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Traditionally, phone manufacturers assumed that most listeners would be hooking up some type of a headset to listen to anything, whether music, content, or calls. They put less effort into the phone’s speaker, with a result that often sounded tinny and crinkly. But phone speakers have improved significantly, cranking out big sound that even a roomful of people can hear.
We’ve covered headphones and earbuds, but a smartphone’s speakers tend to get overlooked. When watching a movie with friends, playing a Podcast while cooking, or adding some background music to a party, a set of powerful internal speakers can be a feature in a phone that you didn’t realize you needed. So take your phone out of that cup you’ve been using to magnify sound and check out our top picks below.
What Are the Best Phones for Music?
There are a number of cell phones these days with good speakers for music. Here’s what to consider when shopping for the best phones for music online.
Placement: Speakers aren’t always down-firing at the tail end of the phone anymore, where they seemed almost like an afterthought. Now, just like some laptops, they’re front-firing, aimed right at your ears and eyes, and make a world of difference when watching movies and playing games. Bass is thick and highs avoid that crinkly crunch, making them ideal for appreciating sound design in movies and discovering new parts of your favorite music.
EQ: Balance is key to great sound on any speaker, but bass has been traditionally tough to deliver on cell pones. Same goes for the high end, which can get screechy or lost in the mix. The latest phones for music achieve a nice audio balance as is, but also often include an equalizer too, so you can customize your ideal sound for different activities and apps.
Loudness: For things like bedtime meditations or listening in a quiet room, the volume won’t matter quite as much. But if you’re planning on using this while there’s background noise, like in a kitchen, a party, or outside in a city, it’ll need to still be audible, and all phones aren’t equal. Just because a speaker’s sonic range hits highs and punches out big bass, that doesn’t always automatically equal volume, so be sure it can keep up with your surroundings, at least over 70dBA.
Keep in mind that these are still relatively small devices, and though some of these new built-in speakers can compete with bigger tablets and even laptops, they’re still pretty compact and limited in their capabilities. That being said, they’re a huge step up from previous gens, and smartphones for music are only getting better from here on out.
1. Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
Apple’s been absolutely killing it in the audio department recently, from their new AirPods to built-in speakers on MacBooks and iPads. Apple’s phones are no different, functioning as surprisingly sound speakers if you need to soundtrack a party, watch video content with friends or play mobile gaming.
The iPhone 12 set a new standard in phone speaker quality, and the 13 pushes it even further with two speakers (one up front-firing, and one bottom side-firing) plus Dolby Atmos technology for wider, more immersive sound. The phone’s large size helps too, since there’s more room to fit and place speakers inside, bringing more thump to the lower end and rich, robust audio from the palm-sized device.
2. Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 5G
Samsung’s been a strong contender in audio quality, recently even teaming up with Paloma Mami and Future to promote their excellent new Galaxy earbuds. As if this phone’s mind-boggling foldable display isn’t impressive enough, the Z Fold 2 packs some serious sound quality as well.
Not only does it crank to volumes that you can hear over other background noise, if you’re looking (or rather, listening) for more precise instrument separation over big bass or shining highs, the speakers set a soundstage that’s easy to pick everything out of.
It’s also light, at under a pound, giving you a portable, pocket-sized listening device that’s easy to take with you on the go.
3. Google Pixel 4XL
This phone has plenty of stunning visual features going for it, but audio is where it’s really underrated.
Though it was released in 2020, it still outperformed the newer models in terms of a clean sound with presence and range, plus it can crank up with minimal cracking up.
Two down-firing speakers are balanced out by one that blasts from the earpiece, creating an experience to keep up with everything from streaming to superhero blockbusters.
4. Asus ROG Phone 5
For gamers, don’t overlook this newest ASUS model that has some of the most impressive sound we’ve heard.
The speakers are aimed front-ward, right at your face, for full interaction with whatever you’re playing. And while the bass isn’t earth-shaking, clarity comes through in pristine balance, bringing out details in the sound design that you hadn’t heard before.
Even if you’re not a gamer, music still sounded big and clean in these mighty little speakers, in a body that’s under two pounds total.
5. Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra
The solo, down-firing speaker on this ceramic-designed smartphone is perfect for being heard over background noise, with another earpiece speaker picking up the slack. While it isn’t a perfectly-balanced listen (and not really made for things like instrument separation), it’s a solid choice for when full volume is needed.
Not to mention, the quad-curved display is gorgeous, with a 120Hz refresh option and an ultra-wide camera lens. Don’t have speakers handy at your next party or presentation? This phone will do the trick just fine.