We put the HTC One up against the Galaxy Note 2, Nexus 4 and HTC One X in a basic test

As we've been prone to do with recent phones, we're doing more speaker comparisons. This is unscientific, to be sure. What we hear may be a little different than what you hear. And while it may be cliche, you really do have to hear some of these phones in person to get the full effect.

That's especially true for the HTC One. The "BoomSound" feature is a combination of hardware and software that eventually shoots from the stereo speakers (again, two is better than one here) from the front of the phone. The placement of the speakers makes as much a difference as maybe any of the other tweaks, Beats Audio included. We've seen that in tablets, previously, with speakers on the side as well as the front. (Switching from a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 to the Nexus 7, and thus switching to a rear speaker again, took some getting used to.)

The idea of front-facing speakers on a phone isn't exactly a new one, either. HTC went with a slider setup on the Windows Phone-powered HTC Surround. An interesting idea but not nearly the same as what's on the HTC One.

Here's what our own Alex Dobie had to say in our HTC One review:

This combination of larger speakers, more advanced membranes and Beats Audio results in the loudest and bassiest sound experience we’ve heard on any smartphone, without sacrificing clarity. For music and video content, that’s great. But on anything but the lowest volume setting, it’s almost too loud for regular notifications and ringtones. Powering on the HTC One for the first time, you’re assaulted by the full force of BoomSound in HTC jingle form. And the first phone call you receive on the device will be equally terrifying if it strikes you unprepared.

I tend to agree with most of that, especially on the low end, which is better than any smartphone I've ever used. The high-end is a little easier to get away with. As you'll hear in the comparisons below, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 handles that pretty well. Maybe even better. It does decently on volume, too, but the HTC One just has a much fuller sound. It's not quite properly conveyed here, I believe. But you'll get the idea.

The stereo effect from the HTC One's dual speakers is noticeable, but there's also something a little ... odd ... about it. Almost like it's some digital effect more than stereophonic sound. It's not bad, just ... not quite the same.

Alex and I have both mentioned the HTC One can be too loud for normal notification sounds, and you also might need to keep an eye on how loudly you play music. At full blast, I get some cracking on mine, particularly in the high end.

Toggling Beats Audio makes a huge difference. The bass all but disappears. Chances are you'll want to leave Beats on all the time.

For spoken word -- podcasts, talk radio, etc. -- the HTC One is damn near perfect. Sounds great.

It's also worth mentioning that this may be the first phone I've actually wanted a kickstand on. Accessories should help with that, though.

Anyhoo. On to the comparison. This is more to get a feel for how the speakers compare at full blast. To get the real effect of BoomSound on the HTC One, you've got to hear it in person. Period.


Reader comments

Comparing the HTC One speakers


The Speakers are the MAIN reason why I will be getting the HTC ONE..

Finally you can put a phone on its back and hear the notification and see the LED...


"Four 15's, didn't see no wires
And then I heard BOOM from the amplifier"

FFS (front facing speakers, lol) -- no more 'cupping' phones and tablets to hear the speakers - this needs to be more of a thing. So pumped for this phone.

I note that with the HTC One, I am LEAST able to hear the "bass drum" out of all of them. I'm talking about the second instrument you hear in the clip. There's 2 measures (about 8 counts) of the first instrument and then you hear a "bass drum" beat start, with the rest of the "instruments" following right in.

I can hear that "bass drum" beat better from all the other phones than from the One.

I have Beats on my HTC Rezound and that is why I usually leave it off. It does (a lot of) what it does by messing with the EQ settings of the playback. That means I don't hear the music the way the artist intended it. Some stuff sounds good with Beats enhancements. But, there is some music that I can compare playback with Beats and without and realize that with Beats I am, essentially, not able to hear at least one of the instruments in the mix.

Every. Single. Manufacturer needs to copy this speaker setup. Holy crap what has taken so long? No more cupping the phone. No more muffled notifications. No more putting my glass screen face down on the desk so that I don't miss something.

Any measures of loudness(that is) dbs it put out? I would love to listend to podcasts(like android central) in my car but it has to be loud enough to hear it well. Normally I drive around with the speaker of my G2X to my ear, or even the UE bluetooth speaker that I bought for the car to my ear. If I could just crank the phone up and press play and hear it loud and clear with traffic noise and highway noise this will help me to decide whether I pick this our become another galaxy zombie.

You can't use earbuds plugged into your phone?

What about spending 80 bucks on an upgraded car stereo that has an Aux In jack? That's gotta be better than driving around holding anything up to your ear.

I have an older car that does not have an Aux In but it does actually have a cassette player. I use one of those tape adapter things (15 bucks?) and plug it into my phone's headphone jack to listen to stuff when I drive that car.

Earbud while driving is not a good idea and it's illegal wherever local government have common sense.

Please tell me where I can find an upgraded car stereo for my 2003 Murano that has an aux jack for $80. Like most cars in the last 10 years the stereo is part of a central stack system with everything else and you can't buy aftermarket to replace it.

I don't see the point in front speakers. It makes for huge bezels. My headphones and Big Jambox arefor sfound.

There are plenty of times when I'm out in public and want to show someone or multiple people videos (and enjoy them with them at the same time) and my phone's volume is just too damn low to be heard in public. There are also times when I'm away from home and don't have my jambox with me.

The speakers being on the front are much better justification due to the superior sound experience than wanting smaller bezels. Lol you must be slow.

Too bad it's HTC that came up with the stereo speakers idea, I won't get a smartphone that the battery is held prisoner.

You can replace the battery any time. It's just too bad that replacements run about $699 retail. And too bad that these type of batteries need to be replaced about once a year or you really start to notice they don't last nearly as long.

The HTC One uses a Lithium Polymer battery which degrades much less over many charge cycles than the standard Lithium Ions used in most phone batteries.

Maybe this is actually a good thing. Assuming the phone has a 1 year manufacturer's warranty, then when you hit the 11 month mark and the battery is no longer lasting nearly as long as it did, new, maybe you can actually get a whole new phone as a warranty replacement, instead of just getting a free battery.

Hmmm considering the iphone never had a removeable battery, hows that working for them? Oh yea, removeable battery is irrelevent to iphone users.

External battery is much better than back up battery. More capacity and works for all your devices. I used to have back up battery for all my cell phones and they are too much because I buy new ones for every new phones. I also need to buy charging dock for every battery. Not to mention swapping is pain on the butt. 1. You apology to your conversation partner that you need to hang up because you need to swap battery. 2. Shutdown the phone. 3. Remove the back cover. 4. remove depleted battery. 5. install another battery. 6. put back back cover. 7. power up the phone. 8. call back your conversation party. 9. The other side is pissed and does not want to talk to you. 10. found out you did not charge battery because you did not have charge dock with you. 11. repeat 2-11.

Exactly, you buy one portable charger and you will have it for your next several phones and all you do is plug it in.

I Agree with you 100%. I have a GS3 and had a Fascinate before it. I never took out the battery, unless I was flashing something.

Yes, HTC is not Apple, but the Nexus4 seems to be selling without a removable battery or micro SD. It is not as important to regular consumers as people may think. No iPhone had an SD or removable battery and I would say stereo speakers and this design is better than any iPhone. Let's just hope HTC saved a little marketing money.

Replaceable batteries in smartphones are pointless. If you need longer lasting life, use an external battery pack. Not only does it let you go MUCH longer, but it doesn't require dismantling your phone and any case you have on it every time you want to swap.

And phone batteries last long enough to go for at least 4 years without being replaced, at which point you'd be better off with a new phone anyway.

300-500 charge/discharge cycles MAX lifetime. 12-18 months for the average user.... Even if a battery sat on a shelf for 4 years it would NOT function safely if put into service.

Ok many iphone's are out there with thousands of cycles of use and working fine? Yeah, that's what I thought. They came with even less "stated" battery lifetimes

maybe this concept is new to phones, but not new period. The newer samsung tablets in cluding the nexus 10 have front facing speakers. i don't get why everyone is so hyped like it's the next great thing. HTC just figured out how to do it to a phone and still look good.

Playing the sound clip on a UK GS2 (4.0.4) basic browser. This crashed the phone at about 1'24" seconds. In the end I had to pull the battery to escape from it - a really weird effect. I tried it again - same problem. My first battery pull in 2 years.

Any ideas?

So much to love about this thing....but I just can't trust HTC anymore. Really slow updates, too much Sense (even though this is toned down, its still too much for me), non-removable batteries, no SD card slot.....making life hard since the S4 was fairly more of the same.

Thanks for doing this comparison, Phil. Promise to do another one after you get a gs4 ;-) I'd be very happy if it is as loud as the Note 2.

This is one of the main reasons I will be getting the one. I have absolutely hated the terrible back facing mono speakers that have been on phones forever. It is about time we get stereo, and on the front. I watch a lot of video clips, youtube, etc. while at work or out in public. And a lot of times I am showing friends. Nothing more annoying than having to cup the phone up to their ears just so they can hear it.

Definitely, don't you hate sharing something with 3 or 4 people and each one has to listen to it separately held up to their ears!

The speakers are very impressive, but for me, an irrelevance. I use earbuds and its not like other phone speakers arent loud enough for notifications.

I don't get this. Phil. Have you listen to this music the note 2 sounds better than anything else in the samples you posted . maybe in person sounds different I guess...

I like the front facing speakers. Just not enough to make the overall phone be the compelling choice.


Not sure why I'd need my phone to be a boombox. My Note 2 has great sound and the notifications are nice and loud. I don't usually use my phone for group listening.

That's ok with me if the sound is too high for even ring tones on a low setting. I either am at work and on vibrate or I ha e it full blast outside of work... Usually more so on vibrate though..

Through the crappy speakers on my laptop, the Note 2 sounded the best with your sample. Not saying it was, just that it sounded the best. Point being, it's really, really, almost impossible to tell anything meaningful from this recording.

That said, I have heard the Note 2 in person (because I have one) and it really has a surprisingly great speaker when you consider the size and all that. I also had an HTC Thunderbolt for two years and it had a surprisingly bad! So, I know the One at least can't be any worse than the T-bolt. ;)

Totes agreed with Chuck:
1. The Note sounded the best thru my Bose Computer Musicmonitor: loudest and clearer.

2. I used to own a Note 2 too and I am a sucker for built-in speakers, so I compared it with One at showrooms quite a few times, and brought along friends for their views too! Truth is: Note 2 has the loudest speaker and is way LOUDER than One. As for clarity and base, One is just very marginally better and hardly noticeable most of the time.

3. I have owned several HTC and Samsung Galaxy phones and constantly checked their speaker performance in shops and on Youtube (yes, I am so into it) and you guys can take my words for it.

No, through my multi-media surround speakers on my desktop, the Note 2 sounded even better...-er than the One. Trust me, they sound that way in person too. HTC should give up on the phone business.

With speakers that size, it is expected to be nothing short of outstanding and I am glad that's the case as per your comparison.

Thanks for the great comparison. I've always valued great speakers and held onto a Blackberry Bold 9000 for a while longer than normal because of the stereo speakers on it for podcast, tune in radio, Pandora- etc. Some people don't like to wear earplugs.

This is my first smart phone. Did allot of review reading and it was this and the GS4, The hardware on the One won me. Really all phone speakers sound like crap including these BUT as mentioned, I like that its louder and clearer for showing videos, speaker phone and mostly being able to hear rings and alarms in noisy environments.My old phone was never loud enough and I would miss calls which sucked. Being able to clearly hear something whos main purpose is communication is a definite advantage, sorry S4 fans.

If you go back and forth between 0:50 and 3:15, you can hear how much better the Samsung (OLD Samsung Note 2) sounds than the HTC One. Yes, the one top selling point of HTC's "flagship" company-saving phone, and they get beaten by a device on which the speaker isn't even one of it's top 100 selling points. Great job HTC.

Hi all, OMG, since cells have been around the most important feature next to a good constant signal is hearing the sound loud and clear. Major benefit of comm device right? Suddenly smart phones pop and every fancy feature under the sun is developed except good sound and good constant signal, Give the phones a pull out antenna, nice loud,obviously adjustable speakers and super battery and I'll trade ya,writing notes on screen and using phone as a credit card,like average people would rather use their phone to swipe a perchase to save having to pull out,giant heavy awkward credit card, good grief. We're being told," hey,it's better to have a phone that'll drive your car for you ", but unable to keep from dropping a call,every time you go from one room of your house to another. Good speakers,battery life and mostly consistent signal should be job one of all cell dealers, thanks,