Huawei Mate 9 Review: Audio


Audio had never been a selling point for Huawei, nor do the Mate9. However, as the most serious media in smartphone audio testing, this review is necessary. We did not expect the Mate 9 high in audio performance, an average level is fine. Those Huawei smartphones we ever tested have just an average audio performance at that time.

The Mate 9 uses a unique Kirin 960 processor which is developed by Huawei themselves. The Kirin 960 uses the Hi6403 audio chip, which counts among its features audio I/O, DSP and CODEC for DAC and ADC, this part may have some relationship with Tensilica's HiFi DSP IP Core. According to Huawei, this Hi6403 supports 32bit 192KHz PCM, as well as the DSD lossless format. Compared with the Hi6402 that adopted by Kirin 955, this Hi6403 should be better.

The music player made a little progress in UI, but just a little. Just like others, this player also contains two parts, online and local. The online music is provided by QQ music, the local music player supports main stream loss and lossless formants, but cannot play DSD. With more hi-end speakers and devices supporting, DLNA is becoming more useful. However, the DLNA supporting, which once have some bugs, was cancelled. DTS effect is still supported, but in fact, this will not improve its sound performance a little, and will even worsen it.

By convention, we use professional sound card to record sounds, combined with common analysis, to provide quantitative results. The output level of Mate 9 is -12dB, while that of iPhone series is about -6 to -7dB.

Testing Item 44.1kHz 48kHz Huawei P9 Huawei Honor 6
Noise Level, dB -96.2 -96.7 -95.5 -94.0
Dynamic Range, dB 96.3 96.4 96.6 93.6
Total Harmonic Distortion(THD), % 0.0015 0.0015 0.0055 0.0019
Intermodulation Distortion, % 0.0052 0.0045 0.0074 0.0061
Stereo Crosstalk, dB -94.7 -96.6 -92.2 -93.3

Compared with the P9, Mate 9 made some progress in its quantitative results. You can see that the THD quantitative result is OK, but not OK with the diagram. We met this problem on Huawei P9. This may have relationship with the sampling. We cannot figure out whether SRC exists, but the high frequency attenuation feature seems like a result of SRC. Although Hi6403 supports 32bit/192kHz, but Mate 9 does not support. When playing tracks, the DTS effect is on for default. However, we have to switch it off, for it will worsen the treble performance.

It still sounds neutral. The treble resolution is not that good, sounds a little harsh when volume goes higher. It is hard to power earphones, even for those easy-to-power ones, the quality and amount can be hardly performed enough. Fast percussion music will lead to lose control in bass, and chaos the layering. Compared with iPhone, Mate 9 is weaker in all respects, even though iPhone 7 is not so good as older ones. iPhone 7 is better in controlling, transient, and a wider stereo imaging.

Mate 9 has a general audio level, cannot be compared with iPhone, nor do some lot Android smartphones with Qualcomm processor, at least those are better in powering. However, compared with those paying no attention in audio, Mate 9 is better.

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