It is a loooong time since the last time we reviewed a Sony smartphone, as Sony had made no appealing devices for generations. Because of the Walkman and Alpha system, Sony smartphones should have good audio and photography performance. The latest Xperia XZ Premium enhanced both, especially in sound, ˇ°Always pushing the boundaries of soundˇ±, which attracted us to buy one for a test.
Sony XZ Premium has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, which integrates an audio I/O controller, providing good audio digital signal I/O. However, Sony adopts an WCD9335, not the WCD9341 that Qualcomm recommended in XZ Premium.
Without separated DAC, it is hard to ˇ°pushing the boundariesˇ±, but not hard to be better than former Sony smartphones in audio.
The built-in music player seems to be a retro one. It just supports local tracks playback, no online music. Actually we prefer this design, for its simple and easy-to-use. The music player supports most loss and lossless audio formats, but not APE. Of course, it does support DSD decoding. What's more, DLNA to phone playing is also supported. This music player cannot match album covers and lyrics online, but can search artists on Wikipedia, which cannot be easily visited in China mainland. And we can see lots audio effects, but we suggest that only when the basic audio performance is good enough, the audio effects can be a pleasant addition, or, it will be harmful to sound.
By convention, we use professional sound card to record sounds, combined with common analysis, to provide quantitative results. The output level of Sony XZ Premium is -14dB, lower than that of iPhones' -7dB, and also lower than the -8dB of Galaxy S8 & S8+.
|Testing Item||S8 44.1kHz||S8 48kHz||S8 96kHz||S8+ 44.1kHz|
|Noise Level, dB||-96.0||-96.7||-100.5||-86.6|
|Dynamic Range, dB||95.8||96.6||15.1||86.5|
|Total Harmonic Distortion(THD), %||0.0016||0.0069||0.0067||0.0019|
|Intermodulation Distortion, %||0.0055||0.0050||0.0023/td>||0.0019|
|Stereo Crosstalk, dB||-90.0||-90.3||-88.5||-86.4|
All tests are passed smoothly, no SRC problem, and Hi-Res test passed. The indicators are a little worse than the Galaxy S8 & S8+, especially in harmonic distortion and crosstalk, but still much better than the former Z3. Actually, the crosstalk is not bad, but cannot be improved in 96kHz/24bit, we suggest that this is limited by the hardware.
Also, the sound of S8 and S8+ is almost the same, and we cannot even distinguish one from the other. We choose Galaxy S7 Edge and iPhone 6 for comparison, those 4 smartphones each has a styled neutral sound performance. Compared with S7 Edge, S8 & S8+ are more solid and detailed, especially in mid-to-high frequency. Compared with iPhone 6, S8 & S8+ are a little weaker in powering earphones, and slightly narrower in transient and dynamic, but S8 & S8+ are more detailed, stretching, and better in re-constructing stereo imaging. In a word, S8 & S8+ are more smooth and dedicated.
Sony XZ Premium has a mutual sound, which is a "Qualcomm-style". Sony XZ Premium inherits the low driving power. Compared with Samsung Galaxy S8+, XZ Premium sounds softer, lower in resolution, and not that tight as Galaxy S8+. Even with its bounding earphones, the sound is also not strong enough as S8+'s. Although the Xperia XZ Premium is still not as good as S8+, it is still better than Z3, and not that bad. It can be considered as a good sound among smartphones without separated DAC, and better than the entry MP3 players, such as B172. Xperia XZ Premium is not outstanding, but still enough for consumers.
But, to ourselves, we are expecting much more than this.