After I shifted from a Logitech Ultimate Ears to a Skullcandy Smokin Buds, I became deeply dissatisfied with my music. I’m not a person who spends $$$ on great headphones – all I ask from life is that I get decent bass, mids and highs with a budget smartphone and consumer headsets. My friend pointed out to me that contrary to popular belief, the music player makes a HUGE difference in music quality. I was using PlayerPro at the time. A great player with a very intuitive UI, it’s under-the-hood audio wizardry and EQ couldn’t compensate for the horribly bass-heavy sound of my new headphones. So I started looking for better music players. Here’s my list of the very best.
I’ve grouped players into two rough categories: simple and complex. Simple players are those awesome music players that are almost Mac like in their functionality – install and start listening with a minimum of hassle. Complex players offer – and often require – more attention. Tuning. Sound balance options. The whole nine yards. These players are often geared towards sound quality rather than convenience.
PowerAMP. This player is legend, and with good reason. Music legitimately sound way better on this. You’ll be picking out instruments you never thought were there in the track. The EQ compensated perfectly for my SK’s – a little bit of bass reduction and viola, I had balanced audio again.The closest I can compare this to is Breakaway, a program I use on the PC to clean up and amp up my audio signal. It has a setting called Power. Power simply brings out all the intruments and tones in the music to the forefront. At the highest Power setting, you can pick out every instrument, every sound, every piece of audio on that music file: amazing clarity. The downside? At that highest setting, sounds that wer meant to form the background are brought to the fore. In fact, it’s all foreground: there is no background.
PowerAMP is like this, except much more toned down – a balanced amp-up of clarity that keeps the background and the foreground there while making both clearer. My Smokin’ Buds went from bass-heavy “meh” headphones to something around an Ultimate Ears 200. What you get is more detail than every other player. It’s worth the asking price of 3-dollars-something. Don’t bother cracking it or downloading it off apk sites – it periodically checks with Google Play for license details.
RocketPlayer I can’t resist comparing this to PowerAmp. RocketPlayer is a very “on-the-fence” app. The sound quality is there, with a bit of equalizer control, it can match PowerAmp. However, the UI is a tad unfriendly and lags. In fact, if it weren’t for the lag, I’d have enjoyed this player a great deal more. My phone IS a budget phone: I’m guessing this app should sun smooth on on anything with a dual-core processor. If the UI doesn’t lag for you, by all means try this one out. One of it’s most impressive features is that you can attach an EQ preset to any song with two taps – thereby greatly reducing the hassle of finding that perfect EQ for all your classical, metal, hip-hop collections and hoping you don’t have to change it again. You have a choice of around 10-15 EQ presets, plus you can make your own. Beneath that slightly dented hood is one very powerful engine.
Neutron Music Player Neutron is targeted FOR audiophiles. It boasts a custom audio rendering engine, and by the looks of it its pretty Hi-fi. However, it didn’t work on my phone. Try it out on yours. User reviews are great.
Jet-Audio Bleh. That’s it. Jet-Audio’s a name I grew up with – I used to have a Jet-Audio player on my PII. I expected this to be better, consider the features – the free version has a 10-band EQ, the Pro version has a full 20-BAND EQ. You expect great things from something like that. Sadly, no, the music quality is average at best and not worth the download. I’d rather go with PLayerPro.
PlayerPro A fantastic player if you aren’t going to tweak the EQ a lot. PlayerPro has one of the most intuitive user interfaces of all the players here – I’ve used it for a good six months. It’s clean, precise, and runs smooth on ANYTHING. If you have a good pair of headphones, you don’t need to touch that EQ. Sadly, I need to drop the bass on these Skullcandy’s, so this one’s going on the shelf until I get a better balanced headset.
DoubleTwist Solid UI vaguely reminiscent of desktop Realplayer. Sound quality is pretty much the same across this category. It’s a very easy to use classic player. I’d still point to PlayerPro or N7Player. N7Player stands out because of it’s fantastic user interface. It’s the first proper multi-touch player I came across. On a big screen – like on an S3 – it’s epic. If this had PowerAmp’s level of audio quality, it would have been a no-brainer. A good player – sound quality is pretty much the same as Jet Audio or PlayerPro. If you’re after sound, you E Player Not impressed. I don’t find enough difference in sound quality OR UI to recommend it.
n7player: probably the most inventive UI in this list. The music quality is on par with the others (with the exception of Jet Audio, which sucks). All of these players seem to use the default Android music rendering engine with some tuning done on top of it, hence the similar sounds. Between DoubleTwist, PlayerPro and N7, it’s really a choice of user interfaces. n7 is far more geeky, complete with multi-touch zooming.
At the end of the day, I bought PowerAmp. The sound far far too great to abandon.
- Updated: Best phone headphones: 25 pairs tested (alternativenewsalert.com)