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Best phones for music 2022: top choices for audio on your smartphone

Best phones for music
(Image credit: LG, Samsung and Apple)

The best phones for music aren't as simple to pick out as other phones. It's not just a matter of choosing the most high-end phone you can afford as music and audio aren't always the focus for every device maker. 

For instance, the more you pay for your handset, the less likely it is to have a headphone port and that's a big issue for wired audio fans. You also need to consider whether a phone has Quad-DAC (which improves the audio output), plus the Bluetooth audio quality, the internal speaker performance, and more. 

That means this list looks quite different to our best smartphones list. The LG V60 ThinQ ranks highly here despite not featuring at all on our overall best phones list. LG has pulled out of the smartphone market so you may find yourself with fewer updates but it's still worth considering for music. 

Elsewhere, there are also great all-rounders such as the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and the iPhone 13 Pro

Below, you’ll find our full list of the best phones for music, ranked in order of preference, and with an overview and specs list for each phone, so you can see exactly what makes it so good – and whether it’s right for you.

Sony Xperia 1 III

(Image credit: Sony)
The (new) best headphone jack on a phone

Specifications

Release date: August 2021
Weight: 186g
Dimensions: 165 x 71 x 8.2 mm
OS: Android 11
Screen size: 6.5-inch
Resolution: 1644 x 3840
CPU: Snapdragon 888 5G
RAM: 12GB
Storage: 256GB/512GB
Battery: 4,500mAh
Rear camera: 12MP+12MP+12MP+0.3MP
Front camera: 8MP

Reasons to buy

+
Fantastic display
+
3.5mm headphone jack

Reasons to avoid

-
Tricky to handle for some
-
Expensive

A media powerhouse, the Sony Xperia 1 III stands out initially thanks to it being the world's first smartphone with a 4K 120Hz display. The screen looks amazing and is perfect for watching films, videos or TV shows. However, it's backed up with other useful features like strong performance and the all-important 3.5mm headphone jack.

It also has other key features like a great camera that can cope with pretty much everything you could want to do. Performance is top-tier stuff too with apps loading quickly and no sign of stuttering in sight.

After a few years of Sony skipping the 3.5mm headphone jack, it's great to see it remain here after the Xperia 1 II and it’s precisely why the Sony Xperia 1 III is listed where it is here. If you're keen about embracing all your entertainment needs while on the move, this is the phone for you. Just bear in mind that you're going to pay for the privilege.

Read our full Sony Xperia 1 III review.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

(Image credit: Samsung)
A top tier phone for music and more

Specifications

Release date: January 2021
Weight: 227g
Dimensions: 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm
OS: Android 11
Screen size: 6.8-inch
Resolution: 1440 x 3200
CPU: Snapdragon 888 / Exynos 2100
RAM: 12GB / 16GB
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB
Battery: 5,000mAh
Rear camera: 108MP + 10MP + 10MP + 12MP
Front camera: 40MP

Reasons to buy

+
High-end audio format support
+
Bluetooth Dual Audio

Reasons to avoid

-
No bundled earphones
-
No 3.5mm headphone port

You don’t get either a 3.5mm headphone port or bundled earbuds with the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, which are two instant marks against its music credentials, as is the lack of a microSD card slot – slightly limiting the amount of music you can store on the phone.

But with up to 512GB of storage built in, there should be space for all but the very biggest music libraries, and with 5G you can also stream and download at higher speed than on some phones.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra also supports ultra-high-quality audio playback, including formats such as DSD 64/128 and 32-bit PCM. And it supports Dual Audio through Bluetooth, meaning you can play music through two connected Bluetooth devices simultaneously.

All of which means that while the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra isn’t the best for wired audio, it’s a dream for wireless.

And while you’ll always want to use external speakers or headphones to get the best out of smartphone audio, the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s built in speakers are pretty good too. They offer stereo sound and even include Dolby Atmos, which can increase the sense of size and scale in audio.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review

(Image credit: LG)
One of the best headphone jacks on a phone

Specifications

Release date: March 2020
Weight: 218g
Dimensions: 169.3 x 77.6 x 8.9 mm
OS: Android 10
Screen size: 6.8-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 2460
CPU: Snapdragon 865
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 128GB
Battery: 5,000mAh
Rear camera: Dual 16MP + 13MP
Front camera: 10MP

Reasons to buy

+
Has a headphone jack, and a good one
+
Excellent EQ settings

Reasons to avoid

-
Hard to buy outside the US
-
A huge phone

LG might have retired from the smartphone market but its LG V60 ThinQ remains one of the best options for those passionate about wired audio. You'll need to watch out for fewer updates for the LG V60 ThinQ but for some users, it'll be worth it. 

The LG V60 still has a headphone jack unlike many competing high-end flagships which already makes it better, but the company also includes a Quad-DAC (digital-to-analog) component that drives the audio to an even better level of detail by analyzing the digital signal four times in parallel. It doesn't quite make music sound better but it's a very useful feature. 

It also has an unusually powerful headphone amp that, when used in the Quad DAC mode, offers higher volume output than most. This is useful for naturally quieter headphones. Effective with high quality in-ear and over-ear headphones, the audio quality is much improved over other wired smartphone outputs, and make up for the slightly inferior external dual stereo speakers. 

Read our full LG V60 ThinQ review 

iPhone 12 Pro

(Image credit: Apple)
A strong all-rounder with great speakers

Specifications

Release date: October 2020
Weight: 189g
Dimensions: 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4mm
OS: iOS 14
Screen size: 6.1-inch
Resolution: 1170 x 2532
CPU: Apple A14 Bionic
RAM: 6GB
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB
Battery: 2,815mAh
Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP + 12MP + LiDAR scanner
Front camera: 12MP

Reasons to buy

+
Great internal speakers
+
Top wireless headphone support

Reasons to avoid

-
No headphone jack
-
No EarPods included

Consistently a great choice for audio, the iPhone 12 Pro builds upon what worked so well for the iPhone 11 Pro. That means it has excellent internal speakers with stereo drivers for a more immersive experience. Enhanced with Dolby Atmos, the sound seems much wider and more expansive for humble internal speakers. 

Other useful features include the pairing experience between the iPhone 12 Pro and headphones with an Apple H1 or W1 chipset, which includes Apple-owned Beats Solo Pro and the AirPods Pro

The downside? The iPhone 12 Pro doesn't come bundled with any EarPods although we wouldn't recommend using them exclusively for music unless you have no other option anyhow. Also, there's no headphone jack again. Instead, your options lie with the Lightning port or Bluetooth with the latter proving far superior. 

Read our full iPhone 12 Pro review

Sony

(Image credit: Sony)
A little large but otherwise great

Specifications

Release date: May 2020
Weight: 181g
Dimensions: 165.1 x 71.1 x 7.6 mm
OS: Android 10
Screen size: 6.5-inch
Resolution: 1644 x 3840
CPU: Snapdragon 865
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 256GB
Battery: 4,000mAh
Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP + 12MP + 0.3MP
Front camera: 8MP

Reasons to buy

+
Beautiful display
+
3.5mm headphone jack

Reasons to avoid

-
Awkward to hold
-
Expensive

Reintroducing the 3.5mm jack is a smart move for the Sony Xperia 1 II ensuring it's immediately appealing to those keen on playing music unimpeded. The best Sony handset we've seen for a while, the Sony Xperia 1 II is expensive and a little bulky to hold but offers a gorgeous design and excellent battery life. 

Besides being great for viewing media on thanks to that high-end screen, the Sony Xperia 1 II is also good for listening to music through its speakers if needed but you'll likely return to the advantages of the 3.5mm headphone jack. 

Just bear in mind that smaller hands may find this phone a little awkward to handle. 

Read our full Sony Xperia 1 II review.