Sound quality is more important than you may think, and it’s something more people should take into account when it comes to choosing a smartphone. You may not be the kind of person who craves audiophile-grade sound everywhere you go, but a subpar speaker or a subpar set of earbuds can spoil your media-consuming experience. A better sounding smartphone is, of course, never unwelcome, and many smartphone makers have started adopting different audio technologies in order to improve audio and sound.
While mammoth speakers like the ones found in Razer’s smartphones are definitely not the norm, we’ve started seeing a number of devices carrying better-sounding speakers. And not just flagship ones at that, but also some mid-range ones too. These improvements are not necessarily related to hardware, but may also be the result of other technologies and optimizations going on behind-the-scenes.
There are lots of methods to boost the way your phone sounds, but most manufacturers already offer some kind of solution to boost speakers’ performance built into their devices. Some of these technologies and solutions are made by Dirac Audio. We’ve talked a bit about Dirac in the past, but in case you’re not familiar with them, Dirac is the company behind a number of audio solutions, and they specialize in digital audio optimization for mobile devices, VR, gaming consoles, and most recently, PC. Until recently, though, they were a relatively unknown name in the smartphone scene despite being in the audio business for some time, but they have started to make a name for themselves.
Dirac Audio was founded 15 years ago by a group of Signals and Systems students at Uppsala University, according to Dirac’s website. Putting their knowledge in signal processing to good use, they wanted to improve how their speakers sounded but ended up sharing their findings with the rest of the world, thus founding Dirac.
The Sweden-based company now develops audio solutions for a number of companies and device manufacturers, including smartphone OEMs (OnePlus, OPPO, Xiaomi) as well as car manufacturers (Rolls-Royce, Volvo, BMW) and other companies. Recently, they started making themselves known thanks to technologies like Dirac HD Sound and Dirac Power Sound, which are used (and advertised) by big-name companies like OPPO and Motorola.
But what exactly does Dirac Audio offer? Well, a handful of technologies dedicated to improving audio quality, each of which is tailored to slightly different purposes but are also able to compliment each other.
Dirac HD Sound and Dirac Power Sound
First of all, we have Dirac HD Sound. To put it plainly, their HD Sound technology and the suite of solutions focus on improving sound clarity, bass fidelity, and musical staging by leaps and bounds. According to Dirac, this is done “by correcting impulse and magnitude frequency response” in real-time. Most of the time, it does not require any equalizers or external apps whatsoever. It’s implemented at the DSP level, meaning that Dirac Audio’s enhancements cannot be turned on or off, and you can’t just remove them by rooting your device or flashing a custom ROM.
The results, when compared to devices without HD Sound or any form of sound enhancement technology, are very promising and show that Dirac HD Sound is a handy tool for those audiophiles out there. But here’s the thing: it focuses on audio fidelity and, well, not much else. Which is not a bad thing, but it does very little by itself.
Want a louder, punchier experience? Dirac Power Sound is for you. Power Sound aims to address the limitations of smaller speakers and enhance them by squeezing out more powerful sound whenever possible without compromising on audio quality. The result, according to the company, is larger-than-life sound with no distortions or compromises. This is good for giving smartphone speakers or other smaller speakers a considerable and much-needed boost.
Once again, smartphones supporting Power Sound, in a similar fashion to HD Sound, have said technology implemented at DSP level, so it is always active. Normally, both HD Sound and Power Sound technologies are used simultaneously in order to try to squeeze out the full potential of a device’s speakers by making them sound louder and, overall, better.
Dirac also has a handful of other solutions, including Dirac Sensaround. Instead of focusing on fidelity or loudness, Sensaround goes for immersion, aiming for a “gentle externalization of sound from headphones” that aims to bring an immersive cinematic sound experience to your everyday headphone listening experience. What’s more, it doesn’t even require specially coded audio or special hardware at all.
Dirac also has a service called Dirac Connect, which is a hub of sorts that allows users to try different audio optimizations and solutions tailored to their needs and their device’s needs. Users can then purchase said solution for their devices if they’re convinced. Dirac Connect is not a downloadable app, and access to Dirac Connect must be licensed by manufacturers in order to give users access to said service.
There are many other technologies and solutions made by Dirac, but these are some of the most common and the ones that are most likely to be used on your phone. We’ve had the opportunity to experience what it’s like listening to music and video with and without Dirac’s audio enhancements enabled (from demoes at CES 2019 and MWC 2019), and we can say that there’s an noticeable improvement in audio quality with the technology enabled. Even if you don’t notice the improvements yourself, you are still benefiting from them!
What devices support Dirac?
As we said before, most of the time these optimizations are baked at the hardware level. Meaning that, except for counted cases like the Motorola Moto Z line (which allows you to toggle Dirac on and off), these can’t be removed or turned off. You can’t just go ahead and install Dirac to your device, either. This means that whether it’s an advertised feature or not, your phone might be Dirac-enhanced and you might not know it! Some of the devices you know and love, like the OnePlus 6T and the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3, have Dirac technologies on board to optimize and enhance the way your phone sounds. Here is a list of Android smartphones using at least one of Dirac’s solutions.
Note: this list is dated January 28th, 2019. Since then, more smartphones with Dirac’s audio technologies may have launched.
|Manufacturer||Product||HD Sound||Power Sound||Sensaround||Connect|
|Gigaset||Gigaset Me Pure||X|
|Gigaset||Gigaset Me Pro||X|
|LeEco||LeEco Le 2||X|
|LeEco||LeEco Le Pro||X|
|LeEco||LeEco Le Max 2||X|
|Lenovo||Lenovo K5 Pro||X|
|Motorola||Moto Z series||X|
|OnePlus||OnePlus 2 (Chinese version)||X||X|
|OnePlus||OnePlus 3 (Chinese version)||X||X|
|OnePlus||OnePlus 3 (international version)||X|
|OnePlus||OnePlus 3T (international version)||X|
|OPPO||All smartphones available in the market||X|
|OPPO||OPPO Find 5||X|
|OPPO||OPPO R9s Limited Version||X||X||X|
|OPPO||OPPO F3 Plus||X||X||X|
|OPPO||OPPO R11 Plus||X||X||X|
|OPPO||OPPO R17 Pro||X||X||X|
|OPPO||OPPO R15 Dream Mirror Edition||X||X||X|
|OPPO||OPPO Find X||X||X||X|
|Smartisan||Nut Pro 2||X||X|
|Wiko||Wiko Highway Pure||X|
|Xiaomi||All smartphones available in the market||X||X|
|Xiaomi||All smartphones available in the market (except Mi Note, Mi Note Pro, Redmi Note 4, Mi Mix, Mi Note 2)||X|
|Xiaomi||All tablets available in the market||X||X|
|Xiaomi||All tablets available in the market (except Mi Pad 2)||X|
|Xiaomi||Xiaomi Mi 5C||X||X|
|Xiaomi||Xiaomi Mi 6||X||X|
|Xiaomi||Xiaomi Redmi Y1||X||X|
|Xiaomi||Xiaomi Mi A1||X||X|
|Xiaomi||Xiaomi Mi Mix 2||X||X|
|Xiaomi||Xiaomi Mi Note 3||X||X|
|Xiaomi||Xiaomi Mi 6X||X||X|
|Xiaomi||Xiaomi Mi 8||X|
|Xiaomi||Xiaomi Mi 8 Explorer Edition||X||X|
|Xiaomi||Xiaomi Mi 8 SE||X||X|
|Xiaomi||Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S||X||X|
|Xiaomi||Xiaomi Redmi Note 5||X||X|
|Xiaomi||Xiaomi Redmi 5||X||X|
|Xiaomi||Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus||X||X|
|Xiaomi||Xiaomi Mi Mix 3||X|
|ZUK||ZUK Z2 Pro||X|
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