When we talk about smartphones, we focus on things like processors and screens and RAM and software. That's all fine and dandy, because those are important things to talk about when you're looking for the best phone-slash-pocket-computer you can buy. We all want the best.

But I'm going to totally ignore all of that and tell you, right now, that the LG V10 is the audio player you're looking for — even if you never put a SIM card in it.

This isn't accidental. LG has included both an ESS Sabre 9018 DAC and an ESS Sabre 9602 Headphone Amplifier (.pdf link) in the V10, and it makes for a absolutely freaking outstanding "high-resolution" audio player. I'm not here to say the V10 and its ESS components are the best sounding audiophile-grade electronics in the world. Many people will say products from Wolfson (included in various Samsung models) or Sony's offerings or something from somebody else is better sounding, and I can't argue with them. "Better sounding" is about as subjective as one can get, and there's no way I can tell you what you think sounds the best.

With a good set of headphones and high-quality source material, you will hear the difference. And you'll like it.

But I can tell you the audio from the V10 sounds amazing. It's flat, with a very black background. The clarity is great, and there's plenty of separation between frequencies. The soundstage as a whole is excellent. There. I think I used all the audiophile buzzwords. What all that means is you'll hear music the way the artist and producers intended it to be, with little or no interference or background noise. You'll hear the highs, the lows and the mids clearly, and be able to tell the difference between them. In short, with a good set of headphones and high-quality source material, you will hear the difference. And you'll like it.

LG V10

But that's not the only reason why the V10 is a newer, better iPod.

  • You can drop a 200GB SD card in it and fill it with music. That makes for about 255GB of total storage, with the ability to swap it out in 200GB chunks. If you have a large FLAC collection, you know what I'm talkin' 'bout. If you don't, consider that a high-res FLAC file can be about 50MB for one song.
  • When your battery dies, you can swap it for another one. I have 11 hours of Grateful Dead, and an 8-hour battery.
  • Drag and drop your files. Even across the network. Suck it, iTunes.
  • Use any music player you want. LG's audio player is actually really good. But I don't have to use it if I like the way another does playlists or the controls. Either way, the DAC and amp will work when I plug my headphones in.
  • You can make phone calls and do all the other smartphone stuff. My old spinny disk iPod (which I loved, don't think I didn't!) couldn't. Neither can my Fiio, or that fancy new Walkman that Phil won't buy me.

I know we can't ignore the whole package, and when we consider everything the V10 may or may not be the best smartphone for you. But before you plonk down a big stack of money on an iPod or other portable audio playing device, look at a V10.