Sound crackling/distortion with certain headphones?

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trza2k

Member
Jun 8, 2012
10
3
For detailed information about the problem see: http://www.jensign.com/S4Distortion/

The issue is CONFIRMED FIXED with I9505XXUBMEA firmware. I expect future updates for other regions should have this fix.


ORIGINAL POST:
Anyone having issues with audio crackling/distortion when using headphones?

It seems with audio volume above 50% using UE600 headphones i get crackling/distortion(usually on bass) that gets worse as i increase volume. I've read other reports of similar audio issues with decent head phones but not sure what the issue is.

I tried stock, cx-270 and koss headphones but they don't display the issue.
 
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fade2green514

Senior Member
Mar 21, 2011
281
56
Anyone having issues with audio crackling/distortion when using headphones?

It seems with audio volume above 50% using UE600 headphones i get crackling/distortion thats gets worse as i increase volume. I've read other reports of similar audio issues with decent headhpones but not sure what the issue is.

I tried stock, cx-270 and koss headphones but they don't display the issue.

try the headphones on another device to make sure the headphones arent blown
 

innozan

Member
Nov 17, 2012
30
6
Anyone having issues with audio crackling/distortion when using headphones?

It seems with audio volume above 50% using UE600 headphones i get crackling/distortion thats gets worse as i increase volume. I've read other reports of similar audio issues with decent headhpones but not sure what the issue is.

I tried stock, cx-270 and koss headphones but they don't display the issue.

Which s4 do you have? qualcomm chip or wolfson chip?
 

trza2k

Member
Jun 8, 2012
10
3
So far i've read 3 people have confirmed crackling issues that are bad enough that you cannot listen to music.

Details:

JVC FXZ100 and UE 600 headphones have issues with crackling relating to bass.

stock, cx-270, re0, koss pathfinder, sennheiser ie8 and CX-500 appear to have no crackling.
 
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trenzterra

Senior Member
Dec 5, 2010
375
43
My UE600 crackles at volumes 10 and above.

---------- Post added at 04:46 AM ---------- Previous post was at 04:07 AM ----------

I was thinking this is an issue with low impedance headphones?

The UE600 is 13ohms which is pretty low. JVC's is 16ohms.

EDIT: But the CX-270 is 16ohms as well. Very strange.
 

trenzterra

Senior Member
Dec 5, 2010
375
43
I did some more testing at a local store, and found one unit that distorts heavily above volume 7 and another that does not distort at all even at 15!


so I went to do a 1 to 1 exchange but unfortunately the new unit I got distorted at volume 7 too! and it was much noisier. So in the end I decided against exchanging.

It's a frustrating problem though.
 

tango280581

Senior Member
Mar 31, 2011
311
70
sutton in ashfield
Ive got exact same problem using cx300 mII's. Stock buds are fine tho. Just out of curiosity what firmware you running, im on mdd.

Sent from my GT-I9505 using xda premium
 

trenzterra

Senior Member
Dec 5, 2010
375
43
Mine is on MDE.

I wonder if this issue could be addressed in software? If it's a hardware issue I have little hopes of it being solved I guess...
 

tango280581

Senior Member
Mar 31, 2011
311
70
sutton in ashfield
Im thinking it might be seeing as our firmwares are close together. I hope so cos I use it for music more than anything else.

Sent from my GT-I9505 using xda premium
 

trenzterra

Senior Member
Dec 5, 2010
375
43
I don't know... but seeing that it happens only on certain IEMs, it might be a hardware issue after all...
 

cosinav

Senior Member
Oct 25, 2012
102
73
Hong Kong
I just found out this problem! xxxk! seriously, this is not acceptable for a flagship smartphone. xxxt like this should not happen! It's crackling heavily on my UE600 and Sony XBA2VP. Its ok with the stock headphones and also my wife's UE200.
 

trenzterra

Senior Member
Dec 5, 2010
375
43
For those with the problem, can you try one of the following:

1. Go to SoundAlive, select Custom EQ and turn 1Hz, 100Hz, 450Hz down all the day.

2. Turn on Flight Mode.

With either one of these options on, do you experience less crackling?

Thanks!



BTW can you guys contact Samsung to get them to investigate the issue? I emailed them but they kinda snubbed it off as a third-party issue.
 

tango280581

Senior Member
Mar 31, 2011
311
70
sutton in ashfield
Seems to be more when I crank the bass. I dont know how yours sounds but mines almost as tho its the jack connection. Dont know if this is relevant but looking at the earphone connector, the samsung ones have 3 bands round the jack the sennheisers have only 2. Can anyone with the crackle just check how many bands the offending earphones have round the connector.

Edit. Think I might be onto something here. Just tested my sons, there only cheapos but theyve got 3 bands, didnt crackle one bit at full volume with full bass.
Sent from my GT-I9505 using xda premium
 
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trenzterra

Senior Member
Dec 5, 2010
375
43
Mine is 2 bands. But unfortunately, I don't think that is the case, 'cos I tried with a 3.5mm extension (3 bands) and the crackle still happens.

I think it has to do with the sensitivity of our 'better' earphones--perhaps they are better at detecting the noise at low frequency levels. Strangely enough, sometimes when I plug in my earphones I don't get any distortion at all. Could be numerous factors in play.
 

trenzterra

Senior Member
Dec 5, 2010
375
43
In the meantime could you send an email blast to Samsung Support about this issue? There is only so much I can do to bring this matter to their attention, and for now they don't seem to take me seriously or think it's just an isolated problem. Would be great if people could spread the word about this issue so that they'll be more inclined to fix it...
 

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  • 6
    FYI

    Hi People...

    I just wanted to let you know about my research... I'm a GS3 owner (Qualcomm DAC)... this problem is largely related to the Qualcomm DACs more then the phone...

    The reports that the GS3 (Qualcomm DAC) are unaffected are true but only because the GS3 ships with the 3.0 kernels not 3.4... when I rooted my GS3 and installed a ROM with the newer 3.4 kernel I have major crackling/distortion using my sony XBA-4 at 60% volume or more. Going back to the 3.0 kernel... 100% crystal clear sound.

    There were major changes to the codecs and drivers in the kernel... I'm tying to make a 3.4 kernel but backport the 3.0 drivers for the GS3 so I can run android 4.2+

    Someone with a GS4(Qualcomm DAC) and some kernel knowledge should try and do the same... I have proof that it's the kernel that made this problem much worse then the 3.0 kernels.
    5
    Anyone know where I can get a cheap impedance adapter from? im cracking up without mi tunes lol.

    I'm working on it. I've contacted a guy on eBay who says that he's received all of the parts, and he's making and testing right now. If they work, I'll let all of you know.
    5
    S4 Crackle/Instability is Fixed!

    I have completed my tests on the new update for the SGH-I337 version:
    S4_UpdatedFirmware.jpg

    I can confirm that the crackle instability is completely absent now. Tests were done at 250 Hz and 1kHz with 4.7, 10 and 33 ohm headphone loads at all volume levels and digital levels from zero to 15/15 volume using default Samsung Music player with no EQ.

    The maximum output level for full digital volume is identical to that before the update: 0.88 Vpeak ( 0.62Vrms). The frequency response is also identical to before-update so absolutely nothing was tweaked in the frequency response. The background noise level (during playback) is ~ 3uVrms in 20 kHz BW so is really dead quiet, even for very high-sensitivity phones and identical to before-update value providing an amazing S/N of ~ 106 dB. Distortion characteristics are also unchanged. In a nutshell, all headphone audio characteristics I've measured with the new update are identical to those before the update as discussed here except that the buzz/crackle instability is gone! Note that, just as before (and as measured and discussed in the page above) the distortion characteristics WILL increase as the headphone impedance is lowered but this is normal. How noticeable is this distortion? Listening with my Senn HD598 (50ohm) with PARALLEL resistors of 10 ohm (or 4.7ohm) to deliberately increase harmonic and intermodulation distortions produced no detectable sound difference to my ears playing jazz and pop! In this case, simulating very low impedance iems, the distortions would be above 0.1%. No crackle, no buzz, no noticeable deteroriation in audio that I could perceive.

    How much power will the S4 provide to drive headphones?
    100 ohm phones: 4mW max
    33 ohm phones: 11 mW max
    10 ohm phones: 32 mW max

    The most severe test was driving a 100% digital amplitude sine wave at 15/15 vol into 4.7 ohm loads. This just starts to show fizzie artifacts at the very bottom of the sine-wave and is definitely showing the current limit at a pretty amazing ~ 150mA peak.

    So all thumbs and toes up to Samsung for fixing this problem! Would be great to know what was actually done to fix the crackle but I suspect we'll never know.
    3
    So if it works with the adapter, in what way will it affect the sound of my earphones?
    And I've only seen a 50ohm one as the lowest on ebay... Where can I get a 15-22ohm?

    I'm no expert on this, but here is my take:
    - my SGH-I337 (similar to i9505) has an internal "output impedance" of ~ 2.5 ohm (measured)
    - high-quality headphones, particularly balanced armatures ones, from what I've seen have quite a variable impedance as a function of frequency which shapes the sound by the headphone designer
    - the best scenario is that the output impedance driving these headphones is very LOW so that the internal audio sound of the S4 is exactly what the headphones are getting. This will happen if the output impedance is very low (typically < 1/10) compared to the minimum headphone impedance

    - if you ADD series resistance using a resistive adapter, you modify the frequency-dependent output signal (an unintended EQ effect) across these types of headphones and therefore color the sound. This is not so much a problem with dynamic headphones where the impedance vs frequency tends to be much flatter so added series resistance just drops the level at all frequencies uniformly without significant tonal coloration

    This is why it is always better to add an external headphone amp ... they "buffer" (don't load down) the phone's headphone output, and they are designed to typically have an output impedance of < 1 ohm (and the lower the better). Designing this type of amp, with very low output impedance capable of driving headphone (say ~ 8 ohm) with very low distortion is difficult and requires very good audio design experience.

    Since the S4 output inpedance is ~ 2.5 ohm, that is a VERY good match for stock earbuds at ~ 35 ohm or an extremely good match for my Senn HD598 (at nominal 50 ohm). For headphone impedances that vary with frequency and with Z(nominal) < 20 ohm, there will be tone shaping, and even more with the added series resistance of an impedance adapter.

    If you get a resistive adapter, the amount of tone coloration you get will depend on what your headphone impedance looks like vs frequency. You should therefore pick the MINIMUM possible resistance value that eliminates the buzz. However the subtle "tone coloration" of a resistive adapter will probably be completely acceptable to most listeners compared to that garbage oscillation problem.

    ---------- Post added at 09:50 AM ---------- Previous post was at 09:34 AM ----------

    Just a reminder: here is the link to several S4 articles I've written, include one on the audio problem:
    Samsung Galaxy S4
    I will be adding an article shortly on the different audio test .wav files I've mentioned here.
    Since most of the articles are reasonably complementary to Samsung's S4 features, I can't imagine that Samsung would consider me to be a proverbial sh!t disturber :D
    3
    Coming soon: FiiO E17 vs S4 vs QuadBuffer headphone audio

    I just received a FiiO E17 DAC/headphone amp. I'm going to do some RMAA and audio clipping measurements on the FiiO headphone output using the digital SPDIF input (for say 16 ohm loads) and see how it compares with the direct headphone out of the S4 and with the S4 into the E17 analog-input and then into 16 ohm. Oh yes, I'll also include the QuadBuffer amp (which is just a high-performance amp, not a DAC) I designed. Stay tuned!

    First Impressions:
    I tested the E17 for an output level of ~ 0.9Vpeak, so comparable level to max. output of the S4 phone.
    After testing the analog chain using the Line-In (bottom), and the DAC/analog chain using the Optical SPDIF in and USB playback, I find that:
    - the best audio performance is obtained using the Line-In
    - next best is the SPDIF input (which as expected has the lowest crosstalk)
    - surprisingly the USB playback has the poorer audio performance. The THD is still low but the other type of distortion (IMD) is a lot higher.

    Line-In testing results were almost identical with open headphone-out load and with 15 ohm loads (the E17 is only supported down to 16 ohm headphones). With open load (actually into 3 kohm), the performance is extremely good and so this functions perfectly well as a standard "line out" .... no need to use the doc line-out adapter really.

    More results to come in combination with the S4

    Chart below shows RMAA audio performance results (from Left to Right) with:

    S4 connected directly to 22 ohm headphone loads
    S4 connected to Line-In of FiiO E17 with E17 output loaded with 22 ohm loads
    S4 connected to Line-In of QuadBuffer Amp with QuadBuff loaded with 22 ohm loads

    Results are for a signal level roughly equal to the maximum possible output level of the S4 (~ 0.8Vpeak).
    The big improvement in THD (total harmonic distortion) is evident with a separate headphone amp. The QuadBuffer is marginally better than the E17 in distortion and noise but much better in crosstalk. However the E17 can deliver up to ~ 3.3Vpeak output level and can therefore drive higher headphone impedances well (up to ~ 300 ohm according to specs):
    S4_FiiO_QuadBuff.jpg