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.
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