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Pixel 6, Samsung S21, & iPhone 12: Which one has the Best Sound Quality/Speakers

October 20, 2021

As Google Pixel 6 series is knocking on our doors, it is time to see how improved these two models (Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro) will be in comparison with the current top-selling phones on the market – iPhone 12 and Samsung S21.

This time, I want to focus on the sound quality. I know it’s considered one of the least important features when it comes to a smartphone, but in recent times we have been using smartphones for listening to music and watching movies and TV series quite a lot. Not to mention the importance of phone calls.

So, without further ado, let's take a look at the key features of the sound quality of these three models.

Samsung S21 sound quality

Audio is a section that Samsung does not usually ignore, not even in the most humble mobile models. Therefore, it makes sense that the Samsung Galaxy S21 offers a high-level listening experience. Too bad the brand has dispensed with the AKG headphones included with the phone, it is one of the three penalties suffered by the S21 family with the evolution from the previous 'premium' models.

One of the highlights is the inclusion of a double speaker in the phone: one in the lower part of the mobile (the area is not the best since it is usual to cover it with the hand) and another in the upper area, where we put our ears for calls (Samsung places it without increasing the top frame). The combination achieves that watching movies, listening to music, or playing games without using headphones favors immersion in the content.

The sound quality that these stereo speakers offer is great at medium and low volume levels. Everything over 2/3 of the maximum volume level distorts the sound a bit.

Samsung's true potential in terms of sound involves wearing headphones. The absence of a 3.5 mm jack is no longer surprising, no matter how much it is always missed; a deficiency that can be filled with a USB C adapter. In any case, the sound quality is very high, whether you use Bluetooth headphones or a cable (direct USB C plug or adapter; in the second case, it is essential that said adapter has a DAC).

Well defined nuances, reinforced bass without exaggeration, compatible with HD audio, includes Dolby Atmos, Samsung does not dispense with the equalizer, has an automatic optimizer to improve the sound in high quality (UHQ optimizer), offers Adapt Sound for optimize audio depending on the age of the user and includes a range of Bluetooth codecs where aptX HD is missing (includes SBC, AAC, aptX and LDAC).

iPhone 12 sound quality

The best way to describe the sound quality of an iPhone phone is to compare it to the previous model, as iPhone users usually buy every new model that hits the market.

According to the analysis by various websites and online vloggers, as well as with my humble research, the iPhone 12 is generally better than the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro Max models.

In general, the iPhone 12 has a good and satisfactory maximum volume, as well as offers good surround sound. In fact, where the speakers shine the most is when they are playing sounds using surround tech. Similarly, the recording tests have shown good results in frequency response and powerful sounds with good attributes and loudness. Recordings also have natural effects.

On the negative side, the speakers suffer a bit of distortion when playing low-spectrum audio, as well as the device's microphone is very easy to cover, leading to sound quality decline.

All in all, Apple is a company well-known for its fantastic multimedia qualities, and sound is definitely one of the key positive features of the phone, therefore no one should worry about the sound quality when buying iPhones.

Pixel 6 sound quality

As people were complaining a bit about the volume control with Pixel 5 models, Google has been working tirelessly to fix such issues with new and improved audio software features. In addition, it is announced that the hardware part of the Pixel 6 series will be much improved when compared to the previous series. Apart from better speakers, what else can we expect?

Google introduced the “Adaptive Sound” for Pixel smartphones some time ago, a feature that uses the phone's mics so that it could improve the equalization quality according to the environment. For example, the phone automatically adjusts to different environments, such as different rooms in the house, walking outdoors, being in cars, malls, hallways, etc. We all know the acoustics of such places are quite different and can oftentimes hear where somebody is when talking to them.

If Adaptive Sound is used, it all sounds familiarly good. This feature can be used with Google Pixel Buds already, although with a slightly different use. The Pixel Buds will only change the volume levels depending on the surrounding noise level. The Adaptive Sound feature is announced to come with the Pixel 6 smartphones and will greatly focus on audio quality.

HapticGenerator - This new functionality is described as a "haptic effect coupled to audio" and refers to a function that will allow the Google Pixel 6 to dynamically vibrate to the rhythm of the music or sounds that are being played, surely to achieve more immersive experiences to when consuming multimedia content or playing games with your smartphone. It's not the sound quality feature per se but still is closely related to the overall experience.

HapticGenerator is an audio post-processor that generates haptic data based on sound channels. This data is sent along with the audio data to the 'Hardware Abstraction Layer', so the function will require that the device support haptic playback coupled to the audio.

In addition, it seems that Google is also testing dedicated APIs that would take advantage of this haptic generator to create personalized effects for the different ringtones, offering users options to customize types of vibration associated with tones and even specific contacts on our agenda.

Final Verdict

It is incredibly difficult to choose the winner here as both S21 and iPhone 12 have fantastic speakers with little errors, and the Pixel 6 models are yet to be announced. Judging by the rumors and official leaks, the Pixel 6 series will be fantastic when it comes to sound experience.

If you ask me, I’ll give a slight edge to iPhone 12 over S21, but I'm extremely positive that the Pixel 6 will sound awesome with all the announced features!