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LG pairs up with Bang & Olufsen for the LG G5's Hi-Fi audio module

The LG G5 is here, bringing with it a concept that's both old and new: expansion slots. It's been well over a decade (Handspring Visor of 2001) since we last saw a major handheld device with an expansion slot, but LG's bringing them back in a big way with the G5. In addition to a physical camera controls module, LG also teamed up with Bang & Olufsen's B&O Play division to develop a module that adds high-end sound to the LG G5.

The LG Hi-Fi Plus with B&O Play (that'd be the name) sticks onto the bottom of the LG G5 like any other module: unlatch the bottom bezel, pull it out with the battery, swap that battery off onto the Hi-Fi Plus module, and slide the combined unit back into the G5. Doing so replaces the matte metal finish of the G5 with the matte black of the Hi-Fi Plus unit (in addition to replacing the only LG logo on the phone with a B&O logo), and extends the bottom of the phone by roughly 1/8-inch to the length of the phone.

Inside that module you'll find the standard USB-C port and loud speaker you expect to find on any G5 module (we have no indication that this speaker's any better than the default speaker), along with a new 3.5mm headphone jack powered by an integrated digital-to-audio converter.

That DAC is a 32-bit unit plus a dedicated amp, both developed by Denmark's Bang & Olufsen. The Hi-Fi Plus supports native direct digital streaming for high-resolution aduio files and will up-sample lower-bit-rate audio from all source. It'll output 32-bit audio right through that new headphone jack (the top-mounted built-in headphone jack still outputs 24-bit audio, and the two cannot be used concurrently). Of course, you'll need a pair of high-end headphones with quality drivers to really notice the difference, and it'll be better with an already-high-resolution audio source versus an upsampled one.

Interestingly, LG says the Hi-Fi Plus module was designed to work with more than just the G5. Of course, it won't dock up to other devices as it does on the G5; instead it ships with a cap that covers the open end and adds on a second USB-C port. Though LG hasn't elaborated on how yet, they claim it will be compatible with Mac OS X, iPhone and iPad, and other Android devices.

We're reserving final judgement on the LG Hi-Fi Plus with B&O Play until we've had a chance to give them a listen on the requisite high-end headphones in an environment that's more conducive to the nuances of high-resolution audio outputted at 32 bits. But in the meantime, color us intruiged and maybe even a little optomistic about the potential — high-end audio on a consumer-grade mobile device like this is an interesting proposition.

Derek Kessler is Special Projects Manager for Mobile Nations. He's been writing about tech since 2009, has far more phones than is considered humane, still carries a torch for Palm (the old one), and got a Tesla because it was the biggest gadget he could find. You can follow him on Twitter at @derekakessler.

52 Comments
  • This is the best piece of the announcement, but seems like it could have been integrated instead of a module. Obviously I have not heard this one, but I have the V10 and the audio on it is amazing Posted via the Android Central App
  • What music player do you use? I noticed that 32-bit mode doesn't work on some music players. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I mainly just use Google Play Music Posted via the Android Central App
  • The app dacfix lets the dac work with all apps. Posted via the Android Central App
  • It worked on other apps without the dacfix app on mine. At least it looked like it was working. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Thanks! I was actually looking for something like this for a while!
  • I also have the V10...it's pretty decent, but it's no where near the best....I used to have a Nokia N8 back in the day & a couple of iriver HD music players, and those were pretty good. The lack of codecs on the V10 (well besides the wireless aptX) make it sound pretty vanilla. The G5 should be a much more respected machine with all those missing codecs accounted for.
  • Hey !! the earphones u got with lg v10 (Quadbeat 3 )...are they any good?..am sick of searching for earphones under $50...please suggest any
  • This is the one I'm interested in. Hope it sounds as good or better than the V10, which already sound great
  • I'm glad LG is pushing the audio quality. I'd like to see more manufacturers putting this kind of focus on audio. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Seriously? You mean besides the iphones, HTC one line, the xperia line and the exynos galaxy line? Audio quality has been important to pretty much all manufacturers besides motorola and LG until recently. LG is just now playing catch up to the others and maybe pulling a bit ahead with this and the V10.
  • I'm fairly certain back in the day LG with the first manufacture to use the 24-bit DAC so you are wrong, sir. it's been standard since the G2 . Go hate somewhere else.
  • Can you really hear the difference between 24bit and 32bit audio? Posted via the Android Central App
  • No, since nothing is recorded as such. 32bit dacs are nothing but affectation.
  • The point isn't about 24-bit and 32-bit..
    The point is the power of the amp inside the module, and the Digital to Analogue Converter (DAC) inside. Depending on which they are using may give it a brighter tone, more analytical Sound signature or a more Organic Sound Signature.. There are plenty of reasons to enjoy this module, but the 24-bit 32-bit debate just isn't one of them.
  • Well said. It is really not a debate that CD quality 44.1K is 100% reproduction of the signal. Anything beyond that is beyond the 20-20k bandwidth of human hearing and pointless.
  • I'm interested to see how much this will cost. Would it be worth it to NOT root & install V4A? Also, what about the added length and possible cases for the phone? Posted via the Android Central App
  • This module is a catch 22. Cons:
    I don't see it costing less than $100.
    I don't see it performing better than $100 stand alone DAC/AMPs.
    I can take stand alone ones to my tablet, next phone, or wherever.
    This only works with the G5 Pros:
    Size
    Convenience Posted via the S6 Active
  • This'll work with your other devices. From the article: "Interestingly, LG says the Hi-Fi Plus module was designed to work with more than just the G5. Of course, it won't dock up to other devices as it does on the G5; instead it ships with a cap that covers the open end and adds on a second USB-C port. Though LG hasn't elaborated on how yet, they claim it will be compatible with Mac OS X, iPhone and iPad, and other Android devices."
  • Not sure why I skipped that paragraph but thanks for pointing it out. My argument still stands. For what I'm assuming the price will be I just don't see it competing with similarly priced stand alone DAC/AMP units. I'll wait and see. as an audiophile I'd love to get better audio from my phone but I'm still skeptical of this. Posted via the S6 Active
  • It will easily destroy any Sampuff phones, when it comes to driving quality headphones, and IEM's
  • at what cost? If it will cost $100 then you need to test other phones with a similarly priced DAC/AMP
  • The only phone that has similar DAC/Amp is the V10. But my comment was really about the amp itself, the DAC doesn't make any difference, but the amp will. Other than the V10 all other phones have pathetic amps built in, and the G5 without the DAC/amp module is no exception.
  • I meant a $100 external DAC/AMP
  • nvm
  • What I really want to know is if this module will increase the actual sound volume through the headphones. Honestly I can't tell the subtler differences in the "bits", but a lot of android phones have a lower sound volume than the iPhones or the old Blackberries.
  • Well it's an AMP/DAC so the AMP part should amplify the sound.
    That's a given
  • I was really hoping for an expansion with better speakers. There are just sometimes when you don't want to wear headphones. Maybe later? Posted via Android Central App on my Moto X
  • "high-end audio on a consumer-grade mobile device like this is an interesting proposition"
    Why not just get a phone that already has it? ;)
    Anyway, no technical specifications yet? I'm curious how this compares with current offerings, and I'm made skeptical by the boasting about upsampling, which does absolutely nothing for quality.
  • There is only the V10 that compares to this.
  • The V10 audio specifications are very good, very close to the HTC One M8, which still has the top position.
  • Not even close, the amp[power output] in the V10 can only be compared to outboard small headphone amps like the Fiio E11, which beat easily any amps built into any mobile phones today.
  • LG V10: Noise -93.1 dB, Dynamic range 91.9 dB, THD 0.0049%, IMD + Noise 0.1860, Crosstalk -67.3 dB.
    HTC M8: Noise -94.9 dB, Dynamic range 93.9 dB, THD 0.0014%, IMD + Noise 0.0180, Crosstalk -79.7 dB. Not sure about total volume (they both get louder than a normal person can stand), and the V10 has finer volume steps which I wish the M8 had (V10 has more control), however in all the specifications listed above, the M8 is better. I like the V10 and think it's great that LG is stepping up the game and producing some great audio output, but the M8 is still a key player in headphone audiophile circles. The following information below is not so much for you, Lbesze (you seem well-informed), as it is for any other readers who come along and wonder what all those numbers mean. Noise is the amount of residual noise in the audio output, and the closer they get to -128 dB, the better. -128 dB is the sound of the electrons moving in a conductor, so it's technically impossible to get quieter than that without supercooling.
    Dynamic Range is the total difference between the quietest and loudest audio that a device can output, and the larger the number the better.
    Total Harmonic Distortion is a key measurement of how accurately an audio circuit can output the signal. Naturally, the lower the number the better.
    Intermodulation Distortion is a less noticeable, but more annoying form of distortion. I won't explain the differences between THD and IMD here as it's a looong and boring read, but again the small the number is, the better.
    Stereo crosstalk is used to measure how much bleed-through you get between the left and right channels. We usually test it by feeding a signal to the left channel and measuring how much leaks to the right channel. Since the theoretically perfect channel would be -128 db (nothing leaking from the other channel), then the closer we get to -128 is better. Interestingly, the phone with the worst noise in my data sheets? The iPhone 6S Plus, measuring 90.2 dB. The V10 is twice as good.
    Again, this post is not a knock on the excellent V10. I loved my last LG and bought two more for spare parts.
  • Thanks for posting those figures, but noise and crosstalk differences are really inaudible, and frankly that's not what I was talking about.Also depending how your measurement was done the V10 has also a generic DAC which is part of the Qualcomm CPU and the amp has several software based power step triggers, kind of like gain setting on outboard amps. Unfortunately you don't have actual power measurements among those figures. Louder 'than normal person can stand" is no substitute here. I've yet to encounter a phone that was actually loud enough for me in many cases.But be there as it may the typical mobile phone produces 7-15mw and not always per channel, the V10 can supply 49mw into 32ohms[ESS Sabre 9602 amp] which is a several magnitude higher than any other amp used in any phones. Of course if one uses earbuds or cheap low impedance IEM's then none of this will really matter but if one uses full size over the ear portable headphones then the choice is obvious. I have a V10 and it can drive the AKG Q701 to satisfying levels when the amp is triggered to the high impedance mode. Other phones can't even begin to drive this HP. Both the V10 and this module were aimed at enthusiast who knows and cares about these things.YMMV
  • Ahh, you found the wattage numbers for the V10... I could not find them. The M8 delivers 47.63 mW at 33 ohms, so correcting for the impedance difference should be pretty close. I did not have the numbers at the time, which is why I used the vague volume reference, lol. The M8 only has 14 volume steps, and each step is around a 3dB increase (which as you would know, is a 50% increase in perceived loudness), so there are times when one step is not quite loud enough and the next step is a little too loud. The V10 has what, 74 volume steps? Color me jealous. With wired headphones, I usually wind up around volume step 7. You are so right about cheap ear buds, which I suffered through on one long flight, and never did so again (dropped $30 on some 'adequate" ones as soon as I got to the hotel). I prefer over-ear first, on-ear second. Anyway, it's nice chatting with someone who speaks the language... TTYL!
  • Thanks, right back at you! ;)
    Couple of questions, if I may. Did you measure that power output on the M8 yourself, or is that MFR spec?
    Also do you know which amp module is that> Brand, model number?
  • The output measurements are from Chris Heinonen at anandtech.com, who used an Audio Precision APx582 for the tests. I don't have as much audio equipment as I used to since having a fire a few years ago. I remember having the info on the amp module, but can't put my eyes on it right now. I'll post it when I find it.
  • I agree. I have a m9 but still carry my HTC M8 HK because of the quality boost.
  • Although I understand the technobabble, I long ago gave it up when assessing audio equipment - there is only one piece of equipment that matters and it isn't an oscilloscope; it's your ears (okay - two pieces of equipment!)
    You can measure harmonic distortion and crosstalk and how many Watts RMS something has but none of it really matters if you can't HEAR any difference. So if a piece of equipment sounds better, it IS better and if you can't hear a difference keep your money in the bank, or even better - spend it down the pub! And drinking beer with your mates is a lot more interesting than talking about how many watts per channel your fantastic new amplifier outputs into 8ohms. Yaaaaaaaaaawnnnnnnnn..........
  • Oh the beer drinkers wisdom, who cares if she's a 38b or a 36DD a boob is a boob right mate?
  • Here is the magical algorithm to upsample ****** 16 bit audio to marvellous 32 bit audio: sample << 16; No, it makes no difference at all.
  • For me, that looks like unnessesry expensive as hell crap of overestimated piece of hardware to play my 124 kbps playlists... XD People getting that must have awesomely sensitive hearing sense... I mean, aren't normal speakers enough? XD
  • DAC stands for Digital to ANALOG, not audio. Also the headphone output is analog, not 32bit digital. Once a signal is converted to analog, it's origin is rather irrelevant from the technical POV. I know you guys are gadget writers, but this stuff is basic.
  • Why does anyone ever talk about upsampling? Upsampling does nothing except increase file or stream size. The quality of audio is never improved by upsampling. The quality of the audio is contained in the original audio file. An MP3 cannot become anything but an MP3. If a musical piece is recorded in 32 bit, then it stays in 32 bit until it is downsampled. This too, is basic stuff.
  • It is impossible to "notice the difference" of Hi-Res with or without the headphones. Hi-Res merely produces frequencies we cannot hear. It is pointless. CD quality 44.1K is perfect 100% reproduction of the signal with nothing missing. However, other aspects of the DAC might be interesting, such as the signal to noise ratio. My current Samsung has hiss. If you are curious, Google the Nyquist Theorem, you might be surprised what you find.
  • So my question is, will it improve the sound to Bluetooth and android auto play devices
  • Yep, you should notice some pretty good sound with the aptX HD wireless codec.....it's the very first phone to have it :)
  • If the other device supports aptx sure but we are still years from Aptx being common enough for it to matter to most.
  • I really didn't see much point with the camera module for the G5....but this DAC module on the other hand is such a good idea.
  • not to mention if you put this together with the Dolby Digital Plus codec.....this should be the best phone ever for music
  • The module prices will make or break this phone. If i have to pay $750+ for this phone then another $200 per module ill give it a pass.
  • The B&O audio module for the G5 has left the building. Not only is it absent from LG's G5 promotional materials, the official Press Release which announced the collaboration has been pulled from the the LG website.