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 effortlessly, be those happy, sad, determined or chill, in both our darkest and brightest of days.
Not so unrelated is the fact that we all have phones in our pockets and most of us rely on those little computers for everything, including watching movies, gaming and listening to music. Some of us might do all that with wireless headphones or Bluetooth speakers for better immersion, but most users likely prefer the convenience of simply relying on their phone’s built-in speakers.
We asked and you told us – phone speaker quality matters!
A while ago we asked you – does phone speaker quality matter? Nearly 80% of the voters said yes – “Speaker quality matters to me and I want better phone speakers in the future”. Just over 15% of the voters said that they’re happy with how phone speakers sound right now, while only about 5% said speaker quality isn’t important to them.Those aren’t surprising results by any means. And while curiously many phone manufacturers don’t seem to put that much focus on speakers and sound quality as a whole, there are still some modern smartphones that do provide a great audio experience. Let’s take a look at them…
The phones with best speakers to get in 2021
For this list we’ve tested recent flagships side-by-side to see hear which ones are particularly impressive in the sound quality department. So without further ado, we present to you the top smartphones with the best speakers you can get right now.
Phones with best sound quality, a summarized list:
- Asus ROG Phone 5 – This beast of a gaming phone has the best dual speakers on any phone right now, loudest and leaps ahead in bass.
- Google Pixel 6 Pro – The Pixel 6 Pro produces exciting, punchy and full sound, beating the mainstream flagship competition.
- Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max – The iPhone 13 series of phones have great audio clarity and a good hint of bass.
- Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra 5G – Xiaomi’s flagship has impressive sound clarity but it lags behind in terms of stereo separation and bass.
Asus ROG Phone 5 series
As we said in our Asus ROG Phone 5 Ultimate review, that phone and its two other variants – the Asus ROG Phone 5 Pro and ROG Phone 5 produce such outstanding audio that it puts even tablets and some laptops to shame.
The ROG Phone 5 features dual front-firing speakers, meaning you get a true, wide stereo effect and the sound is aimed right at your face, as opposed to what you can expect from the single down-firing speaker most phones employ. The bass of the ROG Phone 5 is notably more present than on most phones even by default, but if you take advantage of the phone’s built-in music equalizer, you can boost the low-end further for an even more impactful music and gaming experience. And by the way, unlike most flagships, this one has a headphone jack too.
The ROG Phone 5 is by far the winner in bass, loudness and stereo separation. An honorable mention also goes to this phone’s predecessor – the Asus ROG Phone 3, which too is leaps ahead of most flagship phones in terms of sound reproduction, similarly sporting capable dual front-firing speakers.
Google Pixel 6 Pro
Google has been flopping back and forth when it comes to smartphone speaker quality. While the Pixel 5 isn’t going to blow anyone away with stunning sound, even if it’s clear and competent, the older Pixel 4 XL was actually quite impressive, and now Google’s newest flagship – 2021 the Pixel 6 Pro actually beats its mainstream competition when it comes to sound.
Deservingly getting the second best spot on this list, while the Pixel 6 Pro’s signature camera module usually steals a show, we can’t underestimate how full, spacious and punchy the sound coming from its speakers is.
Apple iPhone 13 Pro / Max
Just like the iPhone 12 series, all phones in the new iPhone 13 series deliver good audio quality, but due to their size, the iPhone 13 Pro Max and 13 Pro sound just a tiny tad better than the smaller boys. Apple is consistent in delivering speakers that are well above the average on its MacBooks, iPads and of course, iPhones, so it’s no surprise that we have an Apple phone in the top three here.
It’s actually a bit tricky choosing whether the Pixel 6 Pro or the iPhone 13 Pro / Max deserves the second spot, but in the end, I think most people would prefer the Pixel 6 Pro’s more “exciting”, spacious sound over the more narrow and “boring” sound that the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max deliver.
The sound on the iPhone 13 Pro / Max may be a bit screechier in the higher frequencies, making me deduct some clarity points, but on the upside, these iPhones deliver about equally punchy bass as the Pixel 6 Pro. Like all phones here except for the ROG, the iPhone 13 Pro / Max use a down-firing speaker combined with the earpiece in order to create a good stereo effect, and that earpiece deserves credit, as it’s among the loudest and fullest I’ve heard.
If you’re an Apple user, you’ll be happy to know that the iPhone 13 series are among the best performers in the audio department, although you may want to stay away from the smallest iPhone 13 mini, as due to that one’s size, it falls a bit behind its bigger brothers.
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra
Like the Pixel above, this Xiaomi flagship has a giant camera module that steals the show, but that doesn’t mean its speaker quality was an afterthought when the company was designing it. The Mi 11 Ultra produces clear sound, albeit with weak bass and less than ideal stereo separation.
Like most flagships, again we have a single down-firing speaker and an earpiece, but this earpiece just isn’t powerful enough to keep up with the main speaker in order for the phone to deliver an even stereo experience. But it’s there, and it’s satisfactory. Well above some other big-name flagships out there. Speaking of which…
What about the Samsung Galaxy S21 series?
Right. A dishonorable mention goes to the Galaxy S21 Ultra. I expected much more from Samsung‘s flagship phone, which is why it’s one of the phones I tested for the purposes of this list. But the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s speakers are appalling – the highs are ear piercing, there’s no bass, and the sound is just plain quieter than the competition. What a letdown.If you value phone sound quality, stay away from Samsung’s flagships for now. Here’s hoping the Korean giant’s upcoming Galaxy S22 series will deliver the kind of sound that will actually be comparable to what Apple and Google offer.
Which phone should I get if I care about audio quality?
I would highly recommend the Asus ROG Phone 5 or ROG Phone 3. Of course, if you don’t find gaming phones appealing, you can’t go wrong with any of the other phones on this list. While they don’t have the ROG’s loudness, wide sound and bass, most of them deliver the kind of reasonable clarity and stereo separation you’d expect from a modern flagship. Which is commendable, considering that there are other expensive flagships that can be very disappointing.