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Early iPhone 4 Phone Audio Quality Testing Results

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By Jeremy Horwitz

Editor-in-Chief, iLounge
Published: Wednesday, June 23, 2010
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For those who may be interested, here are some early testing results of audio quality through the iPhone 4 in three different use models. In summary, handset performance is the most improved for both incoming and outgoing audio, with headphone port performance only modestly different, while speakerphone performance is better for the iPhone 4 user, but not as much to the person on the other side of the call.

Handset Performance. The most noticeable improvements on the iPhone 4 relate to its two speakers, which have both seen dramatic volume upgrades. In handset mode, the iPhone 4 at 9/16 of its volume is roughly equivalent to the iPhone 3G/3GS at maximum volume, so the iPhone 4 at peak volume is roughly 40-50% louder—an extremely noticeable difference. iPhone 4’s handset speaker sounds a little clearer than the ones in iPhone 3G and 3GS, even at higher volumes, for “very clear” overall sound that has roughly the same tonality as before.

iPhone 4’s noise-canceling microphone works properly and impressively in handset mode. During silences, the microphone sounds just a little clearer than with the iPhone 3G and 3GS, such that words are a little more distinct. However, iPhone 4 improves considerably when there’s ambient noise in the background. During an iPhone 3G test call, music playing loudly in the background could be heard during both gaps in speech and while the person is speaking; with the iPhone 4, the music was completely filtered out after only a couple of seconds, becoming all but impossible to hear during either gaps or speech, with only very slight clipping of the speaker’s voice—the caller can hear virtually everything perfectly. The effect is similar to the Jawbone series of headsets, only built right into the phone.

Headphone Performance. Sonic differences were very modest between the iPhone 3G and iPhone 4 when testing with the same pair of Apple Earphones with Remote and Mic. Audio sounded ever so slightly better on the iPhone 4, but not in a meaningful way. Notably, the iPhone 4’s second noise-canceling microphone doesn’t work as well when you use microphone-equipped headphones; trickles of ambient noise pop in and out both during silences and speech.

Speakerphone Performance. The iPhone 4 at 10/16 volume is roughly as loud as the iPhone 3G/3GS at maximum volume, and doesn’t suffer from the same audio clipping and harshness that the earlier speaker did at the peak volume level. At maximum volume, there’s a substantial difference—the iPhone 4 is roughly 40% louder, and still clearer than the iPhone 3G/3GS at its peak. Unfortunately, these improvements benefit only the person listening with the iPhone 4, while the person on the other side doesn’t get a huge benefit. Noise-cancellation with iPhone 4’s dual microphones doesn’t appear to work very well, if at all, in speakerphone mode; the iPhone 4’s mics pick up as much ambient noise as voice, making it difficult to discern one from the other. On the other hand, the iPhone 4 user in a noisy music-filled room can hear you talking if the iPhone 4 is at maximum volume, whereas the iPhone 3G/3GS are drowned out.

We’ll have much more to say on the iPhone 4’s test results soon.

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Comments

1

Glad to read Apple finally remembered the “phone” in iPhone. Now, how about that uncrippled A2DP Bluetooth?

Posted by Herr Doktor on June 23, 2010 at 9:57 AM (PDT)

2

Two Speakers?

iPhone 4 actually has two speakers? 

On 3GS Left was speaker, Right was Mic.

Posted by Proto732 on June 23, 2010 at 1:46 PM (PDT)

3

One speaker ... just like all the other iPhones.

Check the user manual

Posted by Proto732 on June 23, 2010 at 2:06 PM (PDT)

4

#2/#3: The big pill shaped opening above the screen? Yeah, that’s a speaker too. Just like all the other iPhones.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 23, 2010 at 2:17 PM (PDT)

5

I am having trouble with the Motorola S9-HD bluetooth headset and iPhone 4. The people on the other end of the call complain that my voice is muffled and extremely hard to understand. This devices worked flawless for me on my iPhone 3G with great fidelity until I updated to the iOS4.

Once I updated to iPhone 4 I was surprised that the voice output was terrible and the headset effectively unusable for phone calls.

I have a theory that the new noise canceling algorithm is causing the issue - would love to see this tested as it appears that the same issue manifest with my brother’s bluetooth headset from another manufacturer as well.

Posted by Ben Marchbanks on August 7, 2010 at 5:11 AM (PDT)

6

Actually, the iPhone 3G’s audio, using headphones sounds better than the audio from the iPhone 4. I’ve done hours of comparison. If you are using the apple in-ear headphones, most likely they are 32ohm - to match the 32ohm amplifier in the iPhones. If you were to use a 16ohm set of headphones, which I did- and granted, the ohm measurement will fluctuate as the frequency/intensity changes in the music, BUT, when I played the same song from each, at exactly the same level, using the same headphones, the bass response was tighter on the iPhone3G - less distorted.

When using a 16ohm headphone, as apposed to a 32ohm, it’s like opening a garden hose wider; requiring more water. The analogy is that It requires more current from the amplifier in order to stabilize the lower frequencies. If the bass it tight, without distortion, then that result proves that the audio it’s producing sounds better because it has a higher grade / stronger more dedicated amplifier chip.

After realizing this, increasing the volume of the song from each, my iPhone 4 completely shut down and would not power back on, due to overheating and it’s thermal protection circuitry powering it off automatically; iPhone 3G was just fine, even at max. For the iPhone 4 - after I completely lost it, thinking I damaged my phone - I simply pressed the home button and the power button simultaneously to get it working again.

When you start shrinking components to make more fit, the audio amplifier, which is a tiny chip, gets smaller too.

Posted by Bryan G. on October 1, 2010 at 4:23 AM (PDT)

7

Hi all

I`m an owner of iphone4 as well. I read on web that iphone has mono built in speaker?? its completely spuprise for me why apple installs mono speaker. sound is quite good but not cool f.ex nokia xpress music has big stereo speaker extremely loud maybe apple is gonna do it in thw newest model iphone 5???

Posted by Victor -Denmark on December 21, 2010 at 4:00 PM (PDT)

8

It would be nice if the iphone 5 had dual stereo speakers and louder volume I mean so many smartphones have low volume and what good is a phone for if you cannot hear it ring or the other person cannot hear you talking from the other end. We are talking about one of the highest tech phones in this era come on lets take it up a notch with some high quality stereo speakers and good volume come on we know you can do it.

Posted by tony sims on July 17, 2012 at 4:31 PM (PDT)

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