say, but it was clearly something significant.
    04-19-2013 07:30 PM
  5. jensigner's Avatar
    I think the S3 has a very good audio quality via headphones. Specifically I listened to a number of tracks on a friend's S3 (uncompressed wav, MP3 etc.) using my Sennheiser HD598 phones (50ohm, 112 dB SPL, 12 - 38kHz response) a respectible set of near-audiophile-quality phones. An adequately load level of 12/15 on the volume slider had no audible noise/hiss ... sound to my ears was excellent. Based on ratings and forcasts above, I will almost certainly go with an S4. Will the Galaxy Note 3 have the same audio processor as the S4? and what Samsung tablets have the best audio output specs? I gather that Samsung doesn't publish detailed specs on the audio output?
    04-23-2013 08:50 AM
  6. GrooveRite's Avatar
    I think the S3 has a very good audio quality via headphones. Specifically I listened to a number of tracks on a friend's S3 (uncompressed wav, MP3 etc.) using my Sennheiser HD598 phones (50ohm, 112 dB SPL, 12 - 38kHz response) a respectible set of near-audiophile-quality phones. An adequately load level of 12/15 on the volume slider had no audible noise/hiss ... sound to my ears was excellent. Based on ratings and forcasts above, I will almost certainly go with an S4. Will the Galaxy Note 3 have the same audio processor as the S4? and what Samsung tablets have the best audio output specs? I gather that Samsung doesn't publish detailed specs on the audio output?
    Thank you! I feel the same way. No noise or hissing sound at all. Almost feel like people are making things up now a days to help them make a buying decision.
    04-23-2013 08:55 AM
  7. xioser's Avatar
    Does anyone know if audio is typically better overall on iphone vs galaxy. Right now im an iphone 4 awaiting delivery of my S4, ive read a few articles about the sound quality which is one of the reasons ive decided to make the switch and ive also read about this Wolfson chip, will it be in the UK S4 snapdragon version?
    04-23-2013 09:22 AM
  8. coggster's Avatar
    This is great news for me. I have my S4 of pre-order and do a lot of podcast, film, audiobook and music listening so good audio is a relief. Thank you for the information.
    04-23-2013 09:35 AM
  9. madlaw1071's Avatar
    I'm test driving the One right now and the sound quality thru my bluetooth headphones is ASTOUNDING. Way better than my S3. Hope the S4 comes close to the One in this department.
    04-23-2013 09:36 AM
  10. jensigner's Avatar
    Forgot to ask above ... how do I know which version of the S3 I have (bought in Canada a few months ago)? Also, for audio playback, at least with the native Samsung Music Player app, the formats that are playable are the usual range of MP3, 16bit/44.1 PCM wav and WMA (Windows Media Audio). When I transfer audio files from my Win7 via USB to the S3, a Win7 dialog suggests converting anything other than MP3 and it converts (including multichannel stuff) to 160 kbps wma which plays fine on the S3. This suggestion is to guarantee playability and size reduction but it is NOT necessary for standard CD/wav audio, if you don't mind the ~ 30Mb/track usage.
    If you don't convert the format, say a 24bit wav file, Music Player just trys to play it with nonsense-sputter emerging. So do the current Wolfson chips designed for smartphones support higher-definition (HD) audio like 24bit/96kHz wav? (for example many current receivers use Wolfson DACs that do this) and if so is the limitation in the audio drivers or the Music Player?
    04-23-2013 09:46 AM
  11. LoganK's Avatar
    I think the S3 has a very good audio quality via headphones. Specifically I listened to a number of tracks on a friend's S3 (uncompressed wav, MP3 etc.) using my Sennheiser HD598 phones (50ohm, 112 dB SPL, 12 - 38kHz response) a respectible set of near-audiophile-quality phones.
    It could be the 50 ohm impedance that results in the higher audio quality. Almost all headphones, even higher quality ones, are 16 ohms. I can certainly see that making a difference.

    I prefer ear buds, though, and it's very difficult to find high impedance ear buds. Plus, I'd rather the device sound great for the common case. Other than volume, it's not as though overdriving the headphone output helps audio quality.

    Thank you! I feel the same way. No noise or hissing sound at all. Almost feel like people are making things up now a days to help them make a buying decision.
    I am curious about this. It's not as though I have dozens of phones coming across my desk. My experience with the S III is with one device. Perhaps there were manufacturing problems, and I just got unlucky. (I read posts on another forum where users kept returning their phone until, usually after four or five returns, they claimed the sound was better.)

    It's also possible you don't have the Qualcomm model?

    Does anyone know if audio is typically better overall on iphone vs galaxy. Right now im an iphone 4 awaiting delivery of my S4, ive read a few articles about the sound quality which is one of the reasons ive decided to make the switch and ive also read about this Wolfson chip, will it be in the UK S4 snapdragon version?
    In general, the audio quality is better on the iPhone. With the Galaxy S and international models, it was really close, though,and, arguably, the Note 2 has higher-quality sound.

    The UK/Snapdragon version will probably not have the Wolfson DAC. Although there are rumors, I don't think Samsung is going to let the DAC that they've paid for (it's built into the Snapdragon) sit idle. However, I'm really hoping the GSMArena tests are even close to true because they imply that Qualcomm noticed their deficiency and now offer one of the best audio systems out there.

    I'm test driving the One right now and the sound quality thru my bluetooth headphones is ASTOUNDING. Way better than my S3. Hope the S4 comes close to the One in this department.
    That's interesting. The audio tests we are talking about are only for the headphone plug. Bluetooth is all digital, and the high quality codec, apt-x, is already supported by the S III. I can't think of any reason the Bluetooth connection would have changed.

    However, one of the reviews mentioned that Beats does modify the streamed Bluetooth sound. I think it's okay to play these audio tricks to make things sound better, but I've generally found that I prefer a flat, unmodified output. The best case is that somebody took a wide set of common devices, measured real-world output, and then Beats simply compensates for deficiencies in the average response. That would actually be really cool, and the user could just turn off these tweaks when using a high-end device.

    Forgot to ask above ... how do I know which version of the S3 I have (bought in Canada a few months ago)? Also, for audio playback, at least with the native Samsung Music Player app, the formats that are playable are the usual range of MP3, 16bit/44.1 PCM wav and WMA (Windows Media Audio). When I transfer audio files from my Win7 via USB to the S3, a Win7 dialog suggests converting anything other than MP3 and it converts (including multichannel stuff) to 160 kbps wma which plays fine on the S3. This suggestion is to guarantee playability and size reduction but it is NOT necessary for standard CD/wav audio, if you don't mind the ~ 30Mb/track usage.
    If you don't convert the format, say a 24bit wav file, Music Player just trys to play it with nonsense-sputter emerging. So do the current Wolfson chips designed for smartphones support higher-definition (HD) audio like 24bit/96kHz wav? (for example many current receivers use Wolfson DACs that do this) and if so is the limitation in the audio drivers or the Music Player?
    I think all of the Canadian S III models are Qualcomm.

    It sounds like a media framework (stagefright?) problem. I'm pretty sure all of the major hardware decoders support 24-bit/96kHz decoding, and, since it is a WAV file, it should be fairly easy to handle. I think the original Galaxy S supported such files, but Android did switch frameworks and mistakes happen.

    I bet the file would play in PowerAmp. I think (but haven't verified) that they do all the decoding in software. The battery usage would be higher, but you can get a higher quality output and it's more consistent across devices.
    jensigner likes this.
    04-23-2013 12:59 PM
  12. LoganK's Avatar
    (I know most people probably stopped reading after all those words, but...)

    I should mention that on the Galaxy S III, the problem for me is not really with the Qualcomm SoC. After switching to the Faux kernel and dropping the headphone gain levels down, the output is actually quite nice. I found a Snapdragon 600 diagram that indicated that it was capable of directly driving the headphones (no external amplifier), but I'm not sure if the Snapdragon S4 was the same way.
    04-23-2013 03:24 PM
  13. jensigner's Avatar
    It could be the 50 ohm impedance that results in the higher audio quality. Almost all headphones, even higher quality ones, are 16 ohms. I can certainly see that making a difference.

    I prefer ear buds, though, and it's very difficult to find high impedance ear buds. Plus, I'd rather the device sound great for the common case. Other than volume, it's not as though overdriving the headphone output helps audio quality.
    ..
    .
    Thanks for a great response!
    Some of the Creative earbuds provided with their higher-end soundcards are quite good. I also tried such a pair (~ 32 ohm) and the sound again is very good with the S3, again no noise evident. I'll try PowerAmp soon and report back. I was also considering a Note 2 instead of the S4 ... will have to get more info on Note 2 quality. BTW are the audio tests above done with something like RMAA? (e.g. playback of an RMAA test sequence to a high-quality sound card )

    Poweramp trial version looks good for 24/96 wav playback as in image. Slick player .. not too complicated with good status e.g. 96kHz and pcm_s24le means pulse-code-modulation and 24 bit resolution with little-endian (le) byte order in the samples of the wav file.
    04-23-2013 05:54 PM
  14. LoganK's Avatar
    I was also considering a Note 2 instead of the S4 ... will have to get more info on Note 2 quality. BTW are the audio tests above done with something like RMAA? (e.g. playback of an RMAA test sequence to a high-quality sound card )
    Other than lower-than-desired volume levels and some stereo separation issues, I've only heard good things about the Note 2.

    The GSMArena tests are in fact performed with RightMark. Most reviews I see do not go into unbiased audio tests, but I enjoy the by-the-numbers analysis.
    04-23-2013 06:21 PM
  15. Cattails_r_Edible's Avatar
    Sounds like Samsung paid them off! Imho

    Sent from my HTCONE using Tapatalk 2
    04-23-2013 06:21 PM
  16. jensigner's Avatar
    ]
    Other than lower-than-desired volume levels and some stereo separation issues, I've only heard good things about the Note 2.

    The GSMArena tests are in fact performed with RightMark. Most reviews I see do not go into unbiased audio tests, but I enjoy the by-the-numbers analysis.
    I'll have to give RMAA a try with smartphones. I've used it for testing things like DVD players. Would be interesting to walk into a shop selling smartphones with a laptop+RMAA and quickly check the noise background level at max volume slider or some fairly high-level, perhaps with a 16 or 32ohm resistive load. Or alternately, does anybody actually go into a store with good headphones and audition phones this way for audio quality?
    04-23-2013 06:48 PM
  17. hvalergir's Avatar
    Ohms (impedance) is not a large factor in noise reproduction, as you have stated. It is in fact the sensitivity of the headphones, listed as some dB SPL per volt. In the case of your Senns it was 112 dB SPL (sound pressure). Higher sensitivity will produce louder sounds for less voltage. This will mean you listen to your phone at a lower volume setting for any desired volume level (less voltage for same volume). When it comes to in-line noise, like that of a bad amplifier, that manifests itself as constant voltage fluctuations typically independent of the volume setting. So given two headphones, one with low sensitivity and one with high sensitivity the one with high sensitivity will have the volume of the music lower for a given volume, and thus the noise will be relatively louder. On the other hand the low sensitivity HPs will have to turn the signal volume up more and have a better signal to noise ratio, and thus the noise will be quieter.


    It is a common misconception that this is impedance (ohms) that causes this. There is, however, a strong trend between high impedance headphones and low sensitivity, but it is not causal. There exist HPs with any mixture you can imagine of the two.

    I kow this as a owner of many and varying headphones as well as a droid bionic user. The bionic is INFAMOUS for its high pitched squeal noise. With my most sensitive i can almost not hear the music, and with my least it fades into inaudibility (almost).
    04-23-2013 06:58 PM
  18. LoganK's Avatar
    Ohms (impedance) is not a large factor in noise reproduction, as you have stated. It is in fact the sensitivity of the headphones, listed as some dB SPL per volt.
    I am by no means an expert in sound reproduction, but I am familiar with electronics.

    You are right that for constant noise the sensitivity is one of the largest factors. Constant noise doesn't really bother me, though. Well, it does, by I tend to tune it out because our brains tend to filter out simple stimuli.

    What bothers me is the constant "wash" (because I don't have a better term), the varying noise that shifts with the playback. My assumption is that the internal resistance (a logical concept) of the amplifier should be matched to the impedance of the output device. If the impedance of the output device is too low, then the amplifier will tend to float and introduce noise. (I suppose the same thing could be possible with a reverse mis-match, but I would think the extra load wouldn't introduce the same level of noise unless it couldn't source the necessary power.)
    04-23-2013 07:18 PM
  19. jensigner's Avatar
    I considered some of that impedance matching design with headphones when considering a simple design for modest-level headphone driver for my Blu-ray player. Here are some results on that along with a dB SPL calculator/converter: BDP-95 and BDP-83 with High-Sensitivity Headphones . Not sure what you mean by "wash" ... almost sounds like an AGC effect.
    04-23-2013 07:25 PM
  20. hvalergir's Avatar

    What bothers me is the constant "wash" (because I don't have a better term), the varying noise that shifts with the playback. My assumption is that the internal resistance (a logical concept) of the amplifier should be matched to the impedance of the output device. If the impedance of the output device is too low, then the amplifier will tend to float and introduce noise. (I suppose the same thing could be possible with a reverse mis-match, but I would think the extra load wouldn't introduce the same level of noise unless it couldn't source the necessary power.)
    I don't believe headphones suffer from matching as much as home audio. The rule of thumb is to have your HP impedance greater than 8 times your output impedance, for the sake of electronic dampening (reverse of the typical transducer flow) on the transducer/phone.

    With an output impedance greater than that of the HP, the feedback (caused by the hp membrane vibrating) cannot be dampened by the physical-to-electrical conversion as readily.
    04-23-2013 09:08 PM
  21. jensigner's Avatar
    Agreed that headphone damping isn't such a big deal compared to speaker damping. For interest, I measured the output impedance at 440 Hz of the S3 using 10 ohm resistive loads on both channels and a scope. I did this at 2 volume slider levels on Music Player (10/15 and 12/15). With this 10ohm load, clipping distortion shows at 14/15. The S3 output impedance is calculated simply from the voltage divider compared with the output voltage with open load.
    The result is Zout(400Hz) = 2.7 +/- 0.2 ohm and the same at both volume levels tested.
    Also I did a spot check of the output spectrum using RMAA spectrum analyzer (with 22 ohm resistive loads and at a volume of 12/15 ..pretty loud) and it looks pretty clean. The source file was a 16bit/44.1kHz pure sine wave wav file at 440 Hz at almost full digital level (-0.2dB) :
    S3 Spectrum for 440 Hz Tone
    04-24-2013 10:53 AM
  22. LoganK's Avatar
    Agreed that headphone damping isn't such a big deal compared to speaker damping. For interest, I measured the output impedance at 440 Hz of the S3 using 10 ohm resistive loads on both channels and a scope. I did this at 2 volume slider levels on Music Player (10/15 and 12/15). With this 10ohm load, clipping distortion shows at 14/15. The S3 output impedance is calculated simply from the voltage divider compared with the output voltage with open load.
    The result is Zout(400Hz) = 2.7 +/- 0.2 ohm and the same at both volume levels tested.
    Also I did a spot check of the output spectrum using RMAA spectrum analyzer (with 22 ohm resistive loads and at a volume of 12/15 ..pretty loud) and it looks pretty clean. The source file was a 16bit/44.1kHz pure sine wave wav file at 440 Hz at almost full digital level (-0.2dB) :
    S3 Spectrum for 440 Hz Tone
    Very interesting. I don't expect that I'd be able to hear -120 dB noise, so perhaps it is a manufacturing problem. (I bought the instant T-Mobile would sell me a model without a contract, so they were certainly rushing them off the line.)

    For reference, without the tweaked headphone amp, I tend to listen with my ear buds at a volume level of 1/15. (I might even go a touch lower if it allowed me.) If I have to crank it to 10 to get to a proper volume level, then most of the noise is likely to be lost in whatever is eating the power.

    At the gym with different headphones I tend to be around 13 or 14, but there the environmental noise drowns out anything the phone might be doing.
    04-24-2013 12:12 PM
  23. jensigner's Avatar
    For reference, without the tweaked headphone amp, I tend to listen with my ear buds at a volume level of 1/15. (I might even go a touch lower if it allowed me.) If I have to crank it to 10 to get to a proper volume level, then most of the noise is likely to be lost in whatever is eating the power.
    .
    Just did some more listening tests with S3 earbuds, Creative Earbuds and the Senn HD598: phones both earbudss are almost inaudible at 1/15 volume. Comfortable volume is ~ 5/15. Comfortable volume with the Senns is 10/15. The supplied S3 earbuds sound horrible but the Creative ones are very good!
    04-24-2013 01:53 PM
  24. LoganK's Avatar
    Just did some more listening tests with S3 earbuds, Creative Earbuds and the Senn HD598: phones both earbudss are almost inaudible at 1/15 volume. Comfortable volume is ~ 5/15. Comfortable volume with the Senns is 10/15. The supplied S3 earbuds sound horrible but the Creative ones are very good!
    That's interesting. I wonder if it's a difference with the T-Mobile version or the hardware.

    I have a large number of of JVCs (the JVC FX40 earbuds are still my favorite of everything I've tried), the Samsung earbuds, a couple of Sennheisers, a set of Sony, a set of Munitio (don't laugh too much), and the Jays A-Jay. For all of them (although less so for the Jays), volume level 5 is where I would start describing it as uncomfortably loud.

    It really doesn't change my plan. I'll find an S4 in the store, listen to it with my own earbuds, and buy a new phone if it doesn't sound terrible out of the box. After Google I/O, of course. I'm somewhat nervous that Google might do something crazy like add an SD card to the Nexus 4 or release a new feature that I now can't live without. (It'll also give Samsung a chance to settle any manufacturing issues that crop up and T-Mobile will likely have dropped the price by $50.)
    04-24-2013 02:54 PM
  25. LoganK's Avatar
    I finally got a chance to use a HTC One today. While it was unfortunately in kind of a loud environment, my impressions were:

    • The speakers are awesome. They seemed loud, clear, and better than most tablets I've used.
    • Ear buds with Beats enabled sounded awful. Lots of noise, some distortion ... it was distracting.
    • Ear buds without the Beats feature sounded clean and sharp. Much, much better than what I hear with my S III.


    As I mentioned, it was fairly loud, and my observations are far from scientific, but I could definitely see using the HTC One for music. I would have to leave Beats off for my own sanity, but I wonder if that mode may actually be helpful when using poor-quality headphones (perceived volume boost, maybe?).
    04-25-2013 07:47 PM
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