iPhone 11 duels three competitors in jazz concert audio test

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DxOMark tests the audio tech on four smartphones
Four phones rolling. Which audio sounds best?
Screenshot: DxOMark/YouTube

The technicians of the independent digital camera testing lab DxOMark are used to focusing their eyes on the quality of smartphone camera images.

Lately, they’ve been tuning their ears as well.

DxOMark recently began conducting separate tests of the smartphone’s sound capabilities both for video and audio content. The team realized consumers are getting more and more literate with a phone’s camera tech specs. But audio remains an afterthought.

To help consumers understand how smartphones can vary in recording and sound output, DxOMark recently used four premium smartphones, including the iPhone 11 Pro Max, to record a jazz show in Paris.

Smartphone audio test: Can you hear the difference?

The other three smartphones were the Samsung Galaxy S10+, The Honor 20 Pro and OnePlus 7 Pro. As you will see below, the video divides the frame into four windows, each labeled with the smartphone from which we hear the music. Audio clips from each smartphone are heard twice and the frame appears brighter to indicate which smartphone audio is up.

DxOMark comparing audio from four smartphones
The lineup.
Photo: DxOMark

DxOMark recommends headphones for the exercise. While each phone has already gone through formal audio testing (the iPhone 11 Pro ranks as third best), the team recording the jazz concert does not declare a winner. They do offer a clear opinion on which two performed worse – the Honor 20 Pro and the OnePlus 7 Pro.

In its report, the team noted the 11 Pro Max clips “show good overall” timbre frequencies. Timbre is what differentiates sounds in the same frequency (same note). “We can hear that there is more emphasis on treble than on the other devices,” they said.

The report praised the Samsung Galaxy S10+ for good tonal balance “with a great mix between bass, midrange and treble.” The OnePlus 7 Pro suffered a “somewhat distorted sound” due to “aggressive compression.”

The Honor 20 Pro was the weakest performer. Its recording lacked bass and the sound of the snare drum did not match the original experience.

In formal audio testing, the Huawei Mate 20 X scored highest, but only one point ahead of the iPhone XS. According to DxOMark, the XS Max has slightly better audio than the third-place iPhone 11 Pro Max.

DxOMark provides an explainer of its audio testing protocol on its website.

The better ears will probably be able to distill the qualities of each audio clip. For others, it may be like the viral picture of the dress. Some saw the color yellow. Others saw it as blue.