A Smart­phone Good Enough For Au­dio­philes

SmartHouse - - COMPETITIO­N - Writ­ten by David Richards

I don’t know what it is about LG Elec­tron­ics that stops them shoot­ing up the smart­phone rank­ings. The G5 was a cracker of a smart­phone and their new V20 is up there with the best smart­phones in the world to­day es­pe­cially for peo­ple who want a great sound ex­pe­ri­ence from a mo­bile de­vice.

Despite LG’s lack of trac­tion in the smart­phone mar­ket, one must give them credit for their en­gi­neer­ing, de­sign and the over­all qual­ity of their de­vices which is sig­nif­i­cantly ahead of sev­eral other brands out there.

Iron­i­cally, the LG tablets and note­books, which were also up there de­sign and per­for­mance wise, still ended up be­ing pulled from re­tailer shelves in Aus­tralia due to poor sales.

When the new LG V20 ar­rived at my of­fice, I was scep­ti­cal about the de­vice. That was un­til I picked it up and started us­ing it. I took it to Asia with me, then up to Queens­land. This gave me an in-depth in­sight into what this de­vice can de­liver.

It was slim, fast and had an ex­cel­lent dis­play, which is not sur­pris­ing as LG make some of the best dis­play screens in the world. It is also why Ap­ple uses LG dis­play tech­nol­ogy. But it was the sound out­put that re­ally blew me away.

In fact, this de­vice is so good that one would have to ques­tion why con­sumers are pay­ing $1,900 for a Full HD Sony Walk­man or the top end Astell & Kern AK380 por­ta­ble High Res au­dio player which costs a stag­ger­ing $5,900. That’s a lot to pay even for ex­tremely high per­for­mance, es­pe­cially as one gets ev­ery­thing that’s in the Astell & Kern de­vice with the V20 plus one can get a hell of a lot of mu­sic on 2TB of data which is what the V20 is ca­pa­ble of hous­ing. Re­cently Astell & Kern launched the AK70 which sells here for $999 which is the same price as the V20.

What ini­tially let this re­view ver­sion down was that it came loaded with a Korean car­rier’s soft­ware which was dif­fi­cult to get rid of. Even the set­tings had to be re­set into English. Af­ter an hour of re­con­fig­ur­ing this de­vice, which is sell­ing at JB Hi-Fi for $999, I was able to se­ri­ously give it a work­out.

The first thing you no­tice about this de­vice is that it has a mon­ster 5.7-inch dis­play screen that is crisp and clean, and then there is the Bang & Olufsen au­dio tech­nol­ogy that de­liv­ers high res au­dio. There is even a HD au­dio recorder which chews through data but it does de­liver great sound.

To get the best sound that I have heard from a smart­phone, sim­ple plug in a pair of good head­phones, go to set­tings and switch on the Hi-Fi Quad DAC. You will im­me­di­ately be trans­formed into another world.

What LG has de­liv­ered is the first ever “Quad” DAC packed into a smart­phone. The term has led to a fair bit of con­fu­sion, with some won­der­ing if LG is count­ing the num­ber of out­puts, or if there’s mul­ti­ple DACs for dif­fer­ent au­dio paths. I as­sure you that this isn’t the case.

What LG is us­ing is the lat­est ES9218 com­po­nent from ESS Tech­nolo­gies. This is a 32-bit 394kHz and DSD512 ca­pa­ble com­po­nent, with some nifty sound­ing ana­logue au­dio con­trols, jit­ter con­trols, and in­te­grated head­phone am­pli­fier. The chip de­liv­ers 130dB SNR, 124dB DNR and -112dB THD+N to please au­dio­philes.

The sound out­put is so good that the spe­cial­ist au­dio chan­nel should be sell­ing it along­side JB Hi-Fi.

The LG V20 can also de­tect and adapt the power out­put to all au­dio de­vices con­nected to it. Most of the time, you will use head­phones, but not all are cre­ated equal. High-end head­phones can ac­cept a more pow­er­ful sig­nal, and high-end amps take an even stronger one.

I tried the LG V20 with the Bang & Olufsen ear­buds that are ship­ping with the Korean ver­sion and the au­dio qual­ity with ei­ther nor­mal MP3 files I own, or Hi-Fi files, is dras­tic. I also tried it with a top end pair of Sennheiser head­phones. The sound is cleaner, crisper, and sounds no­tice­ably “bet­ter” than any other smart­phone I have ever tested.

Bat­tery wise, this de­vice de­liv­ers. I was get­ting at least 9-12 hours of solid bat­tery life and that in­cludes watch­ing videos, hours of talk time and at least 90 min­utes of on­line brows­ing and lis­ten­ing to mu­sic.

Un­der the bon­net is a Snap­dragon 820 pro­ces­sor, a 5.7-inch dis­play with more pix­els that it could pos­si­bly need, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of stor­age. It’s a se­ri­ous work­horse that’s slim and feels great in the hand.

The other big ad­van­tage is that it comes with a bat­tery that can be eas­ily ac­cessed by slip­ping off the back cover via a sim­ple side latch. The LG V20 comes with a 3,200mAh re­mov­able bat­tery, which is slightly big­ger than the one found in the LG G4. On the side is a mi­croSD slot, for ex­pand­able stor­age up to 2TB, and this is as good as it gets es­pe­cially for au­dio­philes who want lots of mu­sic.

There’s even a thin sec­ond screen at the top of the dis­play that per­sis­tently shows the time, no­ti­fi­ca­tion icons, bat­tery level, and so on. What I liked is that this could be cus­tom­ized for quick ac­cess to the apps you use most of the time.

If you are into want­ing a great cam­era as well as sen­sa­tional sound the LG V20 de­liv­ers. LG’s cam­era soft­ware is sim­i­lar to what you will find in most top end smart­phones. All the set­tings such as photo ef­fects, the front to rear swap but­ton, flash are easy to find. What’s more, the easy cam­era swap ges­ture is back so “Cheese” is the in-word for V20 own­ers.

The main rear-fac­ing sen­sor still shoots at 16MP, with an aper­ture of F1.8, but is now joined by an 8MP sen­sor with an aper­ture of F2.4 that is ded­i­cated to shoot­ing 135-de­gree wide-an­gled images.

LG has made sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments to its laser de­tec­tion auto-fo­cus tech­nol­ogy. This al­lowed us to shoot ex­cel­lent pic­tures in low light. On the front, there’s a sin­gle 5MP lens, with an im­pres­sive F1.9 aper­ture - an im­prove­ment from the V10’s F2.2 front-fac­ing cam­era.

For the video en­thu­si­ast, LG has de­liv­ered 4K and 1080p video record­ing sup­port. Ad­di­tion­ally, LG has im­proved its Steady Record fea­ture that it de­buted ear­lier this year. The idea is that you’ll get smooth video, even with the V20 be­ing slightly shaken dur­ing the record­ing.

Other odds and sods in­clude quick-charg­ing USB-C.


The bot­tom line is that if you’re look­ing for bells and whis­tles, the V20 has them. For au­dio­philes as well as peo­ple who love great sound this is the de­vice to fall in love with. It has no equal. It also has ev­ery­thing that you want to run your life from a mo­bile de­vice, easy con­fig­u­ra­tion of apps, speed of ap­pli­ca­tion, a great screen and a cam­era that al­lows you to click away know­ing that you can shoot top end video and still images.

It even comes An­droid 7.0 how­ever the de­vice is NOT wa­ter­proof so if you are sit­ting by the pool or on the beach be care­ful with your de­vice.

Last but not least, the V20 has the power but­ton on the back and I for one ab­so­lutely love this. It’s easy to ac­cess and is a fea­ture that makes LG smart­phones stand­outs.

Score: 5/5

The LG V20 is avail­able now for RRP $1099.

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