Those who are really into their music have all sorts of sound processors and different pieces of hardware in the search of a superior sound and I’m guilty of that as well. When listening to music at my desk, I have a tube-powered DAC plugged into my PC, which then outputs to a HiFi amp and headphone amp depending on which I’m listening to. On the mobile side of things though, who has time or space to carry all of that stuff? It’s just not convenient at all. So how do you make the most out of a poor listening experience? There are portable headphone amps that can help a great deal, but the vast majority of people will turn to software, but are any of these little tricks and mods any good?
Most of these mods or apps require you to be rooted and many of them a custom recovery, so there’s a lot of effort to be put in before you’ve even begun. Before anyone asks, no, I’m not going to tell you how to get these mods installed on your device as this varies from device-to-device. However, I will link to official threads and information to point those that know what they’re doing in the right direction. This week, MaxxAudio that made its way onto the OnePlus One was ported to other phones, but it’s not the only option out there. Can software really make things sound that much better on your device?
MaxxAudio has been on Lenovo smartphones and Dell tablets for a little while now, and it even launched on the OPPO Find 7, but it’s just come to the OnePlus One, complete with a new look and feel just for the One. Basically, MaxxAudio offers a similar suite of enhancements to the old DSP Manager, but it’s a little more granular than that. Maxx Bass and Maxx Treble aren’t much to write home about, but the equalizer is something music fans will really enjoy. You can control frequencies all the way down and all the way up independently of each other, making this really flexible. Got a set of headphones that need more bass? Push up those low frequencies. Need to get more treble out of a set of Beats? Do the opposite. I’m a stickler for a proper graphic equalizer like this, and it’s my favorite feature on my Xperia Z2. I’d say that MaxxAudio was perhaps worth the effort to get working on your device, but only if you’re one to make the most out of a graphic equalizer, and you know what you’re doing, of course. OnePlus One users that haven’t got the update yet with this built in, take a look here.
Now this is where things get really murky. Viper4Android has been around for years now, but it’s becoming more and more difficult to actually getting it working. With more buzz words and features than you can shake a set of earbuds at, this has it all. For many users, this is the be-all and end-all of audio mods. It certainly made my old Nexus 5 sound at least half decent, but it’s tricky to get working. The official thread on XDA-Developers is worth taking a look at, as is the new The Absolute Sound Project which claims to have Viper up and running on Lollipop
So what’s so special about Viper4Android? Well, it’s a whole set of library replacements for your phone, and in some cases it can really make the most of your audio processor in your device. It’s packed with a wide variety of different features, but my favorites are the tube emulator and the dynamic range compression. If you’re looking for tighter, more realistic bass and a fuller sound to your music, Viper4Android will definitely help, but it’s pretty hard to get installed.
I’ve only focused on two examples here, mostly because many audio mods are device-specific. There’s a ton available for my Z2 for instance, but not everyone reading this has an Xperia Z2. I’ve looked at two of the more popular audio mods available and I’ve spent time with both across a number of devices. Do I think they’re worth it? Well, ultimately, you can’t ‘fix’ bad hardware with good software. Sure, you can make a Nexus 5 sound a little better, but it’s never going to match an HTC One or Sony Xperia Z3 with better hardware and closer attention to detail. For those that really care about their music and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty, I say have fun, enjoy yourself! Try these two out, try the device-specific modes out on your device, but at the end of it all if your device wasn’t built with a decent sound processor, it’ll never sound worlds better than it did out of the box. A decent set of headphones (like the Master & Dynamic MH40 pictured above) also makes a world of difference as well. It’s no good spending time squeezing the best out of your device if you’re using a $10 pair of earbuds. Hardware will always be better than software, but these solutions can help somewhat, especially where graphic equalizers are concerned. Have software recommendations? Leave a comment below or over on Google+!