DAC and Audio Performance

  1. drewfaas
    Froyo Jun 26, 2017

    drewfaas , Jun 26, 2017 :
    Greetings All,

    I picked up a OnePlus 5 (8/128) at the London release party last week. Overall, pretty happy.

    I have been doing a bit of blind audio testing with the OnePlus 5 through my headphones (Oppo PM-3), comparing it with my previous handset (LG G3) and my trusty old Sandisk Sansa Clip Zip.

    Overall, I'm reasonably satisfied but do find the output to be marginally weaker and the instrument separation to be slightly less defined by comparison. Neither issue is terrible and the output is perfectly acceptable.

    I'm curious what other folks impressions are of the OnePlus 5's audio output.

    I also can't seem to find many details about the DAC and audio processing - has anyone found any good resources?


  2. gunnar151
    Eclair Jun 26, 2017

    gunnar151 , Jun 26, 2017 :
    i Like the Audio Output, but when using headphones during a Call it is way too loud. Music is fine though.

  3. Mornats
    Cupcake Jul 20, 2017

    Mornats , Jul 20, 2017 :
    I've just come from a Sony Z5 Compact to the OP5. I record music as a hobby and always check my tracks on my phone. I output to 24 bit 44.1khz 2116kbps WAV files and listen to them through PowerAmp via a pair of Audio Technica M50x headphones.

    As a result, I'm very familiar with the sound and how each instrument is meant to sound. The Sony sounded near identical to my Focusrite Forte audio interface (I use the same headphones on both). I was always impressed with the Sony sound.

    I'm actually quite disappointed with the OP5 sound. The bass isn't as tight or as controlled. It's a bit mushy and rather undefined. A lot of my music is hybrid orchestral and electronic and there is very little detail in the string sections, in particular any ostinato strings (those sharp stabbing string sounds you hear in action music). The detail I hear in choirs is almost gone, subtle harmonics between choirs and woodwinds is lost and overall there just isn't as much in the sound as there was with the Sony.

    I too think there isn't as much separation of sound as I'd like, and had come to expect from the Sony.

    I would argue that for the general listener it sounds quite decent. The volume is way higher than the Sony. Maybe 30-40% higher but it's the detail in the sound and the definition in the bass that I miss.

    I notice the same difference in sound when I listen to Spotify (extreme quality in offline mode which is 320kbps I believe).

    I'm now looking for an external DAC to get the sound quality back or maybe take the OP5 back and consider the XZ Premium or the HTC U11. Other than the sound, I love the OP5 which is a real shame as it's actually a big factor in choosing a phone. I just couldn't resist the OP5 and took a gamble without being able to find any info on the audio quality other than it can play hi-res audio. I was contemplating an external DAC for my Sony anyway but now I think that for me, and my needs, it's a must.

    drewfaas and Anthony Ginepro like this.
  4. drewfaas
    Froyo Jul 20, 2017

    drewfaas , Jul 20, 2017 :
    Really great to hear your impressions, @Mornats. Thanks for taking the time to break down the OnePlus' delivery across the whole spectrum. I'm in full agreement with all of your comments. I am careful, though, not to judge on the basis of Spotify. Streaming Flac through Qobuz and Tidal was a much better experience, as higher quality files would be, and I didn't find playback highlighted the weaknesses of the DAC/amp combo in the way I expected. It didn't sound mind blowing but by comparison Spotify just sounds 'muddy' to me through the OnePlus 5.

    I came from an LG G3, which did a great job with Flac, also through PowerAmp. The DAC/amp combo were pretty good and are due to be incredible in the G6 Plus with quad DAC - the only other handset I was considering before picking up the OnePlus 5.

    Ultimately, it was the OnePlus 5's clean OS, fast performance and slim form factor that won me over. Despite my positive audio experience with the LG, it had its quirks - skinned OS, a bit of immovable bloat, poor battery life, so-so camera. On the basis of that experience I was disinclined to go for another LG. I was interested in the Z5 Compact but just couldn't get on with all that Sony bloat.

    I have resigned myself to the fact that my audio expectations are higher than all but the very expensive Onkyo phone are capable of and that phones outdate quickly so maybe an external DAC is a better investment for the longer term. I'm mainly weighing up the Dragonfly Red at this point. The Chord Mojo is great but its size and weight kind of spoil the portability factor, not to mention the cost.

  5. Mornats
    Cupcake Jul 22, 2017

    Mornats , Jul 22, 2017 :
    I'm looking at a Dragonfly DAC too. I'll report back here if I get one and will update you on the sound difference.

    I too decided to go for the clean OS, fast performance and slim form factor. Part of me wishes I'd gone for the HTC U11 for the audio but the rest of the phone seemed average to me. So I went for a great phone with average sound that I'll prop up with an external DAC.

    I tweaked some settings in PowerAmp and got a small improvement in sound. There's some tighter, but still muddy bass and a little more separation between sounds. Not up to the standards of even my old Sony though. The setting change that had the bigger impact was changing the resampler type to SoX.

    I noticed that the OP5 does NOT support PowerAmp's experimental hi-res audio mode so it has to resample my 24 bit files down to 16 bit. So I guess this is where the change in the resampler settings made a difference.

    So it seems that whilst the OP5 can play 24 bit files, it can't play them back in 24 bit quality. That seems strange so I wonder if something like USB Audio Player PRO would be any better.

  6. Mornats
    Cupcake Jul 23, 2017

    Mornats , Jul 23, 2017 :
    Another update. I bought a Dragonfly Black DAC and can confirm that it works with the OnePlus 5. To my surprise an Apple USB-C to USB A cable did the trick of connecting them.

    I bought USB Audio Player Pro as its USB audio driver will play back files in 24 bit whereas PowerAmp uses the onboard Android 5 USB driver which is limited to 16 bit. (I wonder if my Sony was playing in 24 bit via the experimental hi-res audio mode in PowerAmp or if it was downsampling. If it downsampled then it did a great job!)

    So now everything sounds just as it should and all is right with the world of mobile audio :D

    G_ming_z_FzyC likes this.
  7. cheul
    Cupcake Aug 1, 2017

    cheul , Aug 1, 2017 :
    Do you experience USB audio player pro getting killed after 6 to 7 minutes with screen off ? Are you using it in bit perfect mode ?

  8. Mornats
    Cupcake Aug 1, 2017

    Mornats , Aug 1, 2017 :
    I'm running it with bit perfect set on "whenever possible" which should be on all the time as I'm only listening to 24bit 44.1 audio which the DAC supports.

    I've not had any dropouts when the screen's been off at all. I've noticed a few crackles every now and then but mostly when I've had the settings open during playback. if I leave it be then there's no problem.

    I added the Morphit add-on to USB audio player pro by the way. It flattens the response of my headphones quite nicely and is worth it for the small outlay.

  9. felipemendes
    Jelly Bean Aug 1, 2017

    felipemendes , Aug 1, 2017 :
    And what about Bluetooth aptX HD? It's supposed to transfer 24bit/48kHz (aptx is "only" 16bit/44.1kHz), but I didn't find yet any decently-priced aptx HD headphones.

  10. cheul
    Cupcake Aug 2, 2017

    cheul , Aug 2, 2017 :
    Could you get into specifics about the settings on UAPP you're using?
    - hardware volume or not
    - Volume rocker buttons
    - free USB bandwidth after playback,
    - buffer size
    - bus speed for Android 7+)

    how far is the hardware Volume slider during a typical listening session ? (this one is related with the sensitivity of your headphones/IEMs)

    Have you set UAPP as "don't optimize" in battery settings? is advanced optimization toggled off?

    These are the parameters that come to mind regarding power consumption and management. Thanks.

  11. allanj13
    Gingerbread Aug 2, 2017

    allanj13 , Aug 2, 2017 :
    Never comes close to my htc one m8. But so far with everything else this is a beast.

  12. Mornats
    Cupcake Aug 2, 2017

    Mornats , Aug 2, 2017 :
    Sure, here's what I've got set:
    • Hardware volume - no. It says "this device has no hardware controls".
    • Volume rocker buttons - yes, I did get the volume rocker buttons to control the volume. It's not set to this by default and I can't remember whether I changed it in UAPP's settings or the OP5's.
    • Free USB bandwidth after playback. This is ticked, and I think it was ticked by default.
    • Buffer size - I've not changed this and it was set at the lowest setting - 100ms.
    • Bus speed for Androind 7+. Not changed this either and it's set to Automatic.
    I typically have the volume set between 5-7 out of 10 (if the volume slider was on a scale of 1-10). 6 is the most comfortable and 7 is a bit too much so not for long sessions. I know that the music I'm listening to (as I recorded it myself) is set to between -16 LUFS and -14 LUFS. I'm listening through a pair of Audio Technica M50x headphones with an impedance of 38 ohms. The Dragonfly Black isn't intended for higher impedance headphones but the Dragonfly Red is.

    I've not set up any kind of power management on my OP5 yet but I plan to soon.

  13. cheul
    Cupcake Aug 2, 2017

    cheul , Aug 2, 2017 :
    ok thanks for taking the time to detail your settings.
    I noticed an improvement but can't say if is related to changing some settings in UAPP or if the OS has finally taken into account the "don't optimize" instruction on said app. it seemed to not be working at all at first and then I started getting a "app is draining battery" which it definitely should as prior versions of the Dragonfly are not optimized for mobile proceedings.

    On a side note, the Dragonfly 1.2 has hardware Volume control, when addressed through software you can't get all the juice of the DAC to drive high impedance cans (bmf#3 modded t50RP here). When Hibby Music lost its ability to control hardware Volume on the Dragonfly the sound reproduction was of audible lesser quality due to a lack of power. Right now I'm at 25% of the hardware Volume slider and the fff in the orchestra are thunderous with my very inefficient cans (inefficient as in power to SPL, but beautiful textures). I'm surprised hardware Volume hasn't stuck with the Dragonfly black.

  14. bus_ter
    Gingerbread Aug 2, 2017

    bus_ter , Aug 2, 2017 :
    After reading this I compared the sound using headphones and the same files Vs my Galaxy S7. The Samsung sounds 'cleaner' and less distorted. But I don't really listen to music on my phone other than Bluetooth (which I assume doesn't use the DAC?) so I'm not too bothered.

  15. cheul
    Cupcake Aug 2, 2017

    cheul , Aug 2, 2017 :
    You do realize we're talking about a USB DAC connected via an OTG cable, right ?

  16. cheul
    Cupcake Aug 2, 2017

    cheul , Aug 2, 2017 :
    I reckon we drifted from the original post, though.

  17. bus_ter
    Gingerbread Aug 2, 2017

    bus_ter , Aug 2, 2017 :
    lol no. Ignore my comments then :) (but I still think the Samsung has better sound coming out the jack).

  18. daddycool
    Gingerbread Aug 2, 2017

    daddycool , Aug 2, 2017 :
    unfortunately I do believe the s8 does have better audio i wish this wasn't the case tho.