Best smartphones for music (2014 edition)

Best smartphones for music (2014 edition)
It’s amazing to see how quickly the way we consume music has changed. First, we bought cassettes back in the 80s, then came the CDs of the 90s, the first flash drives and MP3 players of the 2000s, and starting from around 2010 with the mass adoption of smartphones, it seems that our phone has finally taken over all other dedicated music storage devices.

Not only that, but we’ve gone from buying physical CDs to shopping for music online, to finally reach the era of music streaming where services like Spotify put all the music in the world on your phone for $10 a month.

But what is the best smartphone to enjoy music on the go? It depends, some may say. Do you listen to music straight from your phone? If so, you’d need top-notch speakers with clean and loud audio. Do you hook up your phone to your stereo system at home, or to your car? If so, you’d need a device that has a strong output from the 3.5mm mic jack. Or finally, do you prefer to listen via headphones? If so, you’d want not just the strong output, but also some quality earbuds right in the box.

It’s hard to please everyone, as you can see how music consumption may differ so much, but one thing that we can do is show you the results from our sound tests to let you decide which smartphone is the best fit for your music needs. 

Headphone output: plug it to a speaker, turn the volume up

This benchmark shows how much power your phone outputs from the 3.5mm headset jack. The higher the number, the more power you have, and the louder your tunes will sound when you plug your phone to a stereo system, be it at home, or in your car. Not just that, though, this value also shows how much power your headphones will get. Let us make it clear, though, that power does not mean quality - it just means how loud your tunes can sound, not how clean.

The higher the number is, the louder the sound through the connected headphones is going to be.

Volts Higher is better
Nokia Lumia 1520
Nokia Lumia 525
Nokia Lumia 1020
LG G Pro 2
Sony Xperia Z1
Sony Xperia Z2
Motorola Moto G
HTC One (M8)
Apple iPhone 5s
Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Samsung Galaxy S4
Samsung Galaxy S5

Loudspeaker loudness: a phone can sound pretty loud, it turns out

If, however, you plan on using just your phone to play music, you want it to be as loud as possible. The higher the number below, the louder the music will sound from the loudspeakers in your phone.

Loudspeaker loudness (dB) Higher is better
Nokia Lumia 1520 77
Nokia Lumia 525 79
Nokia Lumia 1020 77
LG G Pro 2 78
LG G2 66
Sony Xperia Z1 68
Sony Xperia Z2 71
Motorola Moto G 87
HTC One 78
HTC One (M8) 75.2
Apple iPhone 5s 74
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 76
Samsung Galaxy S4 77
Samsung Galaxy S5 81

These benchmarks are pretty revealing, but they don't cannot give you an idea about how clean and rich music sounds - they can just tell how loud it is. That's why we've rounded up our 5 favorite smartphones for music, giving you the reasons why we picked each one in the slideshow below. Take a look.



1. iLoveAmexica

Posts: 47; Member since: Dec 18, 2013 you telling me sony's walkman app is all useless?

6. buccob

Posts: 2978; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

I don't think that was implied... the Walkman app is IMO the best stock music app bundled in smartphones today... Simple to use, nice looking, clean interface, good features, extra features via extensions, good EQ, good customizability,ID3Tag editing, auto mp3 info download. If I had a different phone I would probably get PowerAmp... but even without all the features that PowerAmp offer... Walkman is awesome

13. iLoveAmexica

Posts: 47; Member since: Dec 18, 2013

but does the app really help with the music quality though?

20. buccob

Posts: 2978; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

Well I am not a extreme audiophile nor I have the equipment to measure it... but depending on where I reproduce my music I turn ClearAudio feature On or Off... In my Bose SoundDock 10, I turn ClearAudio Off and make EQ treble boost... because the Speaker are too Bass Heavy already. For my Plantronic Backbeats 903+, Altec Lansing SoundBlade, and (now stolen and gone =( ) Sony BT Car Stereo... I turn ClearAudio On and it sounds really good... FLAC files sound very clean, though the Bluetooth range is diminished a lot because of the kbps, so it can lag/skip if you go normally far or there is people between line of sight. I almost never use wired headphones or speakers... so I can't objectively comment on this.

49. sgtdisturbed47

Posts: 969; Member since: Feb 02, 2012

Quality? No. Equalizers are meant to color the music differently but not necessarily increase quality. As for the comparison article, I can attest to the awful music that the G2 presents. Far too quiet, weird interference noise when the music stops, and the quality is mediocre. iPhones sound far better and the volume doesn't have to be turned up all the way. I have to use a cmoy headphone amp with my G2 to enjoy music at home or in the car. I seriously hope the G3 improves in the music department.

67. LiveFromMN

Posts: 20; Member since: Sep 05, 2012

And imo the G3 lacks the volume and sound quality as well with my Klipsch One 2, my girlfriends iPhone 5 gets much louder and much more clear. I'm jealous.

73. juangbo23

Posts: 6; Member since: Apr 09, 2015

before i was using xperia tx and i love so much the walkman app, so clean, crisp, rich, balance, and beautiful sound. i can say it's wow... i bought new phone, lg g3, i thought the sound quality is excellent as walkman but im not satisfied. i tried different kinds of music apps namely: poweramp, neutron, aimp, and others but still i miss my walkman. walkman is by far the best audio quality output (clear audio). even if you have mp3 which is not that good quality, the walkman will make it better.

18. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

Headphones output, I guess Nokia use Dolby for that so and still not in top 3

52. Manti123

Posts: 207; Member since: Apr 10, 2014

Try to add Nokia Asha 503 and enjoy the results

64. coldfire

Posts: 8; Member since: May 06, 2014

I Don't think PA did a fair comparison. They didn't include the blackberry Q10. I added the phone and surprisingly Q10 achieved a headphone output of 0.96 and loudspeaker loudness of 79DB. These numbers suggest that the Q10 deserves a spot in the top 5. Not a blackberry fanboy or anything.............................but i certainly think that PA did not include a serious contender...!!!!!!!!!!!!!

38. InspectorGadget80 unregistered

Seriously this guy or who ever doing those so called analyst need to give the Z1 a break. i love my walkman app. orgainze my music and movies on my Z1. Great sound also.I don't see how HTC outranks sony when SONY actually created the WALKMAN.

61. The13thKing

Posts: 849; Member since: Feb 26, 2014

well, the old days seem long time ago, I also wonder how Samsung tops Ericsson these day too lmao. where are the "stereo" speakers on the z2? outperformed by the bad bad bad Galaxy S5 :( what a life ey?

2. magnanimus

Posts: 565; Member since: Mar 29, 2013

And here I was thinking my G2 was loud ._.

3. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

Loud doesn't mean good. BTW, does the headphone output make a difference in quality aslo or only loudness?

5. magnanimus

Posts: 565; Member since: Mar 29, 2013

Its stated in the article that both tests consider just loudness nothing to do with quality. Form a habit of reading the whole article okay? :)

16. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

Just wanted to make sure lol

22. av911 unregistered

Then, the title read, "Loudest smartphones for musc."

43. Sauce unregistered

My friends Note 3 sucks at loud volume. It vibrates and hums and sounds really s**tty. But also depends on the song. All that annoyance goes away if it is one notch below max loudness.

44. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

Yup. No matter how loud a speaker can go, if the quality isn't high enough the sound will be bad.

45. bigdawg23

Posts: 467; Member since: May 25, 2011

When it comes to music listen I only use my iPhone 5. My Note 3 results in a buzz, which has been on every Samsung phone I have had along with my friends. As for my Lumia 1020 it distorts quickly, I use Bose QC 15 & 20. I usually have the volume down much further on my iPhone then all my other options, when turning up volume in the connected device(home stereo or car 3.5mm) it never distorts. Sure at the end of the day the article is about loundness and not distortion, when it comes to distortion I am sure Apple wins.


Posts: 2315; Member since: Jul 30, 2011

Absolutely!!! And, all these devices were tested with iSpeakers which are iNcompatible with Android devices, therefore, these results are tAinted as usual. On a personal note, this is all passé to me as, I've been using my smartphone for music since 2003 via my old Windows Mobile Audiovox Thera 2032 which included Windows Media Player mobile pre-installed (for music). Yeah, it took Apple light years to get with the program. But, alas, iDigress, unfortunately, the moral of this article is that Apple has one lonely device that made the rankings whereas, Samsung and/or Android have several options!!

4. iLoveAmexica

Posts: 47; Member since: Dec 18, 2013

so miss my W595...

7. PermanentHiatus

Posts: 267; Member since: Jun 22, 2012

Worthless article. Should've just titled it, the Loudest Smartphones for Music.

32. 0xFFFF

Posts: 3806; Member since: Apr 16, 2014

The article is far from worthless. Output voltage is a key factor in headphone audio quality. It is not the only factor, but without sufficient output voltage, many headphones won't sound good.

39. InspectorGadget80 unregistered

i think u mean BIAS ARTICLE.

48. Physicist

Posts: 7; Member since: Nov 22, 2011

Have to agree with you here. I barely got anything else from the article.

8. BattleBrat

Posts: 1476; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

well, there is also frequency response of the phones internal amp.

9. Finest

Posts: 90; Member since: Aug 16, 2013

Louder is never Better man. its all about the quality

41. Armchair_Commentator

Posts: 222; Member since: May 08, 2014

Louder "doesn't mean" better you can still have quality noise and be loud without distortion

10. youssef44

Posts: 547; Member since: Apr 29, 2014

iPhone is the BEST ... everything is AMAZING

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