Google Pixel XL Review: Audio


Since Pixel C released in 2015, Pixel series had replaced the Nexus series to become the most Google Android brand. The Pixel and Pixel XL smartphone released last October were the upgradation version of Nexus 6 series, ODM by HTC. We bought the Pixel XL to see its performance and experience the latest Android. As a Google product, how about its audio performance?

  • Source: Self-Buying
    Type: Mass produced
    Commercial Relationship: No

Except a few Hi-Fi featured, all smartphones equipped with Qualcomm Snapdragon 82x processor are using a WCD9335 CODEC for audio sub-system. However, different manufacturers providing different audio performance with this same CODEC. The built-in music app is Google Play Music, providing lots online music and radio. Of course, you can also install Apple Music, Netease Cloud Music for more tracks.

Another point to concern is whether the SRC problem still exists. Although the SRC algorithm had been improved, and audio lag had been shortened, the SRC still have negative affect to audio performance. By convention, we use professional sound card to record sounds, combined with common analysis, to provide quantitative results. The output level of Google Pixel XL is -6.9dB, similar to iPhone series' -6 to -7 dB, and higher than the Nexus 6P's -15.5dB.

Testing Item 44.1kHz 48kHz Nexus 6P Nexus 9 Nexus 6
Noise Level, dB -96.3 -97.4 -97.2 -97.3 -96.7
Dynamic Range, dB 96.3 97.5 91.2 94.5 95.4
Total Harmonic Distortion(THD), % 0.0006 0.0022 0.0023 0.0059 0.0033
Intermodulation Distortion, % 0.0047 0.0040 0.0090 0.0011 0.0074
Stereo Crosstalk, dB -92.6 -94.2 -97.2 -94.3 -97.9

Pixel XL's audio performance is normal from our quantized result. It makes a little progress in Intermodulation Distortion, a little draw back in stereo crosstalk, but still lower than -90dB. Under 44.1kHz sampling rate, the frequency responsive curve drops from 15kHz, just like former Nexus series, Moto Z and most other Android smartphones. We can infer that Pixel XL also locks sampling rate and SRC, even it runs on Android 7.1. Of course, Pixel XL failed in our Hi-Res test.

The Pixel XL's audio performance is better than the Nexus 6P, thanks to the gain of output level, but the problem is similar to other Qualcomm processor smartphones without separated DAC. Compared with iPhone, Pixel XL is weaker in dynamic and transient, and sounds a little blurring and rough, not clean enough. This sound performance may come from the SRC. It is able to power entry level earphones such as H841P, Aurvana Air, but unable to fulfill those earphones with high quality treble performance.

The Pixel XL has a better earphone output than the Nexus 6p, but this improve comes from the output level, not the audio quality. Its audio performance is average in Android smartphones, not as good as HTC One. In addition, the loud speaker of Pixel XL is mono, not stereo like Nexus 6P. Although Qualcomm had supported Hi-Res audio format a long time, most Android smartphones still not support. The only reason we can explain is that Google does not really pay attention to audio.

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