Huawei Mate 10 Review: Audio


Huawei had been not good enough in smartphone audio performance until Honor 9, which cannot be regarded as the best ones but at least a beneficial attempt. Then how about the latest high-end Mate10, will it worth anticipating?

  • Source: Manufacturer
    Type: Mass produced
    Commercial Relationship: Yes

Mate10 utilizes the latest Hisilicon Kirin 970 SoC, according to the tearing down on TechInsights, it can be seen that the peripheral assorted CODEC chip is Hi6403,once used in Mate 9, poor performance, while the better one, Honor 9, uses an AKM AK4376 chip. Expectations was set not that high after we tell you about this information. We have been doubted for the Kirin series SoC, and cannot make sure or exclude whether chips of this series would SRC, and also cannot be sure whether the problem exists in algorithm or audio controller.

The music player app is similar to that of Mate 9, including online and local parts, and the online content is provided by QQ Music. Local player supports mainstream audio formats and the matching lyric, album cover with music tracks, but it fails in some not so unpopular albums, and sometimes matches wrong covers. The interface is somewhat old-fashioned but not difficult to use and stable. The EQ setting, to be honest, is of little use.

We start to add USB audio device compatibility test and Bluetooth decode supported test as the popularity of smartphone external device. We choose Musiland MD30 Plus as our audio device, using SuperDSP platform that is compatible with UAC2.0. Another one is Matrix Mini-i Pro 2S, adopting XMOS program. The reason why we choose these two is that they can display the current sampling rate on screen. We will add more devices in the future.

Testing Smartphone iPhone 8 Plus Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Samsung Galaxy S8+ Huawei Mate 10
Musiland MD30 Plus Auto Switch Sampling Rate Locked to 48kHz or 192kHz Cannot Work Properly Locked to 96kHz
MATRIX Auto Switch Sampling Rate Locked to 48kHz or 192kHz Locked to 48kHz or 192kHz Locked to 96kHz
Comment greater than or equal to 96kHz will be locked to 192kHz, others are locked to 48 kHz

During the test, we found that SRC problem emerges when Mate10 was connected externally with a USB audio device, locking to 96kHz sampling rate. If you hope to specify the sampling rate, you can try the Hiby Music APP. Up to now, most Android smartphones would have similar locking problems when connected externally with USB audio devices. In addition, we also connected with Monitor 09 Plus to test, and the result was that it could be recognized but soundless.

Mate10 supports LDAC, but we don't have devices to verify. Mate10 will use aptX to connect more commonly, which is also the best one among current Bluetooth audio solutions. If you want to buy a Bluetooth earphone matching Mate 10, you can consider one supporting aptX.

By convention, we use professional sound cards to record sounds, combining with common analysis, to provide quantitative results. The maximum output level of Mate 10 is -11dB, lower than most competitive products.

Testing Item 44.1kHz 48kHz 96kHz Mate 9
Noise Level, dB -95.2 -96.7 -108.4 -96.7
Dynamic Range, dB 95.7 96.8 108.4 96.3
Total Harmonic Distortion(THD), % 0.0021 0.0020 0.0020 0.0015
Intermodulation Distortion, % 0.0050 0.0045 0.0022 0.0052
Stereo Crosstalk, dB -93.4 -95.0 -96.0 -94.7

The tests for Mate 10 goes well, the problem of high-frequency actuation still occurs in the waveform of 44.1kHz frequency scanning as usual. There are still some extra harmonics that are not obvious in quantized data but in diagram, which is obvious than ever and can be affirmed as SRC. Of course, it is much better compared with the bad one in the past. Is it because of the hardware or algorithm? It has passed the Hi-Res test, but the problem of high-frequency actuation is severe, abnormal.

The audio performance is tolerable in real hearing experience with a neutral, tinny, feeble and weak impression. Treble is a little obscure, which can just be accepted in a low volume, but shill and noisy after turning up. The control is poor, and fast percussion is easy to make the bass out-of-control or even cracking, not to mention the texture, thus the feeling of quality is also meaningless. Such audio performance still remains at the level of mid-range model's years ago, but it is 2017 now. This sound performance is definitely behind Honor 9, and it is rare to see that the flagships are inferior to the budget models. Compared with iPhone 8 series and Samsung Galayxy S8 series, the audio of Mate10 is completely lost; compared with smartphones on sale, it is worse than many low-end models with Qualcomm SoC. It's superiority exists only compared with rough models sold about 1000 yuan(about 150 USD). Huawei probably believes that Mate's potential consumers are those who cannot tell good audio from bad.

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