Audio engineer extols the virtues of the HTC One – but do you feel the same? [Poll]

May 29, 2013

samsung galaxy s4 vs htc one one aa

HTC One, perhaps the best smartphone introduced in the first half of this year, has been analyzed by our team in almost every way possible. We’ve seen its sharp aluminum body subjected to torture tests, we dropped the bugger and compared it to the iPhone 5, and we carefully rated its camera quality, display, and general performance.  But what about the sound?

As you well may know, HTC decided to integrate not one, but two stereo speakers in their flagship this year. Unlike the vast majority of Android phones that come with a back-mounted speaker, the HTC One has both units mounted on the front, on both sides of the screen. Overall, the design is classy and should provide high-quality audio, but we have yet to see a proper analysis of the setup.

Moments ago, HTC posted a so called “Audio Review” video on their official YouTube account, containing the remarks of Jimmy Muna, a sound engineer and music producer who works for ATM Studios. During the five-minute video embedded below, Muna talks about the impressive audio capabilities of HTC’s latest phone and how it raised the bar for other manufacturers.

Muna claims that the One can render sound frequencies inaccessible to other phones, mostly those in the lower-end of the spectrum. Moreover, the addition of the secondary speaker allows the phone to properly distribute certain sounds to both sides, without altering the audio experience that users would get when using headsets.

But is this just marketing or is the HTC One really so much better than competitors when it comes to sound?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrGRBsdAH6E

A bit of background…

As mentioned in the first part, the HTC One comes with two identical front-mounted stereo speakers that pack quite a punch. Baptized BoomSound, the audio technology on the HTC One is the fruit of the cooperation between the Taiwanese manufacturer and the well-known Beats Electronics LLC, a company founded by Dr. Dre and partially owned by HTC.

Besides the large speakers and the amplifier implemented by Beats, the software component of BoomSound enhances the low end of the sound spectrum, which allows the phone to pump out a deeper bass. The high-end part is also enhanced, though not as dramatically as the bass, with several other Android handsets (like the Samsung Galaxy Note 2) being able to do a similar job. The rich sound delivered by the One makes it, in theory, ideal for consuming video and music.

When it comes to daily use, the power of the twin speakers may be a bit much for some users – people have complained that the loud notification sounds or even the ringtones have startled them… Moreover, some reports claim that two seconds after the sounds stops, when the processor shuts off the power to the speakers, an irritating crackling noise can be heard. Other users observed the same issue when watching YouTube videos or playing back audio in other apps, but they blamed it mostly on a firmware glitch.

What’s your take?

We’ve been hearing different reports about the HTC One’s audio prowess and we’re looking to clear the matter once and for all. From your personal experience with the One, how would you rate its audio performance? Does the device rise to the hype or is BoomSound simply a clever marketing scheme? Vote in our poll.

From your experience, is BoomSound as good as HTC makes it out to be?

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From your experience, how does the HTC One compare to competitors when it comes to audio?

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Comments

  • Franklin Howard

    You cannot compare any other speakers to the HTC One, its currently in a league of its own.

    • Skripka

      Anything that advertises “Beats by Dre” on it is indeed a league of its own. A league where anyone who knows anything about audio laughs at people who strut around using their gear thinking it sounds anything other than abysmal.

      If the One sounds decent, it is in spite of Beats rather than because of it.

      • Nardo

        Have you even listened to the One? If you havent then you speak from a position of ignorance.

        • Skripka

          As opposed to the “audio engineer” sitting in front of an obsolete analog sound board that most US public high schools have better consoles than…who’s reading a canned press release badly in front of a camera?

          Making speakers on phones sound better isn’t hard, because to start with most sound like crap…but pretending they sound “good” is laughable…especially given the video in the post….which fools no one except the extremely gullible for being anything other than paid for canned PR. To anyone who knows nothing about audio more bass=better, which is exactly what they guy parrots.

          • stevi

            Only those who have not used Beats spout the rubbish you spout about it. People laugh at so called audiophiles like you because you spout such crap. For the majority of the human race, beats is as good as anything you can quote FACT.

      • clell

        None of the devices even say that. You clearly don’t know what you’re talking about. It says Beats Audio.

        • Skripka

          Because there’s a hell of a lot of difference if something says “Beats Audio” versus “Beats by Dr Dre”. Holy irrelevant points, Batman.

          • Namaste

            Have you listened to the speakers? They really do sound great. Maybe they dont to you. But lots of people seem to like them. And I dont know know anyone that goes strutting around with their device bragging about it because it has beats audio. Like the other guy said, its an eq app that integrated into the os. And it sounds great to the people that have actually used it. And really thats ALL that matters. It lives up to its advertising. Despite, audiophiles like you trying to diminish its impact.

      • Andrew Baxendale

        The Beats by Dre Audio is an EQ. It can be turned off. It’s just another option for people to use.

  • http://twitter.com/nachomartr Ignacio Martin

    I own the HTC One and it has the best speakers on any smartphone yet.

  • http://www.facebook.com/amadeus.klein Amadeus Klein

    I just hope this is the beginning of a trend toward Well-implemented front audio… There is little with a smart phone I find more annoying than having to cup my hand over the back of the phone to hear what is being played when watching video or even listening to audio….

  • http://twitter.com/Number1Bruh TheBruh

    if you turn it off, the “boomsound” makes music sound WORSE than it
    should by curtailing the bass and treble. When you turn it on, they equalizer OVER-BOOSTS the bass and treble. it’s all a marketing scam and deception at best.

    If you want good, portable sound quality, you’re going to have to get a quality headphone amp and quality headphones.

    • aldebaran

      and quality sound chipset too.
      I still believe on Wolfson chipset, it’s well proven.

      • George

        And that’s why i prefer the Galaxy series over the One series in terms of sound quality…;)

        • Joshua Hill

          The S2 and S4 have received unfavourable reviews in regards to audio quality. You go and prefer your substandard samsung sound quality. P.S. I own an S2 and the low level noise is awful.

          • swannanoa72

            If you can read properly, George is already saying that he prefers the Samsung.

          • Joshua Hill

            LOL ‘If you can read properly’ then perhaps you should re-read my post.

          • swannanoa72

            LOL Looks like you didn’t understand to which of your comments I had referred to at all. Keep reading till you do!

          • Joshua Hill

            You may have noticed George can speak for himself. Unless you have something to contribute to the debate I bid your trollery adieu.

          • swannanoa72

            Good. Now you understood the meaning of what I had written.

          • Austin Deane

            You are annoying. I read lots of annoying commenters, but you are the worst thus far, and the dumbest. Congrats.

          • George

            The S2 uses a Yamaha DAC (digital analog converter) that’s the reason it sounds like this.

            Get your facts straight before commenting.

            The S1, S3 and S4 are all using Wolfson made DAC and all of them have great sound quality.

            Also from gsmarena’s review i saw they said the S4 has cleaner output than the Htc One.
            (Always talking about line out/headphones not speaker performance)

            I own the S3 and the sound quality is great.

          • Joshua Hill

            ‘Get your facts straight before commenting’!

            You will notice I did not criticise the S3. The reviews I’ve seen say it is superior to the S2 and S4.

            Unfortunately sir according to this UK Hi Fi magazine the S4 has poor audio quality compared to all rivals, http://www.whathifi.com/review/samsung-galaxy-s4.

            The sound quality is determined by more than just the dac built into the phone. You will also notice I didn’t criticise The Wolfson DAC.

            Get you facts straight indeed!

          • George

            You actually are aware that this was an issue with the S4 until Samsung released a software update not long ago and fixed the audio output issues, right?

          • Joshua Hill

            No I wasn’t, a quick google tells me this was a loud distortion. The negative reviews I’ve seen did not complain of this but basically a lack of musicality. It’s clear and fine but lacks toe-tapping mojo. Here’s part of What Hi Fi’s analysis:

            ‘Play Paradise Circus by Massive Attack and while the individual instruments and vocals are direct and sound strong, the overall rhythm lacks precision and drive, with bass and drum beats sounding flat and rather dull. Notes don’t quite gel cohesively either, and timing is short of being snappy, which isn’t conducive to foot-tappage.’

          • andyp363

            What hifi will be reviewing the UK version of the galaxy S4 the GT-I9505 its DAC is built into the quad core snapdragon 600, exactly the same as the HTC One.

            You cannot compare that with the Wolfson WM5102.
            The GT-I9500 im listening to right now i can assure you goes ear damagingly loud.

          • Joshua Hill

            You obviously didn’t bother to read my full posts above. You can’t say two phones using the same DAC will sound the same. The implementation of the DAC is just as important as the DAC itself.

  • Randy Sylmar

    I find it funny that everyone is touting about HTC One’s front speakers as a revolution but gives Samsung flack for being all gimmicks. HTC One’s speakers are positioned well but day to day usage will you actually be using it?

    For most, if not all, travel using their phone as a music device headphones are an actual must. I cringe at the fact that someone on the subway is going to be blasting their HTC One because they ”can”. They serve it’s purpose well at small gatherings where I’m showing something but in public I try not to be that person who annoys everybody having my phone blasting. So now, which one is the real gimmick? Please don’t tell me all of you go around blasting your phone around town. More than likely you’re volume is up at home or somewhere appropriate which isn’t many places.

    I was able to carry the HTC One for a week. I loved the speakers but it served absolutely no purpose after a week because I couldn’t actually implement it anywhere. Sure at home or with a few friends that even care what I have to show them on my phone enjoyed it but real time usage? Close to zero.

    Easter Egg: If you’re ear doesn’t cover the proximity sensor and it can’t detect that you’re ear is on the phone you’ll get a nice notification sound blasting into your ear!

    • Pradeep Viswanathan R

      In your context, i may somewhat agree that it might be a gimmic. Everybody needs some gimmic or the other to sell & market and in this case HTC’s gimmic seems to have taken a better shape than the Samsungs :)

    • chanman

      I use my phone a lot at home to watch video, and I’d really prefer if I could lay my phone down on my bed rather than holding it up and cupping my hand behind it just so I can hear the audio. I don’t consider this just a gimmick, and it’s one of the downfalls of my Note II

      • Randy Sylmar

        Or… you can just put on a nice set of headphones and have it full blast on any phone without cupping anything? HTC One speakers are good but will never be better than a set of headphones. To be fair, I’m not denying it’s use. I’m just stating the fact that after using it for a week or so I could not find a perfect solution to use the front speakers other than being at home.

        • stevi

          They’re for showing YouTube trailors to people etc. Can’t really both watch a trailer with headphones in now can you.

  • Fayez Balhas

    Htc one audio is the best, coming from the nexus 4 and note 2

  • Ronan

    He’s an Audio Engineer? I don’t think so:
    “A lot of cellphones, they start to cut off at around 500KHz / 300KHz…. Uh… A lot of the songs i played are sounds that ring under 300KHz……”
    He really knows his stuff ;o)

  • Jennifer Gray

    Amazing I love it..nothing compares…and I have had Alot of phones….

  • OMGgary

    Oh yeah, I’m totally convinced this guy didn’t receive a penny for this drawn out load of waffle. :P

  • EvenInTheDarkestHour

    I’ve listened. They are clearer, and louder than most. It is cool having stereo separation when viewing in landscape, providing the device is close. I have read some mixed reviews about the sound quality when making calls though. If you own one, what are your thoughts?

  • john

    HTC One has great-relatively- in built speakers, but that’s it no less, no more.
    Sorry to put down the fire, but:
    1. If you are really hardcore audiophile, or can afford external USB DAC and portable amplifier, those two would be incomparably better than the poorly insulated DSP on the phone and weak amplifier.
    2. I was going to buy HTC One, but most models don’t have sd slot, which is a bummer since most of high quality 320kbps AAC or FLACs need a lot of space.

    Look, I blatantly disagree with the guy in the video. Phone amps will be relatively similar no matter what you do with it. DAC on HTC One? It’s not that impressive at all which really should be only thing the manufacture should really improve to increase the overall sound quality of anything.

    If you are really an audiophile, you would go with more space and that supports USB DAC/AMP easily: Galaxy S2/3, Some sony phones, etc.

    If your are not really an audiophile, but just want to listen to decent music, the points made in the video are still null, because: a) you will be listening the music through your headphone, b) DAC/AMP on HTC One is relatively similar to most phones I’ve tried, you will not get noticeable difference, c) even though the in-built speakers are good, why would you bother when 40$ used Altec Lansing would sound better… ie) it still sounds highly distorted, lacking in all direction.

    TL;DR The guy in the video is definitely not an audio engineer nor an audiophile. Most of what he said are really irrelevant.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ichuck7 Charles Chambers

    I’ve compared it to the iPhone, iPad, s4, galaxy note 2, and the htc one smokes the competition. The note 2 was almost as loud but a hollow sound. With the htc one I don’t use my headphones nearly as much.

  • Joshua Hill

    I love how HTC advertise the one with built in amplifier as if no other manufacturer amplifies the sound signal to their speakers. Oh hang on, YES THEY DO OTHERWISE THERE WOULD BE NO SOUND.

    Next they’ll be advertising a phone with built in battery lol.