People buy phones for camera quality and battery life, not solely for sound. But the instant you play a YouTube video aloud for a friend or put your mom on speakerphone, you’ll know if the audio sounds rich and full or distant and tinny. Simply put: Good speakers make a phone more enjoyable to use.
Not so fast, Galaxy S9.
For the first time ever, Samsung gave its Galaxy S9 phones two speakers rather than one. You’ve got the speaker grill on the top of the phone face, and then another to the right of the charger port. The phone also has Dolby Atmos software to enhance sound clarity and quality.
But you know what? The Razer Phone has dual-speakers (on the phone face) and Dolby software, too, and we were impressed with the way its audio swirls and swells to fill a room. Here was our worthy adversary.
Although the Razer Phone, a device by lifestyle gaming company Razer, is too niche to compete against Samsung, the world’s largest smartphone maker, in terms of sheer numbers of units sold, we still wanted to see which of these is the best phone for playing videos, music, games and calls aloud. In short, we wanted to see how sound Samsung’s Galaxy S9 speaker claim really is.
We already knew from listening that the iPhone X and last year’s Galaxy S8 produce tinnier, thinner sound than the Galaxy S9. What could we learn from a phone that shared almost exactly the same dual-speaker claims?
The winner: Turns out, it truly depends on the situation. The Galaxy S9 Plus pumped out the loudest audio, and took the prize for fuller music and richer vocals. But speakerphone calls were patently bad, and videos, while good, failed to immerse us.
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Here’s what we learned about the Galaxy S9 speakers, and how we tested them. Let the Galaxy S9 versus Razer Phone speaker throwdown begin.
Note: Despite Dolby and Samsung’s suggestions, you can’t actually get true surround sound — sometimes called 360-degree sound — from two speakers. Surround sound implies that there’s audio coming at you from all sides, including behind you. However, the Dolby settings and dual speakers do expand the sound field enough to make a difference.
Music test: Galaxy S9 speakers are awesome for playing tunes
Winner: Galaxy S9, by a long shot. Every single one of the dozen songs we played sounded richer and deeper on Samsung’s handset than on the Razer Phone. The Galaxy S9 made us dance and tap our feet. The same song on the Razer Phone had much flatter vocals and music. That danceability: Gone.
Songs: We listened to tunes from nearly every genre, including Top 40 crowd pleasers, classic rock, hip hop, indie, instrumental, electronic/dance music, and… Appalachian folk classics, because why not?
Music sounds rich, loud, and layered on the Galaxy S9.
How we tested: First, we put both phones on Dolby’s “music” setting. Then, in a quiet conference room, we played songs from Spotify and Audio Network, keeping an ear out for volume, warmth and richness, depth and layering.
We placed the Galaxy S9 Plus and the Razer Phone between us, got up and paced the room, toggled audio between the devices, and listened to key parts of the song over again on both phones.