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iPhones, iPods, and iPads forum: Apple iPhone 4s music audio quality in question.

by: Ebersudsky November 1, 2011 7:49 PM PDT

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Apple iPhone 4s music audio quality in question.

by Ebersudsky - 11/1/11 7:49 PM

I am a guy who loves music. I devour quality sound. It makes me happy to hear audiophile quality samples that make me go WOW.

probably like most of you who are reading this, quality sound makes life sweeter for us.

Coming from an era of 8-tracks, records, tapes, CDs, and mp3s after that, I've heard my tracks go from OK (tapes w/Dolby NR/sony headphones) to unbelievably spectacular (640kbps samples / shure se530s)

I've enjoyed those 1gig flash mp3 players from iriver, cowon, and creative, but it wasn't until I listened to the same audio tracks on my iPhone 3GS, that I was truly blown away by the audio fidelity and quality that came bursting through my ear buds.

The iPhone 3GS sound quality was incredible. What I thought was excellent sound from those flash mp3 players, was suddenly dull and flat compared to the prosumer quality sound that was being reproduced by the iPhone 3GS.

I've listened to dat players, minidiscs, and the best flash players out there. How can the iPhone 3GS be so much better sounding??? It's a smartphone. But I simply rejoiced and savored the buttery smooth audio it produced.

About 3 months ago, my iPhone 3gs battery began dying. Instead of replacing the battery, I thought this was a good opportunity to upgrade to the new iPhone 4s. My contract was up, so what the hell? I got a black 64gig model. I went all out.

Today, 11/01/2001, I launched pandora for the first time on my shiny new iPhone 4s and I began listing to my favorite station. One that delivered luscious sounds on my 3GS.

I immediately wondered why do the same songs that sounded sparkling, sharp, and clear on the 3GS, suddenly sound flat and muddy on the iphone 4s

The bass didn't have nearly the level of warmth and oomph that the 3GS reproduced so effortlessly.

What is going on? Turned up the volume. No difference , just louder. Equally muddy and flat, just annoyingly louder.

I started wondering what is it that I'm doing differently from the 3GS?
Same pandora version.
Same song track on pandora.
Same headphones.
Same iOS version.

Hmm. Different phone. This is a bummer I thought. It's not the iOS. So it's gotta be a codec. Is the codec different? I dug deeper.

It is different. ****! I've never owned the iPhone 4, but I understand it uses the same codec as the 3GS.

When I went on the cirrus logic smartphone page, and my fears were somewhat validated. Their goal is to reduce the power consumption of their codecs to preserve battery life. Great. Warm sweet bass requires more power not less. Fidelity requires power. Audiophiles know that. I thought apple knew that too.

Vacuum tube audio amps cost thousands and sound warm while consuming gobs of power. I've heard them and it's wonderful to behold. Just go to any prosumer audio shop and have a listen to a marantz amp.

Can't do that in a smartphone, I understand, but they got it PERFECT in the iPhone 3GS. Why neuter the IPhone 4s by shoving an underpowered (yet more efficient) codec? Developers aren't purists, they're developers. So even if something is perfect , more development is always required to pay the bills so-to-speak.

It has reduced my iPhone from a device that sounded like a vacuum tube amped prosumer audio component to a dumbed down mp3 player with fuzzy bass and flat highs. Argh.

So I get great CPU/Gpu/screen qualities. I miss the pristine audio reproduction of the 3GS. That device sounded like a $1000 prosumer audio component.

Please don't get me wrong. The iPhone 4s is a great all around phone. I love the screen and it's snappiness. The sound is fine for a smartphone, I'm just disheartened that it pales when compared to my iPhone 3GS.

Oh well. Progress has some trade offs. I'll accept that, however, it is also my right to post honest observations when I drop $400+ on a device that's supposed to be the best.

I found some useful information on theWikipedia iOS device page.

Cirrus logic's webpage also provides a good idea where their goals are.

For developers to remain employed, they must continue to develop. But why mess with perfection when it comes with real risk of disrupting that fragile balance of warmth, fidelity, and deep bass that their previously produced product was flawlessly capable of delivering?! Because that's progress.

The cirrus logic cs42L61 is the chip responsible for my iPhone 3GS' incredibly clear, warm, and punchy audio.

For all u lucky iPhone 4 owners, that chip also exists in your phone and it probably sounds equally as incredible as my iPhone 3GS. You know what I'm talking about if you're a purist.

For us new iPhone 4s owners, we have a new 338S0987 chip from cirrus logic. It's decent, but if you're coming from thecs42L61 also in the 3GS, you have heard the difference already. It's undeniable. :'-(

As cirrus logic's smartphone page indicates, they can achieve the same supposed quality with LESS power. That's what we are hearing. Less power and more compensation for less power.

If you disagree, you're as right as I am. Everyone is entitled to their peaceful opinions.

I wish I was wrong. Every time I fire up any track on the 4s, I slowly forget how incredible the iPhone 3GS sounded. I can certainly live with the 4s sound quality. It is decent for a smartphone. It's just not nearly as good as its predecessor when it comes to sound quality. Everything else is better.

Let this be the worst of our problems.


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