Community Review: Reviewing the OnePlus 6 as a Sound Engineer and Music Producer

  1. Greyanaroth Cupcake Jul 11, 2018

    Greyanaroth, Jul 11, 2018 :

    Anupam Roy is a Mumbai based sound engineer/music producer who handles live sound for artists like Pritam, Indian Ocean, Sophie Chowdry, Skyharbor, Bhayanak Maut and many more. He's been in the music industry for 14 years and has produced or mixed over a hundred releases. Check out his intensive review of the OnePlus 6 where he majorly focuses on audio:
    I was recently lucky enough to get my hands on the much awaited, tremendously hyped upgrade to the OnePlus line of phones: the elusive and ridiculously pimped out OnePlus 6 Avengers Edition. While I wasn't entirely thrilled about buying into the Marvel franchise this was the only option for space hogs like yours truly, and tbh the carbon fibre finish and the gold highlight is REALLY nice. Much has been said about the finish, feel, speed and camera of this device so I'll rush through those bits. My review will mostly be concentrating on the audio experience with some really high-end IEMs and the brand new OnePlus Bullet Wireless Bluetooth headphones/IEMs. I will also touch upon the lifestyle and overall functionality of the phone in the hands of someone (me, of course) who spends a LOT of time travelling, and gets into all manner of sticky situations where device performance can often be critical. Hope you enjoy the read.

    Surprisingly decent and tweakable audio straight off the bat. The sheer processing power and as much RAM as many fully functional studio machines makes operation a breeze and high res audio tweaks a no-brainer. Battery life is flat out insane and dash charge is my new best friend, an irreplaceable travel companion. Rom optimisation is phenomenal, you can, for once, FEEL a phone working with the slick efficiency of a middleweight MMA fighter.


    My day job is handling live sound duties for some rather nice artists that range from relentless hit machine Pritam Chakraborty, folk fusion giants Indian Ocean, progressive metal geniuses Skyharbor, the edgy Amit Trivedi, singer/dancer/performer Sophie Chowdry, and the monstrous Bhayanak Maut. When I'm not on tour I'm usually producing or mixing and mastering for indie artists and breaking as many sonic boundaries as possible along the way.

    To cut a long story short: I'm paid for investing a lot of time and effort in critical and detailed listening and knowing how to navigate the often murky waters of audio production both live and in the studio. Let's just say that while I try and not expect "audiophile" levels of quality from my mobile device, listening to music with minimal hassle and maximum effect is rather important to me.

    My previous workhorse was an iPhone 6S 128 GB that sadly got stolen in Goa. It had very good playback and rather amazing audio recording capabilities in loud concert environments. I moved on for a while to an LG V20 that, still, has the best DAC in any mobile phone till date, so audio was phenomenal but it was a very poorly implemented phone in every other respect despite having reasonably decent hardware. I was bodily sick of consistently horrid battery life, and very haphazardly implemented OS/ROM that got no love from the company after a while. I wasn't happy. So when I heard about the OnePlus 6, it's commitment to the headphone jack, the gigantasaurus storage and its other bells and whistles, I was pretty intrigued.

    Music software used for testing:

    Poweramp has been my go-to music player for the longest time and I cannot recommend it enough. If, like me, you're slightly old and came from a generation of people who sorted their music collection folder wise and need transparent audio tweaking, this app is amazing. It offers all manner of tweaky goodness vis UI, library sorting, plenty of audio options, and a really nice graphic EQ that helps you dial out (or in) inconsistencies with your chosen listening mode.

    I had also signed up for a public beta, which introduces upsampling, and audio codec selection. When selecting the experimental Hi-Res output mode for the headphones, the codec upsamples audio to 24 bit/192khz which in sonic terms, results is a more “open” sound, for lack of a better word. Bottom end breathes more and seems to have more life, the top end sizzles in all the right places and the midrange is dominant without sounding cheap. The EQ helps me tune my IEMs to my taste, and dial out any top end harshness that many manufacturers seem to love dealing into their headphones and push my favourite range in audio: 30hz! Poweramp also allows you to have MUCH finer volume increments. I set mine as high as it would go, and sweet spots are just a couple of button presses away.

    Headphones used to test:
    JH Audio Roxanne, Audio Technica E70, Shure SE535, OnePlus Bullet Bluetooth Wireless.

    Hardware used to compare the DAC: RME Fireface UCX
    The Roxannes are the indisputable king of all things IEM: at 12 drivers per side, it has a lower impedance than most IEMs and typically requires you to dial in lesser volume for the same amount of SPL. Which, for laymen, just means they go LOUD! And never, ever distort. If you’re not careful you can pretty much blow your hearing while having an absolutely amazing time. The AT E70s are great mid-range IEMs, and actually give their more expensive competitor, the Shure SE535, a very good run for their money. Sonically, the E70 and the SE535 would both work for almost any situation and sound great. All these IEMs are designed for stage use, delivering audiophile quality in punishing environments. They all performed great with the OnePlus. While the DAC used on this phone isn’t mind-blowing, I did do a quick AB with my studio interface, the RME Fireface UCX, and while the UCX obviously performed better, I could more than live with the OnePlus 6. I couldn’t detect any frequency degradation, inferior imaging or soundstage beyond acceptable parameters. With the upsampled codec on Poweramp, it all sounded great to me. I was genuinely afraid that I’d miss the pristine audio on my V20. I didn’t. The Roxannes still sounded bomb-like and the upsampling gave me the confidence to use the phone on PA systems for tuning purposes when high-end rigs weren’t available for playback. I’d probably not use this phone for anything above 70ohms because the amp probably doesn’t have enough juice. But for most commercial and even audiophile grade stuff within 70 ohms should have you covered.

    The phone comes with its own Audio Tuner for plugged in headphones, and this had initially got me very excited. I would have loved to have bypassed the Poweramp EQ in favour of a system-wide EQ for headphones. But, alas, this feature is, as of this review, broken. You HAVE to select one of the preset Earphone Type “enhancements” before you can get to the EQ and, as usual, these all sound universally bad especially considering the quality of listening gear I was using. I would have loved a “flat” or just “upsampled” option which would push resolution but NOT alter tone. This made me use the EQ more as a way to reverse the “enhancement” made by the presets than use it like an actual EQ to tune my headphones. I really hope they fix this in a future upgrade. I did see presets for the OnePlus Bullet wired headphones and some JBL cans. But the basic, default setting was not the best: a generic smiley EQ curve with the usual “bass boost” that I've never been a fan of. Ah well. So much for that idea. Back to Poweramp.

    OnePlus Bullet Wireless Bluetooth Headphones:
    I’m not much of a BT guy. I’ve never found it so compelling to ditch my wire in favour of a questionable (and often throttled) wireless connection with inferior audio resolution that depends on DSP processing to make things ok. The only things which came close to being awesome were the Bose Noise Cancelling headphones but that's more owing to Bose’s amazing active noise cancellation algorithms than actual tonal nirvana. I was a little skeptical of the Bullet wireless headphones, but I went in with an open mind. As soon as I switched them on, they paired effortlessly, no hassles. The magnetic disconnecting option is also very convenient: plug the headphones out and just stick them back to back and they switch themselves off. No fiddling around with buttons or the phone. Useful when you can’t ignore unpleasant conversations anymore, and want it to get over fast. Tonally, I’d say these are very “JBL”, which in our circles tends to translate to “holy high mids, batman!”. However, like all things JBL (I’m not sure if they’re involved with this product, but the resemblance was uncanny) just a little bit of EQ makes their speaker design shine. I trimmed some high mids, and not only could I breathe easier, I started really enjoying these little guys! The neck band is quite flimsy, and doesn’t maintain shape/coiling direction after a couple of pack/unpacks. And once you stick the magnetic bits together, the headphones kinda dangle awkwardly. But other than that I had a ball with these and would very much use them for stuff like commutes, gym, walks etc. The fit could be better, and I’m not a very big fan of those ear mould/grip things. Always found them gimmicky. Better tip design/quality would have helped a LOT more TBH. But they get the job done fabulously, don’t cost an arm and a leg, and do all the usual bluetoothy things rather well. And once you EQ them, they sound pretty good!

    <ROM Critique: probably enable Audio Tuner for bluetooth headphones as well? I would have loved to hear the OnePlus Bullet preset and having a DSP algorithm for your own headphones certainly cant hurt!>

    Call quality on the Bullets are great: the “JBL” tonal curve really helps with voices stand out, and the silicon isolation tips go a long way in making sure you can hear a conversation properly. The Bullet’s come with a red, silicon case, which has a cute little magnet to lock the opening. I couldn’t help feeling, however, that they’d made this just a LITTLE too small. Like, 10% more and the case would have been GREAT! Right now, it’s a bit of a struggle for a klutz like me to get these in.

    Much has been said about the ridiculous amounts of firepower this phone has, it’s camera etc. I’d just like to quickly say, all of the hardware improvements mean a MUCH faster phone, that has yet to experience any lag whatsoever. The ROM optimisation is mind-blowing: apps don’t lurk around in the background like shady, drunk dudes up to no good. They’re swiftly “greenified”. The phone is incredibly responsive, and the sped up animations don’t seem contrived. They instead help drive home the fact that the phone is, indeed, FAST, and the animation speed just reflects that as opposed to trying to hide an otherwise slow phone with quicker animations. Almost half of our band with one of my main clients have shifted to the OP6, and a bunch of them, like me, are OP first timers. Man, the whole lot of us were blown away with how this phone works! No bloat, no BS, down to business.

    The battery life is absolutely, NOTHING short of life-changing. I’ve, so often, been in situations where my power bank is dead, and a power socket is at least 5-10 hours away so charging my phone wasn’t an option. Add long spells of boredom (read: flights/travel) and this meant most phones barely lasted half a day at most. This beast doesn’t break a sweat, and I’ve started doing quick morning charges as opposed to nightly charges. Dash charge has got to be the only feature in modern times that actually works as advertised. Even a 10-minute charge keeps the phone going for many many hours. The amount of times this has genuinely saved me probably outweighs everything else this phone does. Let's be clear: this is a mobile communication device that runs on battery. I’ve, far too often, after many long flights, been in a situation where I’ve to book an Uber and my phone is at 3% battery, and finding a charging point in arrival areas of many airports around the world is a pain. I remember sitting for at least 20 minutes in Dallas Fort Worth so I could get enough charge on my V20 to be able to grab an Uber, and not run out of juice on the way in case of emergencies. With the OP6, I’ve literally forgotten what battery woes were like. Even if I’m at 20%, I know this phone will last me a couple of hours easy. The phone easily does a full day, and once when I forgot to charge it in the morning, went up to about 5pm before the battery saver kicked in at 15%. Fast charge for 10 minutes, and I was at 50% which was more than enough to see me through the rest of the day. Revolutionary.

    I’m not much of a camera guy TBH. I’m that guy who gets nagged by his mum to click more photos while I’m on tour, and it’s just not my thing. But every now and then, the SLR geek in me comes out, and the portrait, as well as the pro modes, really hit the sweet spot. I like it, it works, doesn’t perform too badly in low light situations. But mostly, I don’t care much about the camera, so I’m the wrong guy to judge this. However, I did shoot the unboxing video in 1080p. You be the judge :)

    I really like it! It feels like a premium device, and I really dig the carbon fibre finish out back. The iron man cover was really well made, and had great form factor and button feedback.

    In summary:
    The Audio on OnePlus more than gets the job done. For a guy like me, this phone is a keeper: lots of space, ridiculously fast, and battery for ages. The OnePlus 6 can still, however, be made LOUD concert friendly. While the distortion is not as bad as previous OP devices, it still distorts when hit by massive amounts of low-end SPL And, from what I understand, it’s NOT that difficult a feature to implement. The microphone preamp just needs to be able to drop input gain by another 20db and I'm SET! This is a great, balanced phone that gets full marks as an overall device for everyday use. And the fact that you’re now NOT stressed about battery issues is probably really good for your mental health as well! Highly recommend.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2018

  2. GopalB. Marshmallow Jul 12, 2018

    GopalB., Jul 12, 2018 :
    That's a detailed review man!!!
    And a different one too...

    Great attempt!!! [​IMG]

  3. Rohan Pratap Bharti Jelly Bean Jul 12, 2018

  4. MKT_IRFAN3735 Ice Cream Sandwich Jul 12, 2018

    BeingIncog likes this.
  5. DARTH 007 Jelly Bean Jul 12, 2018

    DARTH 007, Jul 12, 2018 :
    too much bla bla.
    anyway was he paid to write the review bcos it's totally biased.
    with so much negative going in the forum,I won't be surprised
    battery life sucks after last update and he says it's very good.
    that's where the doubt comes from.

  6. Greyanaroth Cupcake Jul 12, 2018

    Greyanaroth, Jul 12, 2018 :
    Battery life is fine here. Pretty much the same as before: about 24 hours on a full charge, with over 4 hours of screen time. Been watching a lot of tutorials on YouTube (at least an hour long each) and full movies in flights all the while using the bullet BT headphones and still get sufficient juice to not worry about charge.

    There was no payment involved. Its a product review from a different user perspective. And the review is unbiased: notice how I bash their DSP based audio "enhancement" algorithms, and how the audio recording for concerts/loud environments still needs fixing.

    Thanks for reading!

  7. NovinDavis KitKat Jul 13, 2018

  8. G1530783507148 Cupcake Jul 13, 2018

  9. G_Sai_Raina_syku Jelly Bean Jul 13, 2018

  10. Punk_69 Lollipop Jul 13, 2018

  11. taiyou94 Froyo Jul 14, 2018

    taiyou94, Jul 14, 2018 :
    for battery performance, some settings u can try, i can easily get a full day means min. 24 hrs. with 7-8 hrs. of screen on time. Really Guys, and yup, 5% batteri is still remains.

    1. Use dark theme.
    2. Use battery Optimisation enable for all Apps.
    3. Use deep clear in Setting->Advanced->Recent App Management->Deep Clear.
    4. No extra UI App and can also use a dark wallpaper bor both home and lock screen.
    5. Face Unlock-> I dont think of its much use, also not very secure. Its always run in background and eating Ram and battery, so u can also disable it.

    Just try this guys, u can easily get 8 hrs. screen on time in full day Battery usage.

    I hope it might helps.

    T1529156448195 likes this.
  12. Greyanaroth Cupcake Jul 14, 2018

  13. taiyou94 Froyo Jul 14, 2018

    taiyou94, Jul 14, 2018 :
    Then whats about yours device battery performance?

  14. Greyanaroth Cupcake Jul 14, 2018

    Greyanaroth, Jul 14, 2018 :
    It's great! But people have been complaining about the battery since the new update. Just didnt experience it myself is all

  15. iLingaraj Honeycomb Jul 15, 2018

    iLingaraj, Jul 15, 2018 :
    It's a great review and unbiased. Now if only OP can get a DAC similar to LG's, this becomes a complete package but I guess it all boils down to balancing the cost.

  16. Y1530466412473 Cupcake Jul 16, 2018

  17. shridhan86 Donut Aug 9, 2018

    shridhan86, Aug 9, 2018 :
    He definitely did not like the audio output of OnePlus 6. He has used LG V20, which is a phone made for audiophiles. There is no point in focussing on wireless AptX and having poor 3.5mm output, OnePlus.

  18. adityashanker1 Cupcake Oct 15, 2018

    adityashanker1, Oct 15, 2018 :

    Thanks a lot for the great review.
    One question though (sorry if it's really trivial) -
    Can the In-built EQ be kept off, In case you don't want any customizations from OnePlus's software?

    Basically what I am asking is - is there a way to not enable it/not use the default EQ without using PowerAmp. Like If I wanted to listen to my music without any EQ customizations.
    Or is it necessary to install PowerAmp just to override the prebuilt EQ preset/settings because OnePlus forces their algorithms down your throat?