Samsung Galaxy Note 9 [SM-960N] Review: Audio
Author:Soomal
Source:eng.soomal.com

Rate:10.00/10

Samsung's flagships have always had two large hardware versions, namely Qualcomm and Samsung Exynos platform. These two platforms share names in smartphone models but have big differences, so they can't be easily matched. Generally speaking, the performance of each aspects of Qualcomm platforms will be better. Now, we have the Galaxy Note 9, the model name is SM-N960N, which is based on the Samsung platform.

Note9 [SM-N960N] and S9+[SM-G965N] are both equipped with Samsung Exynos 9810 processors. For this processor and peripheral components, the built-in audio I/O control or the CODEC is unknown, what we only knowing that it is different from the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845. The version based on Exynos platform is basically only sold outside China. The domestic version of China's domestic sales is Qualcomm platform, so this sound quality review has little reference for China mainland users.

Note 9 [SM-N960N] do not integrates a music player developed by Samsung themselves, so we use Google Play Music instead. Note 9[SM-N960N] has built-in Dolby Atmos, which has a certain meaning for laud speaker playback, but it may be a mess for headphones.

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 Note 9 Samsung Galaxy S8+ Samsung Galaxy S9 Huawei Mate 10 Huawei P20 Pro vivo X20 Plus OnePlus 5T vivo X21 One Plus 5T One Plus 6
UAC 2.0 Device Auto Switch Sampling Rate Auto Switch Sampling Rate Locked to 48kHz or 192kHz Locked to 192kHz Cannot Work Properly Locked to 48kHz or 192kHz Locked to 96kHz Locked to 96kHz/16bit Locked to 48kHz Locked to 48kHz Locked to 48kHz Locked to 48kHz Locked to 48kHz
Comment

On support for USB audio devices, Note9[SM-N960N] locks to 192kHz sample rate, while S9 is 44.1kHz and 48kHz will lock at the 48kHz output, and 96kHz and 192kHz will lock at the 192kHz output. This means that when using a mobile phone to listen to most of the music with a portable DAC, there is an SRC process that is detrimental to the sound quality. Although local playback problems can be solved by some third-party software, online playback cannot escape SRC. Although the quality of SRC is high now, the negative impact on sound quality still exists, but it is not so obvious.

Testing Item LDAC 44.1kHz LDAC 48kHz LDAC 96kHz
Noise Level, dB -95.3 -95.6 -111.3
Dynamic Range, dB 95.3 95.7 104.9
Total Harmonic Distortion(THD), % 0.0008 0.0008 0.0014
Intermodulation Distortion, % 0.0045 0.0043 0.0045
Stereo Crosstalk, dB -95.4 -97.0 -96.5

Bluetooth connectivity test found that Note9 [SM-N960N] supports SBC/AAC/aptX/aptX HD/LDAC [330/660/990kbps] and other current mainstream Bluetooth audio codec solutions and maintains a fairly good compatibility use. There are no unexpected occurrences of lost connection, pops, etc. in the test process. Many models support LDAC, but in fact the performance is still different, and Note9 [SM-N960N] is one of the outstanding performance, it almost shows the technical advantages of LDAC. Therefore, if you choose a Bluetooth headset for Note9, you can give priority to models that support LDAC.

By convention, we use professional sound cards to record sounds, combining with common analysis, to provide quantitative results. The maximum of [SM-N960N] output level is -8dB, which is consistent with the previous S9/S9+.

Testing Item LDAC 44.1kHz LDAC 48kHz LDAC 96kHz
Noise Level, dB -95.3 -95.6 -111.3
Dynamic Range, dB 95.3 95.7 104.9
Total Harmonic Distortion(THD), % 0.0008 0.0008 0.0014
Intermodulation Distortion, % 0.0045 0.0043 0.0045
Stereo Crosstalk, dB -95.4 -97.0 -96.5

There was no surprise in the test and no SRC appeared. DSD128 playback is also supported. Quantitative results are excellent, compared to the Qualcomm S9, the main difference is a little more harmonic.

In the real hearing part, we used the Qualcomm S9 as the contrast. Note9 [SM-N960N] has a slightly lower power than S9, the sound is neutral, slightly warmer and softer, and the S9 sound is more neutral. Note9 [SM-N960N] is less than S9 in key listening indicators such as resolution, transients, and dynamics. The S9 is straighter, the stereo image is relatively clear, and the sound field is slightly wider. The Qualcomm version of the S9 is an overwhelming victory, but each not big in each hearing part. Similar results also appeared in the comparison between Exynos Edition S9+ and Qualcomm S9. The Qualcomm version has better sound quality. If a larger range of contrast, the sound quality of Note9 [SM-N960N] is considered to be in the upper level of smartphones without separate DAC.

This earphone has appeared many times in the Soomal mobile phone sound quality evaluation, it is the bounding earphone of Samsung's flagship models. Sound quality and color value are fair in the bounding earphones. If the requirements are not high, this has already met most peoples needs. If requiring better sound quality, you can buy a better earphone.

If you are tired of the inconvenience of wired headsets, Note9 [SM-N960N] can provide a lot of choices, Note9 [SM-N960N] provides support for almost all mainstream Bluetooth codec solutions, and excellent for LDAC, the best Bluetooth audio solution. Therefore, it is not too much to give Note9 [SM-N960N] a medium-to-high-end Bluetooth headset or Bluetooth decoder. If you make full use of the advantages of Note9 [SM-N960N] in Bluetooth, the sound quality will not be worse than the 3.5mm headphone jack, and the unwired experience is completely cannot be provided by wired headsets.

In the trend of removing the earphone port, Samsung seems to be extra conservative. In fact, this approach takes care of the habits of consumers. Those who like the wired earphones, the performance will not be too bad, and for those preferring the Bluetooth headset, it can provide very good support. This gentle transformation and guidance are actually worthy of appreciation.

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