Everyone claims to be a foodie nowadays but you’ll know someone is a real foodie when they take three buses to the other side of the city to dine at their favorite Sushi restaurant. Similarly, many call themselves music lovers but when it comes to smartphone audio quality, some people are actually very serious about it. Here is the list of the best smartphones with HiFi sound quality to satisfy the most zealous audiophile.
In short, the Sony Xperia 1 III Smarthphone is the undisputed king of audiophile smartphones in [year] and the ASUS ROG Phone 5 is the second best phone to buy to enjoy super hi-fidelity sound at a discount.
Mobile Phones With Best Music Quality: Quick Comparison
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Best Phones For Audiophiles [year]: Reviews
1. Sony Xperia 1 III
Best Rated Audiophile Smartphone
The Sony Xperia 1 III is a phone built for music enthusiasts. Be it the cameras, the customizable UI or the audio system, this phone gives the absolute best in each area.
It provides Hi-Res audio at 24 bit sample quality and since Sony has retained the headphone jack, you can listen to Hi-Res audio with a top grade headphones.
It supports Sony 360 degree audio and Dolby Atmos for an immersive surround sound experience, especially when watching a 4K movie on the Sony 1 III’s gorgeous OLED screen.
Sony’s proprietary LDAC technology lets you hear Hi-Res Audio over bluetooth on your headphones or Hi-Res bluetooth compatible speakers.
The Xperia 1 III comes with front firing stereo speakers which are specially tuned to deliver accurate tones with a wide soundstage.
The mids and highs are very clear and pronounced. While the bass is punchy, it is not as roomy as in the Asus RoG 5 which we will discuss soon.
With a loudness of -26.5 LUFS the phone is loud and clear enough to watch a movie from across a table.
Time and time again, Sony has proven its commitment to bring the absolute best in terms of Audio, Video and Photography and this phone is their most advanced masterpiece yet.
- Best Audio output from a Smartphone
- Headphone jack
- Insanely gorgeous 4K screen
- Utilitarian design
2. Asus ROG Phone 5 Audiophile Smartphone
The RoG Phone 5 can output upto 32 Bit Hi-Res audio and being a gaming phone, ASUS has kept a 3.5mm headphone jack which can drive large headphones which might have higher than average impedance.
Having a dedicated DAC viz.,ESS DAC 9280AC Pro helps the RoG phone 5 produce pristine sound quality with a rich tonal balance leaving the audiophile in you truly satisfied.
The RoG Phone 5 supports LDAC, aptX, aptx HD and aptX adaptive for listening to Hi-Res audio over bluetooth.
The phone supports Dolby Atmos surround sound and provides a truly immersive aural experience via the two front firing stereo speakers.
The speakers are one of the best ever on a smartphone. You really have to listen to it in person and it will leave you wondering how on earth is this possible?
The bass is powerful and felt. The mids are strong and the highs are well contained. Playing music on these capable speakers is truly an enjoyable treat for anyone in the room, not to mention the loudness score of -24.0 LUFS
Asus has left no stones unturned in delivering the ultimate smartphone gaming experience and along the way has given us audiophiles a phone with top notch line output and incredible speakers.
- Dedicated DAC for Hi-Res Audio
- Headphone jack
- Great pair of speakers
- A bit bulky for non-gamers
3. Xiaomi Mi 11i
The Xiaomi Mi 11i is the first phone on the list which doesn’t have a headphone jack. It is sad to look at the bleak future of wired headphones but alas here we are.
The Mi 11i is Xiaomi’s attempt at making an ultraphone that excels at every department from camera to processing speed to audio-which is always great news for any audiophile.
So albeit without a 3.5mm hole, the Mi 11i is able to deliver Hi-Res audio with the USB-C port and also over bluetooth thanks to aptX adaptive technology.
The Snapdragon 888 mobile platform has enabled to Mi 11i, when paired with Xiaomi’s premium earbuds- the FlipBuds Pro, to deliver 24Bit 96kHz bluetooth audio at a ultra low latency of just 89 milliseconds to ensure no lag between what you hear and what you see.
The Mi 11i has stereo speakers- top and bottom firing- developed with Harmon Kardon and they deliver a great mix of clarity and sound space.
The bass is very pronounced although not as deep as the RoG phone 5 and the overall sound is even toned and not biased too towards either treble or bass.
The device has a loudness of -26.0 LUFS which makes it a great phone for consuming media at home.
The Xiaomi Mi 11i is not only a jack of all trades but also a master at many and it is clearly evident that a lot of effort has been put to make this a favorite for Audiophiles.
- Support for most Hi-Res formats
- Great Stereo Speakers
- High Quality Bluetooth Audio
- MIUI is still bloated
4. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra doesn’t seem to have a dedicated DAC chip but the company’s Exynos 2100 chip is still able to reproduce a high quality 32Bit output with DSD64/128 playback support.
The phone also supports a wide range of audio formats including lossless formats like FLAC and APE.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra doesn’t have a headphone jack but instead ships with AKG tuned earphones with USB-C connection.
But in all truth, USB-C based audiophile grade headphones are not yet prevalent in the market and the AKG ones shipped in the box is not one of them.
The bluetooth supports aptX but not aptxHD so although you are not able stream truly Hi-res audio, you can still listed to a CD-like 16 bit/441kHz audio on your wireless headphones
Aware of this, you have to give kudos to Samsung for really working on giving the best audio output with what it has.
Some of the perks of the Galaxy S21 Ultra are Dual Bluetooth Audio which lets you stream across two supported bluetooth audio devices at once and scalable codec which helps minimize signal distortion which can be caused by the room WiFi.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has stereo speakers each placed on the top and bottom. The output from the speakers are well balanced -not too boomy and not too chirpy. These speakers which are tuned by AKG are also very good at avoiding noise artifacts during playback.
With a loudness score of -25.5 LUFS the speakers in the Galaxy S21 Ultra are well loud for some movie watching in the bedroom. This combined with support for Dolby Atmos surround sound ensures you have an immersive media experience.
The latest and greated from Samsung is an all round package for media consumption with a gorgeous screen and well balanced audio output. The lack of headphone jack means you need a USB C to .5mm converter for listening to truly Hi-res audio.
- Support for UHQ audio
- Super clean speaker output
- Dual bluetooth audio
- No headphone jack
5. Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
For starters, the internal DAC on the ‘best-iPhone-yet’ limits you to an audio quality not higher than 24bit/48kHz, Also it lacks support for aptx which again restricts the max quality that can transmitter to a bluetooth headphone.
But why is the iPhone on the list of best smartphones for audiophiles? It is because of what the iPhone does with what it does have.
When you connect a headphone using a dongle the audio quality that you’ll experience is pure premium.
In case you want to compare it with the king of audiophile smartphones, the Sony Xperia 1 III, the only difference you’ll feel is that the iPhone sounds slightly less punchy than the Sony.
There are a number of top grade headphones being released with a lightning connector which makes the experience much simpler. But nevertheless, a dongle is sufficient to take you very near the audiophile sphere.
But that said, in order to experience the bliss of higher quality audio (24bit/96kHz or higher), you will need an External DAC for sure.
Given that Apple Music is now going to support high resolution lossless audio, we can expect iPhones to support Hi-res audio natively but those will be for only future models.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max sports front facing stereo speakers which are arguably one of the best sounding speakers on a smartphone. Although not as powerful as the Asus RoG Phone 5, the speakers are perfectly balanced.
The highs are clear, the bass is precise and the mids feel natural consistently for a wide variety of audio.
With support for Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos, listening to music on this iPhone is a very enjoyable experience even for longer listening sessions.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max can deliver this well balanced audio at a loudness of -23.8 LUFS which is absolutely sweet for any kind of media experience inside the house.
Overall, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is worthy of being called an Audiophile smartphone and it lives up to its expectations.
- High quality audio output
- Most balanced stereo speakers
- Lack of support for Hi-res bluetooth audio
- DAC output limited to 24bit/48kHz
6. LG V60 ThinQ (Honorable Mention)
It would have given the Sony Xperia 1 III a very tough fight for the top spot if not for the fact that LG has closed down its mobile operations for good.
The LG V60 ThinQ is rightly called the true audiophile smartphone. It has a headphone jack, dedicated 32 HiFi quad DAC and an AI powered 3D audio engine to deliver the absolute highest quality of audio on a smartphone ever.
It is a shame that such a marvel as the V60 ThinQ which would have been an audiophile’s dream smartphone is soon to run out of life.
Nevertheless, if you are able to get your hands on one, you can be sure it satisfies all your audiophile cravings forever.
- Dedicated Quad DAC
- Exceptional audio out
- Poor UX
- Lack of availability
Smartphone With Best Audio Quality Buying Guide
As an audiophile, the first thing that concerns you when shopping for a smartphone is the presence of the 3.5mm Headphones Jack. The super high grade wired headphones you have bought would be of no use without that.
You might think of working around with the help of a dongle, but the truth is, the sound quality is compromised when using a dongle and worse, most dongles are still not universally compatible.
So if you are really serious about hearing the best quality audio from your smartphone, you definitely need to choose a phone with a 3.5mm headphone jack on it.
DAC or Digital to Analog Converter is basically a processing unit which converts audio data stored in the phone to electrical signals which will then be amplified and fed into the headphone jack/ speakers.
Some manufacturers go the extra mile and offer a dedicated DAC chip which does all the processing required to send audio signals which are as pure as possible.
High-end Snapdragon chips nowadays have built-in high fidelity DAC which do the same purpose.
When buying a smartphone for audio, it is critical that the phone has a high performance DAC to reproduce high quality audio.
If your phone doesn’t have a good DAC, you can buy an external DAC which can be connected to your USB port for delivering high quality audio.
The quality of an audio track is generally measured in terms of Bit depth and Sampling Frequency.
Bit depth refers to the amount of information contained in each sample. For example, a 24 Bit sample has more audio information than a 16 Bit sample.
Sampling frequency refers to the number of such samples recorded/ reproduced per second. For example, assuming a common depth of 16-Bits, a 96kHz sampling rate packs in more audio data than with a 48 kHz sampling rate.
Basically, higher the bit depth and sampling rate, the more the original audio as recorded at the studio can be reproduced accurately.
Hi-Res (High Resolution Audio) generally refers to any audio file with a quality of 24Bit/48 kHz or higher.
So when looking for an audiophile grade smartphone, you need to make sure that the phone is capable of not only playing such Hi-Res audio files but also be able to reproduce the same quality via the headphone jack/ bluetooth.
While your ultra high quality bluetooth headphone might be of audiophile grade, the limiting factor might be the bluetooth transmission from your smartphone.
You need to make sure that your smartphone supports aptX or aptX HD technology if you want to listen to Hi-Res music on your bluetooth headphones.
Similarly, LDAC technology from sony is found on many high end smartphones which ensures playback of 32-bit/96kHz audio via bluetooth at 990kbps.
Most phones with the flagship snapdragon chip have support for such Hi-Res bluetooth codecs but there are some smartphones like the Galaxy S21 Ultra which support only aptX and not aptxHD-which is of even better audio quality.
Final Thoughts About Best Sounding Smartphones
More phones now compete at the flagship level now than ever. And given the advances in Audio of high-end chips, this is great news for audiophiles.
For [year], there is no other phone that comes close to the Xperia 1 III’s delivery of superior audio quality. Sony shines in both wired and wireless audio by providing the best in class hardware.
The ASUS ROG Phone 5 is a very successful attempt by ASUS to capture the gamers market and in the process have created something which is very valuable for an audiophile.
If you are a music lover and want to listen to your favorite tracks at Hi-Fi sound quality, then you now know exactly what to do.
Put your cash on one of these audiophile smartphones for music lovers and you can be sure of hearing the best audio quality on any smartphone.
Dave Pearson is a Canadian musician, sound editor, and audiophile. He is also the founder and owner of the website SoundProofGeek. On SoundProofGeek, Pearson offers advice and resources on audio equipment, including how to assess and improve audio quality, how to troubleshoot and repair audio equipment, and how to improve the music listening experience.