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Sound on smartphones and other small portable devices

It’s just incredibly complex to squeeze excellent sound performance into a small design with limited power.

Does your smartphone sound awful, or is it incredible how such a small device can produce such loud and relatively rich sound experience?

One thing we know for sure is that most smartphones don’t sound bad because they were poorly made. It’s just incredibly complex to squeeze excellent sound performance into a small design with limited power.

So does this mean that we should take the awful sounding playback of our content through a smartphone for granted?  The answer is no, not quite yet.

Because specifically remixing and mastering your audible content geared towards the output of smartphones and other portable devices can make a significant difference.

Here are two tips on how to make your content sound better on smartphones and other small portable devices.

  1. Ensure mono compatibility

    Most smartphones have a mono playback system, while most content productions are mixed in stereo. To make sure your stereo audio content sounds good on a mono playback system it’s important to understand the concept of “phase”. Phase plays a significant role in mono compatibility. Elements that are out of phase with one another will drop in level or cancel each other out when a stereo mix is summed into mono. This means potentially awful mix problems on mono playback systems.

    It’s one of the main reasons why many producers and sound designers start their production in mono and regularly check their work on a mono playback system.

  2. Bear in mind that you’ll be competing with outside noise.

    In general, it’s tough to hear the sound of a smartphone when there is outside noise around. It’s because weak speakers can’t overpower outside noise. Every mix will just fall flat. Especially the ones that don’t include much mid-range frequencies.

    Humans are most sensitive to frequencies between 2,000 and 5,000 Hz, which is why low-end and high-end frequencies are affected first when we’re trying to listen to something while there is a lot of outside noise.

    Besides that, smartphones and mediocre quality earphones suck at producing low-end frequencies.

    So keep in mind to optimize your mix for these circumstances to provide a better experience for your listeners in specific contexts. 

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