Smartphones have evolved to the point where they can easily and seamlessly replace most tech gadgets we have at home. Packed with ultra-sharp cameras, booming stereo speakers, and processors that are arguably stronger than the ones supplied to boutique PCs, flagship smartphone models from world-class leaders are truly something.
Today we are going to discuss the speaker configuration and audio quality of Google’s Pixel 4, Samsung’s Galaxy S20 and iPhone’s SE, as well as run a quick comparison; without any further ado, let’s dive into the review:
Pixel smartphones, especially Pixel 4, have been the main topic of discussion among tech enthusiasts ever since the first one came out in 2016. With each passing year the shelves of both physical and online marketplaces have been graced with substantial upgrades as each successive Pixel came to replace its predecessor.
Pixel phones are most recognizable by their dual-lens cameras and abundant storage space, top-quality CPUs and GPUs, strong battery lifetime and such, but what interests us the most at this point is how this model performs sonically.
In short, the Google Pixel 4 features two stereo speakers, each featuring a separate amplifier unit, as well as a dedicated microphone that provides superb ambient noise cancellation.
Upon closer inspection and after numerous rigorous performance tests, it did not come as a surprise that Pixel 4 excelled in pretty much every field of performance possible.
The timbre of sounds emitted through this wonderful device is authentic and true to the original recordings, although there’s still a bit of room for improvements. The sound remains authentic with and without headphones, and the dynamics of the Pixel 4’s soundstage are absolutely wonderful.
Basically, the soundstage was engineered in such a way so as to make the bass strong and punchy, but not overly vehement so as to devour the mids and highs. The upper frequencies are pretty vibrant while the presence and treble remained intact and almost untouched by the sheer strength of the lower ones.
Additionally, its volume performance is absolutely astounding as well, but the same can be said about its recording capability. Minimal distortion and artifacts are just some of the sure-fire proofs that Pixel 4 boasts incredible noise reduction technology to complement its already-great and well-balanced soundstage.
Next up is Samsung’s Galaxy S20, and what makes it unique and substantially different from Pixel 4 is that it features custom-tuned drivers by AKG technologies. In fact, these two smartphones are so different that we could say that should they merge they would yield a perfect-audio phone.
Where Pixel 4 excels in terms of bass, Galaxy S20 excels in highs and middles. The lowest frequencies are gently picked up by Galaxy S20 and are reflected with force, but not in the manner that is as powerful as with Pixel 4. That’s mainly due to the fact that the speakers of this smartphone were specifically tuned to provide the most accurate Hi-Fi performance possible.
The soundstage of S20 might not be as dynamic as the soundstage of Pixel 4, but it is definitely robust and characterized with pinpoint precision. You should expect to hear every little detail in your favourite tracks and songs, although you might not be as ‘struck’ by the bass’s heaviness or by the buzz of the highs as much.
Artifacts and spatial sounds are wonderfully controlled, and we should be as bold as to say that audio reproduced by S20 is as close to the original recordings as it can possibly be. Volume-wise, this phone does a phenomenal job, although it could be just a tad louder.
Lastly we have iPhone SE and its dual stereo speaker configuration. This smartphone is just as strong as Pixel 4 and S20 in terms of sonic performance (if not even stronger), but it also has a couple of drawbacks we did not dare miss.
First and foremost, the SE smartphone features two speakers; one is located at the top and the second one is located at the bottom right section of the phone. While listening to audio without headphones the stereo effect is achieved with great accuracy. With headphones, however, the changes are drastic, more details can be heard, and the timbre of the reproduced audio gains another dimension.
What you might not like about it is the fact that SE does not feature a headphone jack or an adapter, though.
On the brighter side, this is one of the loudest, most dynamic smartphones available on the current market. Its recording capabilities far exceed those of similarly priced models, although its background noise elimination features are not exemplary.
This smartphone handles artifacts extremely efficiently; both during playback and recording, and the dynamics of its soundstage are generally versatile and decently pronounced. In terms of the authenticity of playback timbre, iPhone SE lags behind Pixel 4 and S20. The tracks might sound a bit ‘overly produced’ in a sense, although its sonic performance is still within the bounds of the Hi-Fi realm.
Oddly enough, the only smartphone that could top the performance of iPhone SE is none other than iPhone 11. Most enthusiasts have probably expected some drastic changes, and although most of them are apparent, Apple engineers still have a bit of work to do on timbre reproduction and spatial sounds.
We do not have a clear victor today, as all three smartphones come supplied with bleeding-edge technologies and state-of-the-art speakers. However, the tests and crunched numbers indicate that Samsung Galaxy S20 has the upper hand over Pixel 4, who has the upper hand over iPhone SE.
The sonic differences between these three smartphones are remarkably subtle, and some of them will bear little significance to people outside of music business (recording qualities, for example), so in that regard it would be more than fair to say that Pixel 4, S20, and iPhone SE all perform astoundingly great for the buck in terms of sound quality.