Basically, headphones - just like speakers - can only reproduce the sound quality provided by the output device.
There are various options for optimizing the sound of headphones on a smartphone:
- The audio settings of your smartphone
- The audio options within the app of your streaming service or music player app
- special equalizer apps.
Smartphone: Audio settings of Android and iOS
On an Android smartphone, you can adjust the sound by using the integrated audio amplifier. You can find this in the settings under operating aids - if not, simply search & download it from the Playstore.
The audio amplifier is there to emphasize relevant sounds, such as conversations, and to attenuate background noise when using headphones on the smartphone.
Fine tuning can be done via sliders. However, the audio amplifier is less suitable for music - that's what the system's internal equalizer is for. This allows you to select a sound profile or adjust the sliders yourself. However, it only offers basic options and is not available on every Android smartphone.
Apple offers the possibility to adjust settings on the iPhone for certain headphone models. To do so, activate the headphone adjustments in the operating aids under "Audio/Visual". You can choose between "Phone" and "Media" depending on whether you want to adjust the sound for conversations or for music, videos, podcasts, etc. Listening examples are then used to configure audio.
In addition, iOS also includes a simple equalizer - to do this, go to "Music" in the settings and then to "EQ". There you can choose from a number of preset profiles.
Improve the bass and sound in the music player app
Depending on which app you use to play music, you'll find various audio options in it that can be used to tweak the sound output. Every good playback app includes an equalizer and other basic settings. For example, you can turn pre-amplification on or off, select certain playback effects, or adjust treble and bass. A small change in the equalizer settings can already have a big effect. For example, the bass can already be audibly boosted by this.
To achieve an even better sound, you can use various presets. Usually there are sound profiles for different music styles. Try out here what sounds best for you.
Likewise, it is possible to manually adjust the controls for the individual frequency levels. However, this can make it more difficult to create an overall coherent sound.
Other options may include:
- Bass boost
- Balance adjustment between left and right stereo channel
- reverb effects
- virtual surround sound
Audio setting options in music streaming apps
Music streaming services also offer various options to improve the headphone sound of the smartphone. The first thing to mention here is the audio quality. In Spotify, for example, you can find the corresponding selection in the settings under "Sound quality". There you can choose between different quality levels - the highest level, which is only available to subscribers, currently (October 2021) corresponds to a bit rate of 320 kbit/s. If you want significantly more, you can switch to a Hi-Res streaming service like TIDAL or Qobuz or wait for Spotify HiFi (launch date not yet known). Deezer HiFi (FLAC quality) is already available.
Some apps (including Spotify and Deezer) have integrated equalizers. You activate the Deezer tool in the service's audio settings, for example. It offers sound profiles as well as the custom option. Similar to its Spotify counterpart, however, the setting options are limited.
Improve smartphone sound with an equalizer app
If the options of your music player app or the streaming service are not enough for you, reach for a separate equalizer app. There are plenty to choose from, both for Android and iOS. The quality of the respective app mainly depends on whether you like the usability, the sound profiles, the spatial effects and the functions. Some apps require a paid premium version for this.