I’m sure most of us agree that being able to enjoy music is one of life’s greatest privileges. Music is a universal language that can make many of us feel a range of strong emotions, often effortless, be they happy, sad, determined or relaxing, both in the darkest and brightest day.
Not so independent is the fact that we all have phones in our pockets, and most of us rely on the little computers for everything, including watching movies, games, and listening to music. Some of us might do all that wireless headphones or Bluetooth speakers for better immersion, but most users probably prefer the convenience of simply relying on their phone’s built-in speakers.
We asked and you told us – the phone’s speaker quality matters!
A few weeks ago we asked you – does the phone’s speaker quality matter? Almost 80% of voters said yes – “The quality of the speaker means something to me and I want better phone speakers in the future”. Just over 15% of voters said they are happy with how phone speakers sound right now, while only about 5% said speaker quality is not important to them.
These are not surprising results by any means. And while many phone manufacturers seem to put so much focus on speakers and sound quality as a whole, there are still some modern smartphones that provide a great sound experience. Let’s look at them …
Phones with the best speakers to get in 2021
For this list, we have tested recent flagships side by side with see hear which ones are particularly impressive in the sound quality department. So without further ado, we present you the best smartphones with the best speakers you can get right now.
Phones with the best sound quality, a summary list:
- Asus ROG Phone 5
- Google Pixel 4 XL
- Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
- Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra 5G
Asus ROG Phone 5 Series
As we said in our Asus ROG Phone 5 Ultimate review, the phone and its two other variants – Asus ROG Phone 5 Pro and ROG Phone 5 produces such unique sound that it gives even tablets and some laptops shame.
ROG Phone 5 has dual front-firing speakers, which means you get a real, wide stereo effect, and the sound is aimed straight at your face, contrary to what you can expect from the single down-firing speaker, which most phones use. The bass on the ROG Phone 5 in particular is more present than on most phones, even by default, but if you take advantage of the phone’s built-in music equalizer, you can increase the low-end further for an even more efficient music and gaming experience. And by the way, unlike most flagships, this one also has a headphone jack.
ROG Phone 5 is by far the winner in bass, volume and stereo separation. An honorable mention also goes to the predecessor of this phone – The Asus ROG Phone 3, which also jumps ahead of most flagship phones in terms of sound reproduction, also sports capable dual speakers.
Google Pixel 4 XL
Google seems to be going backwards. While the new Pixel 5 will not blow anyone away with great sound, even if it is clear and competent, the older The Pixel 4 XL is quite impressive, and to this day ahead of what you will hear from most other smartphones.
Deserving to get the second best place on this list, the Pixel 4 XL packs a very competent down-firing speaker and a high quality earpiece that acts as the second speaker where the two together deliver a great stereo experience. Of course, it’s not like having two equally powerful front speakers as on the ROG Phone 5, but what we get on the Pixel 4 XL is probably the best you can expect from this setup.
Music sounds clear, and while the base is by no means strong, it is present.
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
All phones in the iPhone 12 series have good sound quality, but due to its size it is iPhone 12 Pro Max sounds just a little better. Apple consistently delivers speakers that are well above average on its MacBooks, iPads, and of course iPhones, so it’s no surprise that we have an Apple device in the top three here.
It was really hard to choose whether the Pixel 4 XL or the iPhone 12 Pro Max deserves the second place, but in the end I think most people prefer the Pixel 4 XL’s better clarity over the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s more powerful bass.
Because yes, while the sound on the iPhone 12 Pro Max is a little scary in the higher frequencies, which makes me draw some clarity points, this phone undoubtedly produces the second largest bass after the ROG Phone 5. Like all phones here except the ROG, iPhone 12 Pro Max uses a down-firing speaker combined with the earpiece to give a good stereo effect, and that earpiece deserves credit as it is probably the loudest and fullest I have heard.
If you’re an Apple user, you’ll be happy to know that the iPhone 12 series are good artists in the audio department.
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra
This The Xiaomi flagship may have a giant camera module that steals focus, but that does not mean that its speaker quality was an afterthought when the company designed it. That Mi 11 Ultra produces clear sound, albeit with weak bass and less than ideal stereo separation.
Like most flagships, we again have a single down-firing speaker and an earpiece, but this earpiece is just not strong enough to keep up with the main speaker so the phone can deliver a smooth stereo experience. But it’s there, and it’s satisfying. Far above some other big name ships out there. Speaking of which …
What about the Samsung Galaxy S21 series?
Right. A fraudulent mention goes to Galaxy S21 Ultra. I expected a lot more from Samsung’s flagship phone, which is why it’s one of the phones I tested for this list. But Galaxy S21 Ultra’s speaker clarity is appalling – the heights are ear piercing, there is no bass where only the stereo separation is respectable. What a failure.
If you value the sound quality of your phone, stay away from Samsung’s flagships for now. Here, the Korean giant hopes to come The Galaxy S22 series delivers the kind of sound that is actually comparable to the competition.
What phone should I get if I like the sound quality?
I would highly recommend Asus ROG Phone 5 or ROG Phone 3. If you do not find mobile phones appealing, you obviously cannot go wrong with any of the other phones on this list. Although they do not have the ROG’s volume, wide sound and bass, most of them deliver the kind of reasonable clarity and stereo separation you would expect from a modern flagship. Which is commendable, considering that there are other expensive flagships that can be very disappointing.