What should I look for?
You should be on the lookout for a few key features when browsing smartphones to ensure the device will be best for audio playback.
What is it?
This abbreviation stands for ‘Digital-to-analog’ converter. It allows the phone’s audio files to be sent to your headphones and converted into sound. A 32-bit DAC is better than a 16-bit DAC, as it provides higher quality audio playback, so look out for a high DAC on the spec list.
This stands for ‘pulse-code modulation’ and is used to refer to the most standard type of audio file.
With a more powerful amplifier, louder output volumes can be pushed to your headphones. The better the amplifier, the louder and clearer the sound.
Hi-Fi stands for ‘High Fidelity’. The higher the bits and frequency in the DAC, the higher the quality of music that’s being pushed through to your headphones.
An alternative to wireless connection (via Bluetooth), the headphone jack allows you to plug in a 3.5mm cable to listen to music through earphones. It has been removed from iPhones, but can still be found on a number of Android models.
So which high-performing audio phone is the right one for you? Browse our list or use the navigation below to jump between handsets:
- Best overall - LG G8S ThinQ
- Best for iPhone lovers - iPhone 12 Pro
- Best for Android lovers - Samsung Galaxy S20
- Best for those on a budget - Nokia 3310
- Best with headphone jack - Google Pixel 4a
- Best with wireless audio - iPhone 11 Pro
✔32-bit HiFi Quad DAC
✔3D Sound System
The LG G8S ThinQ has some of the most powerful sound technology in a smartphone to date. With the option to play wired or wirelessly, the ThinQ also includes a cool feature called ‘Air Motion’, which allows you to control the volume with hand gestures, rather than having to touch the screen.
Along with its supersonic sound quality, this LG model has a triple rear camera, double front camera, and a long-lasting 3,550mAh battery.
You can pick the LG G8S ThinQ up for between £300 - £500 from various online retailers.
✔Dolby Atmos technology
✔Maximum volume limit to protect hearing
Apple have improved upon the sound quality of previous models, with its newest release expecting to be the best so far. Two speakers, one at the bottom and one at the top, allow for inclusive 3D sound. The Dolby Atmos technology provides powerful bass and vibrations for loud and detailed music, reminiscent of a concert experience.
Keep in mind that on iPhones 7 and above the 3.5mm headphone jack has been removed. Instead, you’ll find a lightning port, a dual purpose port for charging and headphones. Traditional wired headphones won’t work without a converter, so keep this in mind.
You can pick up the iPhone 12 Pro for around £1,300.
To see how other iPhones stack up against each other, check out our comparison tables.
✔Comes with a pair of AKG USB-C earbuds
✔Dolby Atmos support
The S20 comes with a pair of AKG earphones so you can experience the best of this Samsung model from day one. There is no 3.5mm jack, but you can connect wireless headphones with Bluetooth, or use the Dolby Atmos technology for that concert-like feel from the speakers.
Take advantage of the whopping 4,000mAh battery life to listen all day, with fast Qi wireless charging compatibility, and 5G data when out and about.
You can pick up the Samsung Galaxy S20 for £899 from most retailers.
For more Samsung smartphones, check out our top picks.
✔3.5mm audio jack and Bluetooth 3.0
The remake of the cult Nokia 3310 has proved that it doesn’t cost a fortune for a good smartphone. You can connect headphones either wired or wirelessly, and it has a loudspeaker to play audio directly from the phone.
While it doesn’t boast as powerful sound technology as some of the other smartphones in this list, it’s a steal at £40 - £50, and perfect for anyone on a budget.
Its lightweight, pocket-friendly design makes it perfect for travelling, and the 1,200mAh battery can offer you up to a day’s talk time.
✔Compatible with hearing aids
✔3.5mm headphone jack and Bluetooth connectivity
The Google Pixel 4a is the great middleman of the Pixel 4 range, sporting a 3,140mAh battery life, big 5.8” display, and a dual rear camera.
With both a headphone jack and Bluetooth 5.0 compatibility, you can connect whatever type of headphone you fancy. Better yet, this Google model is compatible with hearing aids, so even those with hearing difficulties can benefit.
The powerful stereo speakers allow for a wider audio experience, booming your music out without limiting the sound quality.
You can pick up the Pixel 4a for around £350.
✔Dolby Atmos technology
The iPhone 11 Pro has a H1 chipset, which is designed to combine seamlessly with their wireless earphones to create a bespoke audio experience for high quality sound. In-built technology also monitors playback to ensure the audio is coming out balanced and detailed.
The Dolby Atmos technology pushes speaker quality to the max, giving you a loud and vibrant experience. With both wired (through the lightning port) and wireless (through Bluetooth) options, you have control over how you listen to your music.
You can pick up the iPhone 11 Pro for between £900 and £1000.
It’s all good having an impressive smartphone, but you need to pair it with the right headphones for that winning combination. Of course, most models are designed to work best with their own products:
- For iPhones - AirPods / AirPods Pro
- For Samsung - Samsung Galaxy Buds
- For Google - Google Pixel Buds
However, that doesn’t mean these phones won’t work with other headphones. In fact, for the best quality audio, you should be looking for 3rd party headphones that have been designed with high fidelity in mind. Check out our list of the best headphones for smartphones so you can play powerful and immersive sound no matter the handset.
What do you listen to most on your smartphone? Let us know on Twitter.