Explained: The LG V20’s Quad DAC ─ is it just marketing?

LG has been really pushing forward in the audio game lately, bringing the first 32-bit DAC to smartphones with their G5 ‘Friends’ accessory, while the G5 already had an in-house 24-bit DAC. Now they are back with the V20, with what they claim is the first mobile Quad DAC. I’m going to dive in below to see if the Quad DAC is just a buzzword marketing-term, or if it is actually useful and noticeable in everyday use. Regardless of the outcome, the LG V20 is a pretty awesome phone.

First thing’s first is, what exactly is a DAC? Basically, a DAC (Digital-to-Audio Converter) takes computer code (the 1’s and 0’s that every computer is inherently based on) and transforms it into sounds that we can hear and understand. Everything that makes noise, has a speaker, etc has a DAC. Most are basic (ie. not great), but at least you hear somewhat of what you’re supposed to hear instead of just beeps.

Also, more often than not, the higher bit-rate a DAC has, the more sound you’ll be able to hear. You should be able to hear more separation between instruments, easily pick out different instruments, and be more immersed in your music. A lot of DACs are also paired with amps which drive your sound systems, the amps power and amplify the sound that comes from the DAC to listening levels in your headphones.



Now back to LG, they state that the V20 has a “Quad DAC”. To put a VERY complex situation simply, a Quad DAC is a DAC with 4 inner, “sub” DACs that work in parallel with each other to produce even clearer, crispy, and overall better sound quality. To dive deep into the produce and learn about the inner workings of a (Quad) DAC, you can read Android Authority’s post here, but you can use my explanation to describe it to an everyday person.

Does It Make A Difference?

The real question is: does it make a difference? That answer is a surprising “YES!” After several listening sessions with LG V20 versus random other standard devices, the V20 comes out on top every time. The audio is crisper and the soundstage is much wider is LG’s flagship — imagine a soundstage as you standing in front of a stage with all the instrumentalists standing in front of you, the wider the stage the more spaced out the instrumentalists are/can be. Separation of sound.

Now, of course, I didn’t just take my ears as proof, I asked others on the YTE team and just everyday people who “don’t listen to DACs all day”, and they all agreed that the V20 sounded better than my Macbook Pro and my Pixel XL. I did all my tests with either my AKG K7XX or Sennheiser PXC 550 headphones and used the Tidal streaming music service (for HiFi sound).

LG seems to have done something quite amazing with their V20 by adding the Quad DAC inside. The only downfall I see is that you do have to enable that setting and using the full force of the Quad DAC, instead of just using one of the mini DACs,  uses more battery power. If that doesn’t worry you then I’d suggest keeping it on all the time as I do.

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If you listen to music on your phone constantly and want the absolute best quality sound you can get then the V20 should be at the top of your list of phone to have. LG isn’t just marketing when they say they have the best sounding phone of the year.

LG V20 Review
  • tyger11

    The obvious question is: how much does it impact battery life?

    • Keyan X

      I wish I did the review so I could tell you, but I literally only used this phone as a media player. As you may be able to tell in the photos above, I didn’t even have a SIM card installed. I do know it will affect your battery having it on though, just don’t know how much. However, many people will say that the V20s battery is big enough, and the processor is smart enough to handle the drain efficiently.

  • CertifiedRigid

    I’m a battery killer. I’m coming from a Note 4. I regularly listen to SoundCloud and use PowerAmp for “on device music” on my V20. The battery is brand new, so do I notice a battery drain with the Quad DAC on? There is. But I can get through a 16 hour day just fine.

    • phillyundead

      That’s not true. The stock LG v20 batter drains quicker than any phone I’ve ever used.

      • CertifiedRigid

        Indeed. YMMV. Some users have experienced very high battery drain on their V20. It can be a number of items causing this. Apps and their configuration , stuff running in the background, brightness level, accounts syncing and their intervals… Google Play is and has always been a big battery eater for me.

        • john whiting

          Yes, I agree to you. I’ve had the v20 now for just over a week. The first couple of days I had the phone it was sucking up quite a bit of battery. However, after I had finished all of the set up and went through and disabled most of the bloatware. I’m getting easily 30+ hours of battery with moderate use.

          • phillyundead

            I’m still getting very weak battery life. 2 hours if the average. The phone freezes a lot. A lot of apps force close. If it can’t handle the NFL Mobile App or facebook, then it’s not a worthy phone. Entry level phones can handle those apps. I’ve tried factory resets and such. Nothing helps. Apps are completely unresponsive a lot too. Holding the home button will show the animation that Google is opening but sometimes it just doesn’t open. Sometimes the onscreen buttons just don’t do what they’re supposed to. This phone is so terrible. T-Mobile has ordered me a replacement because they saw all the nonsense it’s doing. I’m afraid it’s just LG. Every LG phone I’ve had has stupid bugs like this. Everything about this phone is either bugged out or underpreforming. The camera is weak. Battery life is the worst I’ve ever used. The screen is extremely dull and has God awful viewing angles. The rear button is the worst idea ever still. The speaker has to be the worst of any phone I’ve ever used. The second screen is just as useless as it was last year. How can you people deny any of this?

          • Greggs Cell

            Because it’s not happening to everybody, hopefully you’ll be happy with the replacement. But it sounds like LG can do nothing right by you , so maybe you should try a different phone, one that will be more to your liking.

          • phillyundead

            I’ve had 4 of their last 6 flagships with similar results. The g3 was the worst until this mediocre phone. T-Mobile doesn’t offer very much in the form of a note 7 alternative. This is the closest thing to it and it’s nothing close. This lacks behind in every category and is loaded with os flaws.

          • Greggs Cell

            I don’t understand why you would continue to get phones that you have had so many problems with . This is my first LG phone, I only got it because of the Note 7’s recall, so I understand why you would get it, but if LG has such a poor history with you, then why not try others…HTC, Samsung 7 edge, or note 5, The Pixels, even a huawei ,One plus, I’m sure there are others too…

          • phillyundead

            I understand that you don’t get it. I wish I could have another manufacturer but T-Mobile only offers Samsung, LG and iPhone flagships now. The note 5 is not possible due to lack of SD support. The pixel is out of the question because I’m not a fan of stock android and no SD. I’d like to try the Honor 8 but T-Mobile doesn’t sell it. I’m part of their jump on-demand program and would like to keep that, but they give me very few choices now. If I wanna go back the the s7edge, I’ll have to pay another $70 in taxes. The v20 was the closest I could get to a phablet because I’m not a huge fan of the edge screens. This year is just a huge letdown for Android phones in the US. The pixel is way over rated and it’s availability is limited.

          • Greggs Cell

            I think that of the Pixels too. I also thought I couldn’t live without a SD card. But I got the Note 5 anyways, and I was happy with it, and the google drive helped alot also. Well, here’s hoping your replacement V20 works like mine, exceptionally!!….Good Luck

          • phillyundead

            I really hope this is just a dud. I might be over reacting a little because of all the frustrations with the note 7 and this on3 acting up. I’m just tired of $800 phones not working correctly.

      • Greggs Cell

        In your experience , not mine.

  • phillyundead

    The sound is very slightly better. The problem here is getting the phones God awful battery to last longer than 45 minutes. The “quad DAC” is not worth even close to $800. Every other part of this phone slacks big time behind the competition. And it has a severe lag/freeze problem.

    • Pedro

      I’ve had none of the problems you stated. Battery life is plenty long enough and I’ve had no lag/freeze issues. It seems pretty good to me, on par with my old note 7.

    • Greggs Cell

      Take it back, as that is not how this phone works…My music is much better on the V20, I haven’t had any lag or freezing up, and the battery life has been exceptional , The V20 has almost made me forget my Note 7 (s). You must have gotten a bad one, it happens.

    • Chocobo Typhoon

      Yea it definitely sounds like you got a bad phone or you are just a troll.

      • Alberto González

        I was thinking the same!

  • oliver mia

    PXC 550? DAC works with wireless headsets / speakers?