The LG G5 can still offer good audio, even without the B&O Hi-Fi audio module

Many of us are looking forward to seeing how well the Bang & Olufsen Hi-Fi audio module for the LG G5 performs. While not yet mainstream, high quality audio performance through the headphone jack is something phone manufacturers are starting to pay attention to, and plenty of us couldn't be happier.

But what happens if you have no interest in buying the audio module for the G5? Maybe you're not ready to spend the money for "better" music, or you are completely satisfied with streaming services through the speakers or headphones you already have. That's valid thinking. For many of us, it's simply not worth the added cost and we're happy with the way "regular" music sounds.

If that sounds like you, the LG G5 will be just fine without buying any extra hardware.

We already talked about how any electronic device that turns an audio file into a noise — whether it be a ringtone or a song — needs to have its own audio processing hardware. If you curious about what this is all about, have a good read here. The LG G5 is no exception, and its Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor has all the hardware embedded into the system-on-chip that it needs to "create" sound from digital files. From the official specs (.pdf link):

  • 10-bit 4K decode
  • 1080p240 FPS decode
  • 4K HEVC video at 60FPS with 10-bit color
  • Simultaneous 1080p30+1080p30 inbound/outbound
  • WCD9335 audio codec
  • Hi-Fi 24bit/192kHz FLAC playback

The last two lines are what we're interested in here. A hardware audio codec is a single device that encodes analog audio as digital signals and decodes digital back into analog. In other words, it's both a DAC and an ADC. This is the hardware used to turn files into sounds. In addition, Qualcomm is using their own WSA8815 amplifier on the 820 system on chip. This package enables native 24 bit lossless playback at 192 kHz.

You'll have average to good audio coming from the G5 to your headphones when used without the B&O add-on module.

It's worth noting that not every phone with the same processor has the same audio processing hardware — for example, the Galaxy S7 has a Snapdragon 820 in some variants but could have a different DAC entirely. A manufacturer isn't forced to use what's bundled inside the 820, and users are reporting that they see a DSP Group DBMDX DAC and a Maxim MAX98506BEWV audio amplifier.

It's possible that LG will use off-die parts for audio processing on the G5, but we won't really know until people start tearing the phone apart. None of the audio processing hardware in the 820 chipset is what anyone would call "Hi-Fi" quality, even if Qualcomm uses the word in their list of specifications. And while LG doesn't have to use what's bundled on the chip itself for audio playback, doing so saves room on the circuit board, saves some money and decreases development costs.

All of this simply means that you'll have average to good audio coming from the G5 to your headphones, even when used without the B&O add-on module, because the phone itself has to have capable audio hardware. If you want something with a little more quality, you can buy the B&O Hi-Fi module.

In the end, we need to remember that all of our music will play just fine unless you're trying to play 32 bit files or files with an ultra-high bitrate that the "regular" G5 audio hardware doesn't support. When you tap a button, your music will play. If you were dead set on playing HQ audio from your phone, you probably planned on buying the Bang & Olufsen module anyway.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • What's the highest quality supported by GPM? 24 bit? Edit: looks like 32 bit.
  • I think it's dependent on the bitrate of the files you're playing. Posted on an LG V10
  • Why did LG not do what they did with the V10 and have the amp built into the device? The average user won't notice either way and those who know about it will be able to take advantage of higher bitrate audio, not to mention it would save any audiophile buying the G5 $150+ for a module which can be substituted with a cheaper and arguably better amp. Posted on an LG V10
  • I wish they built a lot of this stuff in the device instead of making me feel left out after I already bought your phone. It implies that the device isn't "whole" for lack of a better term. Posted from my Nexus 6/Nexus 7 2013/Surface Pro 3
  • Yep.
    Still see no reason to buy this over the V10. VZW Moto X DE/N7
  • I think you answered your own question really. The average user won't notice. And if there's one thing audiophiles love to do, it's spend money (I jest, but only a little). So why not sell a DAC as a separate component? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Yeah, audiophiles are not gonna balk at ~$150, and the hardware in the B&O module is actually very similar to something like the Audioquest DragonFly or other ultra-portable DAC offerings in the price range, so I don't know that it's even a bad value proposition for someone who doesn't own the G5
  • Audiophiles won't spend a dime on this b/o module thing. Our bar set far above what a cell phone is capable of reproducing.
    It's a cell phone not a Macintosh amplifier...look that one up! Posted via the Android Central App
  • You can't speak for all audiophiles. This phone (and the V10 before it) has actually garnered a good amount of attention on Head-Fi. Some audiophiles are looking for portable solutions that sound good as well, even if it obviously won't rival a high-end set-up. Also, I think you mean McIntosh.
  • Zedd - If you are referring to McIntosh and not Macintosh, then yes. There are no phones with a -120 dB noise floor. However, there are eleven phones with less distortion, and sixteen phones have flatter frequency response than a McIntosh amp (the MC302 for example).
  • The entire industry has been pushed forward by things that the 'average user' won't use or won't appreciate. But putting those things into average hands has increased the pace of incrementalism to the point that our phones have 4k displays and IR emitters...
    Sound quality is definitely an area that will see far more use by the casual consumer than IR emitters. It's a terrible argument to make that going with the run-of-the-mill is better than pushing the market toward bigger and better capabilities.
    It should have been built-in, plain and simple. My guess is that LG has too many people suggesting what kind of built-ins they should be focusing on. Audio, camera, battery life/size, etc. Their solution? Let the user pick! Which is a terrible strategy when it requires the user to partially disassemble... anything. If they really wanted to do this, they should have offered phones that were geared toward specific applications, or make the better audio an 'upgrade' option at time of purchase. Or, you know, just build ONE better phone. Not a phone that *could* be better if you just spend an extra $69 here and there...
  • Could be as simple as a higher profit margin, but I think it also comes down to different philosophies. The V10 seemed purpose-built for power users. It eschewed popular trends in construction and in terms of features they threw in everything but the kitchen sink (and the 810, but that's probably down to them having such trouble getting it stable on the G Flex 2). The G Series is their more consumer friendly series, but they also decided to experiment here and offer expandability to meet specific power-user demands. 95% of people couldn't give a hoot about audiophile sound quality, so why spend extra to integrate those features. How many people who bought the V10 never even looked in the settings and turn on the hifi DAC? I wouldn't be surprised if it was the majority. Same for physical camera controls and other potential modules. The average person can buy the phone as is, while "power users" who want further features have the choice to expand. Will this strategy work? I'm skeptical, I don't think there's enough of a market for the modules, but I'm happy someone is trying it, even if it fails.
  • The v10 must've been really expensive to produce. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Can you do a review of the S7/S7E audio quality? Especially the Exynos variant with dedicated dac
  • This ^^^^
  • Planning on it :) Posted via the Android Central App
  • Waiting for the G5 (with and without the module), and doing a comparison to the GS7 makes sense.
  • Jerry, you are starting to look like an LG apologist...
    Still love you though.
  • He wrote an article on the V10 and it's audio capabilities. I can wrap my head around a sister piece regarding the G5. Especially when the DAC is an ad on and not included like the V10. Posted via my LG G4
  • Better than a Samsung apologist.
  • People ask me things. I try to answer them :) #GOLDNEXUSISBESTNEXUS Posted via the Android Central App
  • I sure hope LG has a V12 in the works, this G5 along with "Friend's" smells of a massive FAIL Posted via the Android Central App
  • I think you skipped a year Posted via the Android Central App
  • Not necessarily. I am expecting the follow up to the V10 to be the V12. It follows a naming scheme based on engines. It may have nothing to do with engines of course. It could just be a random letter and number. But when I see V10, I think engine . Posted via the Android Central App
  • V12 also sounds much better than V11. It's a scientific fact
  • Did they have a V8? Just curious. The benefit is that if they come our with a compact version, they can call it the V6 ;)
    They can take the naming convention up to V16 thanks to Cadillac and Marmon (I'm not including racing engines), but that's about it.
  • The G flex 2 was the V 8 hence the bend. Posted via the Android Central App
  • "Friends" with a cost. Posted via the Android Central App
  • With strings attached to your wallet Posted via the Android Central App
  • Lolz!
  • I guess that LG is differentiating V series so it might become the oversized flagship, a la Note. We'll see how that works.
  • Seems a lot of the talk about this phone is going to have to be trying to defend or convince people why you should go out and buy it rather than why you would want to. I think this phone is really going to hurt LG.
  • I don't believe them. My G4 sounds horrible, forcing me to root it and install Viper4android to improve a little bit.
  • I remember trying with that phone. My gosh it was terrible. It was also so low in the volume dept. Posted via the Android Central App
  • By the way, there absolutely is a difference between "ok" audio and great audio. How big a gap there is between the normal G5 and the B&O will not be known until the actual specifications are released and confirmed. I know the difference between an iPhone and say, a V10 or M9 is instantly recognizable.
  • How is the G5 with another DAC, such as one from FiiO? Posted from my Moto X Pure Edition via the Android Central App
  • the module is a nice idea, sort of, but its an idea many people have been using for ages repackaged in a slightly more convenient format and thats simply connecting a usb DAC via OTG, ive done it with my HRT many times and its excellent although it does hit he battery hard
  • No... Posted via the Android Central App
  • So in a way, it's good but not great? Why didn't they just put the amp and better DAC in the phone itself? To sell more of those ridiculous modules?