Which phone is best for music and why? The top 3 smartphones for audio explored

Leave your Bluetooth Speaker at home and hook up some Hi-Res Audio cans – these are the best smartphones for music in 2023

A photo of Basil Kronfli testing out ten of the best smartphone speakers
(Image credit: Basil Kronfli)

The best phone for music needs to have more than just a stellar set of speakers, it also needs to have oodles of space for your hi-resolution tunes, ideally a 3.5mm headphone jack for audiophiles to use their best wired headphones, excellent sound customisation options in the settings, and great codec support. Exhaustive enough?

If you're big into music, though, you're unlikely to get the latest best smartphones under one roof to pick a winner for yourself. As a tech reviewer, though, I'm in a great position to help you pick the best phone for music for your discerning ears. 

I started out by testing 10 of the best mobiles available in 2023 in side-by-side speaker comparisons. The original line-up included the Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max, Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate, Google Pixel 7 Pro, Honor Magic 5 Pro, Huawei P60 Pro, RedMagic 8 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, Sony Xperia 1 IV and V, and the Xiaomi 13 Ultra.

Why did I pick these phones? The Asus ROG Phone and RedMagic 8 Pro are beefy gaming phones, and that's a category that prioritises audio. They're larger so have more space to make sounds feel more expansive from the loudspeakers, and they tend to have headphone jacks for wired listening too.

The iPhone 14 Pro Max and Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra need no introduction – these are the most ubiquitous high-end smartphones out now, and challengers like the Honor Magic 5 Pro, Huawei P60 Pro, and Xiaomi 13 Pro are chomping at their heels, so it made sense to include them. Google's Pixel 7 Pro is still one of the best value smartphones we've tested, thanks to its sleek style and its fantastic camera system.

As for the Sony Xperia 1 IV and V, we tested those because Sony has historically given users the most when it comes to audio, and we wanted to see how far Sony has come between its 2022 and 2023 flagship. On either Sony phone, you can jump into the settings to fire up Dolby Sound and upscaling tech to get the most from whatever audio source you playback, and they have a headphone jack and Hi-Res Audio support too.

So which of these 10 phones bests the rest to be the mightiest phone for music playback? Starting with an honourable mention...

Honourable Mention: iPhone 14 Pro Max

iPhone 14 Pro Max

(Image credit: Future)
Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 ProsConsHeader Cell - Column 3
Row 0 - Cell 0 Quality loudspeakerNo 3.5mm headphone jackRow 0 - Cell 3
Row 1 - Cell 0 Apple Music supports lossless audio at no extra costBottom-firing main speakerRow 1 - Cell 3
Row 2 - Cell 0 Supports Hi-Res Bluetooth CodecsHigh priceRow 2 - Cell 3

The iPhone 14 Pro Max is going to be the only option for iPhone users who don't want to pick up a dedicated portable music player, and while it isn't the mightiest music tool on the shelf, it's still excellent at what it does well.

For starters, the speakers. They're loud, expansive, offer decent sound separation, and can be listened to for long periods without any earache. iPhones have always been loudspeaker champs, and the 14 Pro Max is no exception.

If you're an iPhone user, you might also be an Apple Music subscriber, putting you in a great position to listen to Hi-Res Lossless audio – in other words 'CD quality'. The service updated its entire library to support higher-quality tunes without charging more for the privilege.

A quick side note – you need to plug in wired to get the benefits of lossless audio. In turn, you can't listen to actual lossless music from an iPhone without buying some accessories: namely wired headphones and one of the best headphone DACs – the gold standard being the excellent Chord Mojo 2, pictured below.

Chord Mojo 2 on yellow background

(Image credit: Chord Electronics)

Once you have a lossless audio set-up in place, you'll be living your very best iPhone audiophile life, bringing out the detail in backing instruments and vocals, and fine-tuning sound balance beautifully.

If you're a wireless warrior who doesn't want to plug in, the iPhone 14 Pro Max supports a healthy range of Bluetooth codecs and formats if you're using it with Apple headphones or some of the best earbuds. Specifically, these include: AAC, MP3, Apple Lossless, FLAC, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, and Dolby Atmos, as well as Spatial Audio. For anyone not looking to venture beyond AirPods, therefore, there's no better choice for you.

But if you want to tap into better-than-Bluetooth sound without picking up a separate DAC, Android is your only option, and these two other best Android phone options are the best around...

Best for Personal Audio: Sony Xperia 1 V

A photo of the Sony Xperia 1 V

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli)
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Header Cell - Column 0 ProsConsHeader Cell - Column 3
Row 0 - Cell 0 Front-firing dual speakersAndroid doesn't natively support bit-perfect audioRow 0 - Cell 3
Row 1 - Cell 0 3.5mm headphone jack for quality personal audio360 Reality Audio limited to a handful of headphonesRow 1 - Cell 3
Row 2 - Cell 0 Plenty of sound personalisation tools within settingsHigh priceRow 2 - Cell 3
Row 3 - Cell 0 SD card supportRow 3 - Cell 2 Row 3 - Cell 3

Sony's audio credentials need no introduction – the brand behind the iconic Walkman, and makers of the best-in-class WH-1000XM5 headphones, and WF-1000XM4 earbuds, it's little wonder that its Xperia flagship ranks as a best phone for music.

On paper, Sony actually comes up number one. Combining Dolby Atmos support with 360 Reality Audio, its own LDAC codec for quality wireless playback, and superb sound when combined with its incredible headphones and buds.

The 2023 flagship also has a headphone jack at the top for high-quality wired audio, also supported by the 1000XM5, so you can instantly upgrade sound when using compatible apps like Tidal or Qobuz (though you'll need the USB Audio Player Pro app to unlock the best from Qobuz).

A photo of the Sony Xperia 1 V

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli)

Of course, if you want the very best sound from Sony's flagship, you can wire up a DAC to the Xperia 1 V, but even if you don't, you can take advantage of a wide range of sound tools in the settings.

Within the Dolby Sound settings, there's a customisable EQ (equaliser) and settings to adjust tone and stereo widening, or you can fire up a preset: Dynamic, Music, or Movie. This is where to tune everything to perfectly match your preference – personally, I focused on vocals and clarity, with a side serving of lower frequencies. But however you take your music, the Xperia 1 V has your back.

When matched with compatible headphones, you can also enable 360 Reality Audio and DSEE upscaling, so lower-quality audio has a bit more va va voom.

Sony's phones also have front-firing speakers, which is excellent for anyone watching content without headphones, so while the volume is less room-filling than Apple's iPhone 14 Pro Max, it doesn't need to be when you're holding the Sony phone in your hands.

As a package, therefore, the Xperia 1 V doesn't really drop anything when it comes to sound, arguably justifying its high price for audiophiles.

Best Loudspeaker: Asus ROG Phone 7 & 7 Ultimate

Asus ROG Phone 7 review

(Image credit: Future / Sam Cross)
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Header Cell - Column 0 ProsConsHeader Cell - Column 3
Row 0 - Cell 0 Best-in-class front-firing speakers + clip-on bass systemGaming phones styling won't be for everyoneRow 0 - Cell 3
Row 1 - Cell 0 3.5mm headphone jack for quality personal audioAndroid doesn't natively support bit-perfect audioRow 1 - Cell 3
Row 2 - Cell 0 Plenty of sound personalisation tools within settingsHigh priceRow 2 - Cell 3
Row 3 - Cell 0 Huge 512GB storageRow 3 - Cell 2 Row 3 - Cell 3

The best gaming phones are big, so tend to give their speakers a bit more room to pump out plenty of sound, and also pack headphone jacks for zero latency listening. So it should come as no surprise that our favourite gaming phone line, the ROG Phone 7 and 7 Ultimate, is also a behemoth gaming phone.

The first way it bests the rest is with its loudspeaker. Standalone, its long-throwing 5-magnet 12x16 super linear speakers pump out loud, full sound compared to most smartphones. Complete with sound tuned by Dirac, the phone balances frequencies brilliantly, and can easily be used as a standalone speaker in a pinch.

If you pick up the Ultimate version, then you'll also get an Aeroactive Cooler 7 in the box. This boosts bass brilliantly when clipped on, while also adding a kickstand to the mix, turning the ROG Phone into a powerful portable media player – excellent when travelling for anyone who doesn't want to pack a Bluetooth speaker.

A photo of the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate and Redmagic 8 Pro

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli)

Like the Xperia 1 V, the ROG Phone 7 is Hi-Res Audio (HRA) certified, so it can playback high-resolution audio files rated at 24-bit/96kHz or 24-bit/192kHz when paired with Hi-Res Audio kit.

Wireless audio fans can also enjoy aptX adaptive, aptX Low latency, LDAC, and AAC codecs, and whether you're plugging in or hooking up over Bluetooth, the sound settings give you a graphic equaliser by way of Dirac's AudioWizard, as well as isolated treble and bass boosting.

While it doesn't have quite as many sound settings to play with as the Xperia 1 V, the ROG Phone 7 is still a superb phone for connecting to the best headphones, and I actually preferred the sound settings for the kind of vocal, pop music I tend to listen to, even if it doesn't support 360 Reality audio.


So what have we learned? The markers of a great phone include mighty speakers and excellent personal audio options. Apple is generally a safe bet, provided you don't mind missing out on lossless audio without any additional dongles.

In the Android camp, it's a bit more complicated – not all dual-speakers are created equally, only a hanful of phones pack 3.5mm headphone jacks for lossless audio, and not all of them offer settings to tune the audio to your tastes.

What we can say, though, if past-generation devices are anything to go by, Asus's ROG Phones, Sony's Xperia 1 line, and Apple's top-tier iPhone have historically been, and continue to be, three of the best options around.

Basil Kronfli
Mobile phones expert

Basil has been writing about tech for over 12 years, with bylines in TechRadar, Metro, Wired, and Digital Camera World – to name but a few titles. He expertly covers everything from mobile phones to smart devices, cameras, audio-visual hardware, and kitchen tech. In addition to his extensive journalism experience, Basil is also skilled in video production, content strategy, and vegan baking, and runs Tech[edit], a technology-focused YouTube channel.