Some Galaxy S4’s experiencing headphone distortion issues – is yours affected?

May 14, 2013
16 22 76

samsung-galaxy-s4-adapt-sound

If you’ve been having problems listening to music through headphones on your Galaxy S4 then you’re not alone. A lot of other users have been complaining on Reddit and XDA about a strange audio clipping issue occurring on their handsets.

The problem seems to be affecting users with Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 powered handsets who are plugging in low-impedance (sub 16 ohm) headphones into the smartphone’s 3mm jack. The issue manifests as an irritating buzzing or crackling sound if the volume is turned up past a certain point, but the exact cause has been a little harder to diagnose.

Due to the hardware dependency of this issue — people have been testing the handset with any number of different headphones — I think that it’s unlikely to be caused by software. The output level could be controlled by a digital-to-analog converter (DAC), but that doesn’t really explain why different headphones would produce different results. Combine this with the fact that not every handset is experiencing the same problem, then it seems rather unlikely that this is a software issue.

XDA member Jensign has conducted a few tests to attempt to find the cause of the problem, but the results produce more questions than it answered. As my first thought, I would have put money on power supply clipping caused by a larger than expected current drain from low impedance headphones — remember that old science equation I=V/R?

But according to the results produced by Jensign, the problem only occurs at specific frequencies and only for specific volumes. The tests showed noticeable distortion at around 1kHz but nothing for above 10kHz, and he didn’t experience any clipping at maximum volume, which is particularly odd.

Galaxy S4 distortion testsSource: jensign

As a bit of an audio buff myself, I’m pretty puzzled by this. Unless there has been some mistake with the tests, the only conclusion that I can draw is that some of the audio chips used in Qualcomm’s SOC are defective, resulting in bizarre distortion characteristics caused by some internal circuit resonance frequency.

Having said that, without knowing exactly how the circuit works, no-one is entirely sure. Perhaps there is a software or firmware issue with certain regions and handsets which may be fixable with a patch. In the meantime, if you’re experiencing this problem yourself, I suggest taking your handset back under warranty.

So far, customers are having mixed responses with Samsung — some have only managed to have their handsets taken in for software updates, but that hasn’t solved the issue. Others customers have simply been refused assistance, with stores claiming that their headphones are simply “incompatible” with the Galaxy S4.

We’re still waiting on an official statement from Samsung to see what, if anything, it plans to do about this problem.

Have you experienced any issues with your Galaxy S4 audio? Let us know in the comments.

Is your Galaxy S4 affected by the headphone distortion issue?

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Comments

  • http://www.texasswede.com TexasSwede

    I have experienced an issue when playing music through my bluetooth-enabled car stereo. With the S3 I had previously, there was not any problem, as soon as the phone and the car stereo connected, the music/audio book started playing automatically (using different apps, like Spotify, Audible or the built-in music player).
    With teh S4, I experience about 4-6 seconds of static/clipping and garbled sound, before it start to play correctly.

    • Jason

      same here mine takes it’s time to connect compared to my s3

  • David Brymer

    omg even more problems for the phone haha, the list is growing by the day. but to be fair im having problems with my htc one…….i cant decide which rom 2 put on this beast because there is so many already. but on a serious note i really do hope every1 who bought the s4 gets all the lil problems sorted because its not good paying all that cash and everything not working great.

    • MasterMuffin

      BTW One has the same Qualcomm chip, so it can’t be the chip, right? Have you experienced anything?

      • David Brymer

        nope it has been really good on this phone. im sure they will have it fixed in no time coz every new phone has its share of problems. this is one of the main reasons why i root my phone because on all the roms if there is any bugs they fix them really quick. a hell of a lot quicker than samsung/htc or any phone maker. these big company’s could learn a thing or 2 on xda. if people are having trouble with there s4`s why dont yous take em back 2 the shop and swap 4 a new 1 because its only sum that are having the trouble, and its still within the month of ya buying it.

        • MasterMuffin

          That would a great thing to do (and great publicity trick)

        • Michael

          Its still an HTC phone, it still sucks.

    • http://www.facebook.com/james.lee1965 James Lee

      Quite the same story when iOS 6.0 was released. The diff is that the problems in iOS 6.0 are more severe than for S4 Touchwiz/Andriod4.2.2

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IOS_version_history#iOS_6.x_3

      Let’s see how these pan out

  • http://www.facebook.com/uzair.uddin.1232 Zi Farhat

    Yep same problem here

  • SebaKL

    I haven’t experience this problem. I tried 3 types of headphones. Stock Samsung, my Audio Technica ATH-PRO700 SV and my son’s Beyerdynamic Custom 1Pro.
    No distortions at any level. Using unlock S3 from Singapore.

    • OMGgary

      Think it is only users of the S4 with a Snapdragon 600 that has been experiencing this problem. No mention of such problem in S3.

  • Ryan

    Hmm hopefully Samsung is going to fix it and not say “your using it wrong!” lol

  • S Blevins

    The Galaxy S3 had buzzing and crackling at low volumes, but nobody seemed to notice or care.

  • Edward

    If the Galaxy S4 has this problem I wont buy it. I plan to buy the Galaxy S5 the next year but if this problem persist i’ll buy a HTC or Sony.

  • http://twitter.com/Omiaz OPE ASK

    I have octa core variant :P…. no problems

  • http://www.facebook.com/james.lee1965 James Lee

    I have been using my Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 S4 with headphone, listening to music and radio over the past 2 weeks and have not encountered the said issue.

    Would be helpful if someone can post some sound clip(s) that can trigger this issue esp. for those who voted “No” (including myself) to test.

    In this case, ignorance is not bless.

    • http://www.facebook.com/james.lee1965 James Lee

      I have generated 2 sound bites, with frequency:
      1. Start = 150Hz, End=12000Hz (file: Chirp_150Hz-12000Hz.mp3)
      2. Start = 950Hz, End=1050Hz (file: Chirp_950Hz_1050Hz.mp3)

      For those interested, you can download the above sound bites in this zipfile here, http://www.mediafire.com/?h6dm96jovebmnmy

      Do share with us esp. if you do hear distortion at about 1000Hz (or other frequency) as stated in this article. Thank-you in advance.

      Tried both using my S4 headphone and no distortion found. Perhaps the author of this article can post his sound bites where problem was detected.

      • Guest

        My phones (include one that come with S4), do not reproduce 950hz-1050hz at all. No sound at all. Only in speakers.

        • Guest

          My Headset* i mean.

  • http://twitter.com/2tmetcalf2 TJ Metcalf

    I just bought a new pair of headphones, thinking thaylt the headphones were going out since I kept hearing a cracking sound on songs with bass. I had a pair of Sony headphones and they lasted me awhile so I bought a new pair of Sonys. These headphones do the same annoying cracking sound. So i am not sure if the brand of headphones gives different results or not. Just a thought. Hopefully Samsung fixes this problem asap!

  • tademao

    tinyurl.com/cnaff79

  • Kingsley

    Using my S4 with Sennheiser IE8 headphones all I get is a snap crackle and pop fest and anything over half volume. Headphone are fine on everything else (and they can really take a pounding). Think this phone will be going back. HTC, I could well be on my way.

    • lloyd maskill

      Im using sennz cx299 always been loyal to these good price fat sounds. Splashed out on gs4 and having a nightmare with the audio mines like a crunching from 60% to 90% volume. Struggleing to find info on what models of earphones are compattable with this expencive ball ache.

  • Cataphract

    This is thoroughly disappointing that something so basic as the headphones would cause trouble for me for my first foray into Android phones. Very good chance it’s going back to the store over this.

  • http://twitter.com/oxJONEZxo Mr

    Man I thought I was going crazy until I came across this article. Whatever this issue is it definelty a odd one, zero distortion at full volume but distortion from about 60%-80% even with every EQ setting flattened.

  • s4 user

    tested with bowers and wilkins p5 and it worked perfectly fine. sound is crisp and no clipping on the heavy bass songs.

    Dr dre’s studio headphones worked well too.

    so far the cheapest earphones that has minimal to zero clipping on max volume is the iphone 5 earpods which sounded way above average sound quality, strong bass, comfortable (compared to the s4’s bulky earpiece.)and pocket portable. and its loud when you put it on max volume.

    on the downside, you cant adjust the volume/ fwd/ rw/ pause. Just go to any electronic store and get a external volume control cable and that will do the trick.

    at the time being, apple’s earpods will temporary help until samsung release the solution.

  • John

    audio distortion only happens when i’m using the google play music but did not notice the issue at all using the samsung’s default music app..

    • John

      and yes i’m also using the SGS4 Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 variant and having the issue only while it’s plugged to the headset..

  • Franky

    I sold my phone and bought the S3 again. I have 200 bucks in my pocket and a nearly identic phone with PERFECT audio!
    No other solution at the moment.
    Franky

  • Bartbart_vinbart

    Some of the things I’ve found:

    Most of the (in-ear) headphones I’ve tested were having this audio clipping problem.
    The stock Samsung headphones & Senheisser cx870 worked well on my sgs4. And when I connect my phone to my stereo or car (aux) there’s no clipping at all.
    Also the big headphones like the beats by Dre & sennheiser HD series produced no clipping audio.

    I’ve tested 2 demo handsets in stores that were having no problems. (Slightly difrent software?)

    I’ll hope Samsung is fixing this real soon!

  • Darton Williams

    Just a thought: has anyone checked equalizer settings on the music apps producing this distortion? I believe Google Play Music has EQ enabled by default and it sounds terrible through anything resembling real speakers (at least on my phones, upgrading to a GS4 soon).

    Completely disabling the equalizers in Google Play and Amazon MP3 greatly improved sound quality in both by removing this layer of digital processing which adds noise and artifacts. Any necessary EQ adjustments should be done after DAC (by a powered amp or inline equalizer) for best results.

  • Mark

    I have the sound issues, the headphones that come with the phone work fine, sennheiser headphones are crackly, tested apple headphones that work fine. I have a headphone jack lead in my car (BMW) and there is a different noise when played in the car, not a buzzing crackling noise but a high pitch whistly interference noise, it’s not a subtle thing either it’s pretty loud and makes the phone unlistenable. I use my phone for music probably more than I make calls so this is a pretty big issue!!!!

    • Landon

      Mark, I’d just like to say that with your car set up, the problem most likely does not lie with the phone itself. When you plug your phone into your car, the audio cord that you use has the possibility of acting as an antenna that can pick up interference from your car’s alternator. The sparks created by the alternator create small electromagnetic pulses that your cord can pick up and then transmit to your speakers.

      • derek

        Actually I have the same issue. With my older android phone, or any other audio device there is no whiny interference.

      • Ben Dulken

        Thanks, good to know. I’m experiencing the same thing with my S4 plugged into my BMW audio jack. How can you prevent the interference from the alternator?

        • Escalady00

          Hello, I had this same problem in my BMW. When connecting my Galaxy S4 through the AUX audio jack, I would hear a loud squeaking noise. Purchasing another cord did not fix the problem. I found in reading, that the issue what related to the grounding or something else within the vehicle and that the fix was the purchase of a simple piece of hardware. It was a few dollars from Amazon, so I bought it and figured that it couldn’t hurt. It worked! The equipment was $10.78 and is called a PAC Ground Loop Isolator for 3.55 MM Applications (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001EAQTRI/ref=oh_details_o02_s00_i02?ie=UTF8&psc=1). It plugs into your car AUX audio jack and your the cable from your Galaxy S4 plugs into the PAC hardware.

      • lexielaughs

        Me and my fiance have the exact same phone and aux cable. He has a BMW, and I have a Scion. We even traded cables. No issues in my car. SERIOUS issue in his car. We even bought a higher-quality aux cable that rated over 16 ohms. His phone stopped producing the sound in his car, but my phone (newer) STILL produces the sound. This is unacceptable! FAIL, Samsung, FAIL.

        • Josh

          I recommend you get an RCA ground loop isolator.

    • USAS

      Same issue here with my Sennheiser CX 300 II

    • edub

      Same exect thing with my car and my volodyne vpulse earphones. also had the same bass crackly with the monster dna.

    • Ben Dulken

      I have the exact same problem with my BMW. With S4 connected it produces the high pitched whine. I purchased high quality male to male cables and it didn’t help at all. Tried with spotify and pandora and no difference, have you found a solution?

      • Steven Swanson

        Return it and buy a S3. That’s one solution.

  • J. Phine

    My stock S4 headphones won’t even work, I have to push down on the jack for the headphones to even get recognized by the device. Very frustrated, had the device one day.

  • eric

    same problem hooked from audio/headphone jack hooked up to car stereo

  • thatmaceguy

    Just wanted to chime in with my own tests. Glad to know I’m not the only one, but also sad to hear this is a fairly widespread issue. Hopefully Samsung will acknowledge it and make amends.

    Stock Samsung headphones: no issues

    Apple Earbuds: no issues

    Grado SR80i: Horrible crackling noise overriding audio from 35% to 85% volume. Issue presents in PowerAmp and Google Play music players, as well as PocketCasts and Listen, so clearly not app related.

  • Gjermund

    Both my headset a-JAYS Four and a-JAYS One+ (both Impedance16 Ohm @ 1kHz) can not be used with my S4 as it on higher volumes constantly produces clipping sounds. Never had this issue on my S3.

  • Lisa Cayer

    I have a pair of Beats headphones that I use while exercising. After 5 minutes the phone turns the volume down to zero. I turn it back up but 2 minutes later it does the same thing. Tried the Samsung earphones and it does the same thing. Anyone know how to fix this??

  • Natarajan

    I have international version of Galaxy S4 (octacore ), I am having this problem on head phone that comes with samsung handset. But I am unable to reproduce the issue. issue seems to be a hardware problem. But service center people will not accept the problem if we cannot re produce the issue infornt of them… though we did they will do re flash and play some other song and they will claim that they have fixed the issue. looking forward from samsung to address this issue. It’s really horriable when we hear clam songs.

  • Nico

    I have a glitching problem even though I’m using Samsung’s headphones…

  • Baku

    I’ve also experienced this problem; I have a (new) Samsung Galaxy s4 GT-i19505 and as I was looking for my ideal music player and equaliser I noticed that at around 10% to 35% volume, using both my ATH-M50 headphones and Sennheiser CX300 II earbuds, I could very clearly hear crackling and other audio distortion. More specifically I noticed distortion when trying out some music players, such as PlayerPro, Sensor, and Spotify, but only with the 60-230hz settings increased using an equaliser, or when using bass boost. Doesn’t matter if the equaliser or bass boost was integrated in the music player or a separate app. The only consolation was that at higher volumes (40%+) it was less noticable.

    Fortunately, Poweramp works perfectly, both with my headphones and earbuds. No distortion at any volume, not even using the integrated equaliser and bass boost! Distortion was also gone using the RocketPlayer music player, but I prefer Poweramp because of it’s superior equaliser and bass boost.

    Now, I’m not much of an audiophile (only enough to scour the app store for the best music players and equalisers) and I don’t know why Poweramp and RocketPlayer work without distortion when other music players don’t, but I thought I’d add this comment in case anyone would be interested in trying out this “solution”?

    On a slightly irrelevant note, though, I am experiencing audio distortion when using equalisers and when boosting the bass on my desktop computer, in the same way I experience distortion when using Spotify and SoundCloud with bass boost on my S4. Which I’m slightly bummed about. :+( Maybe my brother can help me out with that though…

  • Owdin

    I have the same problem, I use Spotify with equ OFF, and the earplugs that came with the S4 works fine. I noticed that streaming (normal quality) works fine, but when i download my playlist to extreme quality i get the crackling sound.(I guess the spotify app uses internal equ, when you download the playlists) anyone has a fix for this yet?

    Standard earplugs from samsung works fine

    http://www.nixon.com/headphones/the-wire-3-button-mic-H017.html?sku=H0171085-00 My NIXON earplugs gets the crackling sound that you guys are talking about.

  • Daker

    I only notice the “buzz” after a track finishes and then it is there. I cannot hear it while music is playing. The buzz stops between tracks. It only happens when using Adapt Sound. Galaxy s4 Qualcomm. Skullcandy FMJ buds.

  • Rob K

    I’ve got the issue on my home stereo system. My Laptop, android tablet and Ipod play just fine on it, but the galaxy S4 makes it seem like I’m listening to awful dubstep versions of my songs. Its really bassy and sounds like a low vibration over every note… bad news is; I just sold my ipod n ebay

    • Rob K

      I’m gonna try it on my old cassette audio to aux cord in my 92′ Buick and post the results here

    • drewbug

      I have exactly the same issue. Regardless of the app used to make the sound, all sound fine through my Klipsch headphones, but horrible when run through my home system. I’m betting it has something to do with the resistance of the connection as someone else suggested.

  • Joel Lamont-Charles

    I have only experienced this problem since upgrading the firmware for my I337 S4 never had any issues with the phone before also i have noticed a bit of lag when the phone comes out of sleep mode after the screen is unlocked the responsiveness is noticeably slow any one else experienced this problem?

    • Hector Mendoza

      Yes, I have the same problem, I disable Adapt Sound and repaired this .. working fine after this change, but i know this is a sotfware problem and no found any fix by samsung

  • jolivan

    My Beats Mixrs produce the crackling sound, the stock headphones don’t.

  • Suraj

    The earphone issue has been fixed with the latest firmware update. I am using a Samsung Galaxy S4 GT-I9505 with Soundmagic E10 earphones (impedance of 16Ohm) and they used to crackle at anything above half volume. Now they work perfectly throughout all the volume levels after the update. :)

  • Patrick

    I have the same problem as Mark. I have changed the audio lead without any improvement. My old iRiver mp3 player and my galaxy tab 10.1 both work fine. The s4 works fine as a music player on stereo equipment so it’s definitely the relationship between the two.

  • Darn

    My GS4 pops and crackles at the exact volume I like to listen to. I love the phone, but as a music player it’s totally useless. Tried everything, new headphones, different software, graphic equalizers – nothing helps. Total garbage.

  • L

    I have the problem with ipod headphones and using google music equalizer

  • tuhroy

    I was really happy to find this article. I have severe issues with mine. Only on certain types of sounds during songs, and only above volume level 9. I have also tried several ear buds. (Emerson BT headset, 3 pairs of various skull candy ink’d, stock headphones from S3 and S4, JL Audio, and Kenwood studio headphones).

  • DanThompson87

    Have the same problem in my car in between tracks especially if the phone is plugged in to the power. Besides that I experience it in my headphones when the eq is on….

  • Sem A.

    This is definately a software problem. The quality of my headphones were fine up until I called someone not knowing that music was playing. The quality of the phone call was very faint. Once I ended the call and closed the music app, the phone quality was as expected. However, later on when I attempted to listen to music again, the sound quality was very poor.

  • Steven Swanson

    This problem popped up on my old S3 so I bought a ground loop isolator and it helped a lot, but still had the problem. Then I bought a new headphone/speaker part off eBay and replaced mine. Problem went away. Only have this issue on S4 when plugged in to power, which is the same that happened to my S3. To me this is a ground issue between the headphone jack and the USB connector.

  • henry

    The headphone distortion problem has been solved with the release of jelly bean 4.3. Just wait for your carrier to begin sending out the update and all our problems will be clear and undistorted. The US release just began on certain carriers this month of October.

    • kristen

      I hope so just got my s4 today and a problem with the head phone jack.

  • sunflowery

    I use the headphones that came with the phone and I notice the issue even when I don’t have headphones plugged in. It is honestly very annoying to hear and I feel like it is getting more frequent.

  • Dylan

    My issue started after installing a volume booster app even after installing I have to press the button on the headphones and hold to hear anything

  • dan

    I fixed it by putting airplane mode on

  • mystic smeg

    Yep, new S4 with any headphones = crackle. However, as a software engineer, I think I might have identified a cause for this issue. The crackling appears to be only when the screen is locked (in low power idle). The noise is an error in the audio decoding in the phones (CPU) processor, rather than the headphones. My best guess is this is caused by the processor trying to multi-task too many processes (like background processes) while also decoding audio leading to data drop-out / lag in the buffer which manifests itself as audio clicks. More importantly, if you activate your handset (keep the screen on), the crackling will go away for a while (or at least, it does on my own handset). I’d be very interested to know if this works for other S4 users with this problem.

  • Kamlesh Bathija

    in s4 i have same problem volume come in headphones are not clear without hp volume come clear

  • mahamas

    This has also lately occurred to my Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Just so you are aware that not only does this happens to phones with snapdragon 600, but also 800.

  • Jon

    My phone only recently developed this issue. I am using the same headphones (the ones that came with the phone), same program and same EQ I have been using for a year and it just starts doing it now? Ya, it is a software issue. I have tried other headphones, running it through my PA and a few stereos and it’s the same every time.
    I have had a lot of issues with this phone. I hate almost everything about it and I’ve accepted that, but you don’t fuck with a man’s music. This is where I draw the line. I will never own an Android or purchase a Samsung product again after this.

  • jay

    Yeah me too I’m having the same problem with my S4 when I plug in headphones. I have tried using a different headphones but no luck. Still making a buzzing crackling noise