What is the best phone for an audiophile?

What does everyone think is the best phone for the “on the go” audiophile who doesn’t want a dedicated player or have to carry an amp? I’d love to tackle questions like, “What phone has the best power specs for driving higher end headphones? What phones have the greatest capability to play different file types (mp3, flac, etc)?”

I would say an LG V series with it’s quad dac. I have an older LG V20 because I like the removeable battery. It can drive my HD650s fine and it plays flac etc.

There was a recent Stereophile article on the LG V30 I think. Not sure if we should post links to it here so I will leave it out for now.

My iphone 6s does pretty well

I’m a big fan of the Sony Xperia phones, in part because of the audio goodies that they have: LDAC support, 5 band EQ with preset options for genres as well as things like “bass boost” and “treble boost”, DSEE HX and ClearAudio+ are two different kinds of DSP that both affect playback in different ways and can be turned on or off whenever.

The only thing I’m not so keen on is them getting rid of the 3.5mm jack on the XZ2 line. Guess I’m holding onto my XZ for a while.

The trend of removing the ability to jack it with a phone is a supremely disappointing trend.

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If one doesn’t want to deal with any kind of external “dongle”, then the LG VX0 series are hard to beat.

Though they’re not a panacea … any time you couple audio-replay with Android, especially if your source material is standard Redbook (16/44) then you tend to run afoul of the force Android ASRC … which converts everything to some multiple of 48 kHz using a filter optimized for power-consumption rather than audio quality.

The standard Android audio stack is something I tend to do my best to avoid, so for me that means an iPhone with a dongle (typically an AudioQuest Dragonfly Red).

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USB Audio Player Pro uses a custom driver that bypasses the Android mixer and goes straight to hardware.

Yes, it does.

But if the hardware doesn’t implement differential clocks for 44.1 and 48 kHz based content, it still results in ASRC - and most Android-based units do nothing special here (the only units I’m sure of having the requisite custom audio stack are from FiiO and A&K … neither of which are phones).

I don’t know how this pans out on the LG VX0 series. I do know that absent a custom audio stack, and external DAC, it’s very hard to avoid sample rate conversion on Android devices.

So UAPP w/ an external DAC/dongle will give bit-perfect results. It’s a lot less clear when the DAC is internal.

Here are results from someone who recorded the output and seems to think that some apps including USB Audio Player Pro put out 44.1. It’s not clear to me how one can tell sample rate from the recorded output though…

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Oh, looking at the spectrum I can see that at lower sampling rates you lose the higher frequencies. Duh!

Yep, that looks like third-party apps, including UAPP, can get direct access to the DAC, and that the V20, specifically, has clocks (or a suitable PLL chip) that’ll support native 44.1 kHz based sample rates.

So that’d cover local file and TIDAL playback.

You’d need something else if you wanted bit-perfect replay from, say, Spotify (unless UAPP now supports Spotify Connect … haven’t looked).

But that, coupled with the V20’s built in analog volume control, should be good to go.

Still, most Android devices still require both a player like UAPP and an external DAC to get proper, native-rate, playback of 44.1 kHz base-rate files - so it’s something to pay close attention to if you’re wanting to use a phone in place of a DAP and care about bit-perfectness.


Try the Onkyo Granbeat DP-CMX1 smartphone. Here’s something not much talked about, but it’s an amazing device.

A high-res Digital Audio Player (DAP) is a very special animal. The Onkyo DP-X1 is a very sophisticated and highly regarded audiophile DAP. There’s now a new edition called X1-A. I bought one of the earliest (X1) and been utterly delighted.

The Onkyo Granbeat DP-CMX1 was an baby waiting to be delivered. Onkyo took a basic Android smartphone and stuck it to the back of the DAP.

This is obviously aimed at an audiophile who doesn’t want to carry two devices, but whose priority is the DAP. That part of it is brilliant.

LG V30, Razer Phone, and Samsung Galaxy S9+ are smartphones that have better than average audio capabilities considering they are more phones than DAPs. If you want high end audio performance from them, you’ll have to use an external DAC or DAC-Amp that completely bypasses the phones native android sampling rate.

Then there’s the famous amp maker Marshall who came up with a DAP called London. I think it was also a phone, but it seemed to be somewhat still born.

Basically the smartphone-DAP combo issue is about whether the dog wags the tail or the tail wags the dog, depending on your priorities. There’s unlikely to ever be an equal partnership.
If you can live with a so-so phone, the Onkyo is just brilliant.

Here are some helpful links (Apart from several video reviews on YouTube):

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