Apple iPhone X Review: Audio


Apple removed 3.5mm headphone jack from iPhone 7 series on, however, this controversy design does not affect iPhone sales, on the other side, it changes the audio industry, for wireless earphone penetration gains much.

An Lightning to 3.5mm adapter, which is actually a portable external CODEC/AMP, is also in the box, for those wired headphones. Lots are complaining about not able to charge and listening to music at the same time, as the adapter occupies the lightning port, but iPhone starts to support Qi wireless charging from iPhone 8 series and iPhone X, so a Qi supported power bank would help.

According to iFixit, an Apple 338S00248 is on the mainboard, just the same as that on iPhone 8 series. This is the audio CODEC, which should be provided by Cirrus Logic, responsible for audio ADC and DAC, such as loud speaker, calls, recording, while the CODED in the adapter is for all the audios via headphone.

iPhone X 338S00248
iPhone 8 Plus 338S00248
iPhone 7/7 Plus 338S00105
iPhone SE 338S1285
iPhone 6s/6s Plus 338S1285
iPod touch [6] 338S1116
iPhone 6/6plus 338S1201
iPhone 5s 338S1201
iPhone 5 338S1117
iPhone 4s 338S0987
iPhone 4 338S0626
iPad 3 338S0987
iPad 2 338S0940
iPad 338S0805
iPod Classic 2007 338S0445
iPod nano 6 338S0859
iPod shuffle 4 338S0860

The familiar music player will not be introduced again. Apple claimed that iPhone X supports FLAC lossless format after updating. Payed online high-quality contents are widely accepted.

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 X iPhone 8 Plus Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Samsung Galaxy S8+ Huawei Mate 10
Musiland MD30 Plus Auto Switch Sampling Rate Auto Switch Sampling Rate Locked to 48kHz or 192kHz Cannot Work Properly Locked to 96kHz
MATRIX Auto Switch Sampling Rate 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

iPhones are absolutely friend to USB audio devices, except a few with special power supply, others supporting UAC 2.0 could be connected and used automatically. With external DAC/AMP support, iPhone X supports Hi-Res audios, and will switch sampling rate according to contents to avoid SRC, while few Android smartphone can do. By now, iPhone is still the best choice for external audio devices.

iPhone X supports AAC and SBC Bluetooth audio codec solutions, but not aptX, with gaining smartphone built-in. iPhones would choose AAC first, so users should also consider AAC first when buying one.

Lets have a look at the results. The audio performance is determined by this adapter, so iPhone X should almost the same with iPhone 8 Plus.

Testing Item 44.1kHz 48kHz iPhone 8 Plus
Noise Level, dB -96.0 -96.5 -96.0
Dynamic Range, dB 95.4 95.6 95.4
Total Harmonic Distortion(THD), % 0.0009 0.0012 0.0009
Intermodulation Distortion, % 0.0062 0.0066 0.0083
Stereo Crosstalk, dB -85.3 -85.1 -85.9

No surprise, iPhone X is nearly the same with iPhone 8 Plus, which indicates the adapter is the same. Slightly treble attenuation in 44.1 kHz, which cannot be heard during testing, no extra harmonics. 96kHz is still not supported, but iPhones are able to play with appropriate external audio devices.

In real hearing, iPhone 8 is also the same with iPhone 8 Plus, no matter in EarPods with Lightning port or other earphones. It keeps neutral sound, although the adapter worsens a little, still much better than most smartphones without separate DAC. considering lots headphones specialized for iPhones, iPhone X is one to choose for audiophiles. EarPods Lightning is not a high quality one, but still much better than most other bonding ones, for matching, balanced in sounds. Another advantage is its supporting for external audio devices, connected to use, no other apps and settings, 99% Android smartphones cannot achieve this.

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