Celebrities caring about sound quality is the new nobody caring about sound quality. But really, for most of us, the convenience of compressed (or streaming) files and the portability of a smartphone trump all other considerations.
App creators have stepped in to rectify the problem. We’re pleased with Audio Xciter and SonicMax Pro for messing around with music’s properties to improve the sound on various hardware setups, but nothing goes so far as Audio-3D Player (iOS; $5) in terms of customizing to your particular hardware.
This app, which plays music stored on your iOS device, only works with specific headphoness, including automatic settings that “balance” those headphones, making them sound neutral — just like the mixing and mastering engineers wanted it to. To do this, it processes the audio at 24-bit. Or, you can switch to 3D mode for a more speaker-like experience.
Sound great, right?
Before you shell out the big bucks (and in the app world, $5 qualifies), keep in mind that Audio-3D Player HD only works on the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, and iPod Touch 5. On top of that, you’ll need a pair of headphones that is specifically supported by the app. Audio-3D Player continually adds more supported headphones, but for now, they include:
- AKG K701
- Audio3D headphones
- Beats by Dre
- Beyer Dynamics DT 770 PRO
- BOSE OE2
- Dr Dre Solo HD (Beta)
- EarPhones 4/45 (Beta)
- Earplugs iPhone 5
- Focal Spirit One
- JVC: HA S400, HA S600
- Koss Porta Pro 2
- Philips: BT, SHL3000
- Sennheiser: HD 238, HD 650, Momentum, PX 200 II, PX 90
- Sony: MDR-IR, MDR ZX 300, MDR ZX 600
- Urban Ears Plattan
- Yamaha HPH 200
- Wesc Maraca
Where are the Etymotics, the Grados, the Shures, and the rest? You can petition for them, if you want. Otherwise, with supported headphones, it works like any music player: Pick a song and hit play.
You have several options for how that music sounds. 3D mode increases the “presence” of sound, making it sound like the music is coming from all around you, while 2D mode keeps the dimensionality normal, but filters your music for a higher quality sound depending on your specific headphones. (We assume the Beats mode cuts bass by 300 percent.)
Fancier tricks include Rotation mode, which allows you to turn the audio environment and change the depth of sound, sort of like walking around a room with speakers in it. Meanwhile, a raw gain control called Boost can increase your volume to the point that clipping occurs (you’d want to stop just shy of that, unless you’re a weirdo).
We tried out Audio-3D Player HD on an iPhone 4S using Skullcandy headphones and were impressed. The music sounded much stronger and envelops you with surrounding sound — and, perhaps best of all, the app doesn’t require a PhD in audio engineering.
We’d read some reports of crashes on the iPhone 4S, but did not run into that problem ourselves, so we think that issue has been remedied.
If five bucks does not sound too steep for you, we highly recommend Audio-3D Player HD for for markedly better sound quality on your iDevice — and your headphones. After all, headphones (or speakers) have a bigger impact on sound quality than any other factor.
(image courtesy of Aarti Kelapure)