June 21, 2011 at 2:55 pm

5 Apps To Tweak iPhone’s Sound Quality

Smartphones and tablets are the best music players ever in many ways, but their sound quality can leave a bit to be desired. They simply weren’t built from the ground up solely for the playing of music.

Sub-par headphones or speakers, signal noise from compact designs, and other factors can disturb the smooth flow of music from ones and zeros to your headphones. With a little experimentation, you can often make specific headphones, speakers, or specific aural situations sound better by applying equalization, surround sound simulation, and other digital signal processing (DSP) to the music on your smartphone, using the following apps and hardware. We focused on the iPhone this time around, although similar apps exist for Android.

Hardware first

The standard earbuds that come with listening devices generally cannot reproduce bass well, lack definition at other frequencies, and let in outside noise, which not only makes your music sound worse, but requires you to listen to it louder than would otherwise be necessary.

Upgrading headphones improves matters significantly (to over-the-ear or sound-isolating headphones), because in any audio chain, the speaker or headphones are the biggest factor in sound quality. You can also augment the pint-sized power of the internal headphone amp with an external headphone amp, but only truly dedicated audiophiles would want to carry one of those.

5 Sound-Processing iPhone Apps + 2 Bonus Ideas

As with many things, when it comes to sound quality, there’s an app for that — several, in fact, listed here alphabetically. Most include some EQ functions for shaping songs based on what your ears like to hear (or for fighting imperfect hardware), and a few go beyond that:

DigitalCoolio’s 3D Music Player Pro Adds Spatial, EQ Effects to iPhone

Simple 10 Band EQ App Can Improve iPhone’s Sound for a Dollar

Elephant Candy’s EQu Unites Form, Function to Alter iPhone’s Sound

Audioforge’s iPhone Equalizer Looks Promising, Fails Anyway

Fabio Policarpo Player+ Adds Crossfades, EQ to iPhone

Honorable mention: SRS Labs Improves Music Apps’ Sound at the Hardware Level

Bonus round: Get Better Sound from YouTube

  • Bear Studios

    Audioforge is hands down the best EQ for the iPhone. There isn’t a close second on the market yet as of 2/14/13. EQu us simply terrible in too many ways to describe here. Lets just say it actually reduces the sound quality significantly. Ive been an audio/mastering engineer for 20+ years and have a keen sense of tone. It would be nice if someone created a 31 band EQ for the iPhone, but in the mean time, stick with Audioforge for the best tone and maximun alteration.

  • steve

    Anything help with call quality? The tone of the voice is horrible with iPhone 4.

  • Tristan

    Bear Studio couldn’t have given a better answer. I’ve been an audio engineer for 20+ years as well. I literally tried every single EQ App (as of 5/18/13) and not even one comes close to Audioforge. Accudio Pro (by Denon, I believe) has a pretty solid app that’s designed to be used specifically for headphones – basically, they have presets that are specifically EQ’d for just about every make & model headphone you can think of, from Apple’s terrible in-ear buds to top of the line AKG’s. Worth checking out if you’ve got some down time & are into this stuff. Otherwise, just get Audioforge and save your ears from all the other crap out there. Btw, happy to send some of my Audioforge presets via email or offer advice if anyone who reads this post needs a helping hand. Good luck!

  • Rachel

    Thanks to you and Bear Studios, I got the Audioforge app. OH MY GOD. It was like hearing my music (especially the more complex pieces) for the first time. I’m not an audio engineer, just a music lover, so I don’t know how to make the best presets. So I was wondering, what presets would you recommend (and if it’s no trouble if you could send some!)

  • king

    Hi Tristan,
    Thank you for your review. I currently own the sennheiser momentum and I’m using it with the accudio pro app. However, I would appreciate it if you could said me your preset and maybe a link to the audioforge app. I saw so many audio forges in the app store so I wasn’t sure of the right one. Also, while using the accudio app, I noticed the ath-m50 presets sounded more detailed and a little better than the momentum’s using my momentum headphones even though my momentum’s is worth like 2x the audio technica. I just wanted to know if it’s the momentum’s headphone driver that makes it sound that good or if I would get that same sound from using an audio technica m50. I’ve never tested an audio technica so I wouldn’t know really be to sure. By the way, I just got the mommentum last monday. Thanks for reading this.

    Daniel.

  • don

    donbrett123@gmail.com thanks a bunch!

  • James

    Hey Tristan, do you mind sending me some of your presets to jwubishere@gmail.com? Thanks a lot buddy.

  • Steve

    thanks for that mate – Audioforge made my Beyerdynamic DT 250 (80ohm) sound even better than before!

    would appreciate any presets you gave – steven.laming@hotmail.com

  • Luke Mackey

    Would love to get some settings from you. I just bought this app based on your review and i am loving it so far! Thanks for the sell!

    If you have any settings to share i would love em: Bonzaisushi@gmail.com

    Cheers!

  • Peter Thomas

    Would love to see some of your presets – appreciated!

  • 1325

    LOL

  • Ducksfan14

    If you wouldn’t mind sending me a link to the app as well I don’t want to waste money and download the wrong one. Also send me any presets for house and dance music with preferably higher base. I will be playing it in my car with a 13″ sub if that helps on the preset at all. email is hockeycorey@hotmal.com Thanks mate!