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Does the location of speakers on smartphones affect sound quality?

A smartphone with bottom-firing speaker

Does the location of speakers on smartphones affect sound quality?

This is one of the questions that smartphone buyers ask before buying their dream items. Today's smartphones are more than just phones as they have become the mainstream for multimedia entertainment. While a lot of things have changed in the past few years, the size and the loudness of speakers coupled with today's smartphones have not entirely changed.

Although, smartphones are getting larger in size as each year passes by, their slim form factor does not permit much improvement in some areas, such as in the size and the quality of speakers coupled with them. The screen takes the largest share of the space, followed by the battery, while other peripherals and modules share the rest.

It is obvious that smartphone manufacturers mainly focus on the betterment of the screen, battery, camera, CPU/GPU, RAM/storage, and connectivity, without taking the speaker into much consideration. The speakers are fitted in the least available space in today's smartphones, although there are few exceptions.

Bottom-Firing (or Down-Firing) Speakers

The most common location where the speakers are fitted nowadays is at the bottom, sitting alongside with other ports such as the charging port and the 3.5mm audio jack (if available). The bottom-firing speakers as called, are positioned to face downward when the phone is held in hand (vertically). However, this location let the speakers face the user if the phone is placed on the table, on the bed, on the kitchen cabinet, or in any horizontal position.

This make the sound hushed out through the speakers not to be muted or obscured by any object, since phones rest horizontally when laid down. However, when performing some tasks such as when watching a video and the phone is flipped into horizontal position, bottom-firing speakers faces outward in the opposite direction and the sound is not directed towards the user.

Also read: Storage - The Most Underrated Specs By Smartphone Users

It is difficult to hear the sound of bottom-firing speakers when listening to music or watching video in outdoor or noisy environment since the speakers are not facing the user, hence affecting the sound quality. Moreover, ambient noise tend to have more impact on bottom-firing speakers because the position of the speakers does not correlate with the hearing of the user.

Front-Firing (or Front-Mounted) Speakers

Some smartphones use the earpiece located at the top of the screen as the second speaker in addition to the bottom speaker - this creates a stereo-like effects. This is better and tend to improve the sound quality of the phone irrespective of its position. Long-gone are the days when smartphones were equipped with dual front-firing speakers.

Smartphone with dual front-firing speaker
The HTC One series were exceptionally known for their great sound quality because of the placement of their speakers, which were positioned to directly face the user.

Front-firing (or front-mounted) speakers have better sound quality because the speakers are positioned to directly face the user when holding the phone. The speakers are equipped below the screen and above the screen, creating a virtual stereo-like effects that is audible to the user. Unfortunately, only few manufacturers still use the front to house the speakers since the screen takes that part now in most phones.

Side-Mounted Speakers

Some smartphones have the speakers mounted to the side, to the left or to the right. Dual side-mounted speaker have the speakers equipped at both sides of the phone. They face outward and have nearly the same cons and pros as bottom-firing speakers. Smartphones with side-mounted speakers are not common, but they are getting more popular lately as gaming smartphones prefer to use this location.

Rear-Mounted Speakers

Smartphones with rear-mounted speakers are nearly extinct since the location is no longer a viable option for manufacturers to house the speakers, and that's a good thing. The rear is the worst location to equip the speakers on smartphones - it badly affect the sound quality in whatever position the phone is held, and it muffled the sound hushed out through the speakers when the phone is laid down.

In conclusion, the location where the speakers are equipped on smartphones affect the sound quality. It's not the end of the world if the sound quality of your smartphone is bad due to the location where the speakers are mounted as there are better alternative means by which you can enjoy videos and audios on your phone, such as by using wired headphones or wireless headphones. Things are likely to get better in the coming years.



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