LG V30 Hi-Res smartphone with MQA

"Phones are the gateway device," proclaimed Marc Finer, executive producer of the Hi-Res Pavilion, at the start of the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show. When he pointed to LG Electronics' V30 Hi-Res+MQA smartphone, which includes streaming apps for Qobuz, Tidal, and YouTube, I sensed the truth in his words. The latest stats from survey company MusicWatch confirm that at least 87% of smartphone owners use a music-streaming service, including the largest, YouTube. Twenty percent of owners said that they stream music/music-related content daily, and 39% stream five or more days per week. In fact, 92% of 18–34-year-olds stream music at least one day a week (compared to 52% of those 55 or older), and 96% of 18–34-year-olds listen to music every day, in one form or another (including physical media).

If the LG V30 ($799) can deliver audiophile-grade sound, I thought, it has the potential to bring awareness of high-end audio to entire generations of smartphone users. The LG V30 could be the answer to the oft-asked question: "How is the High End ever going to reach all those people who are listening to lossy MP3s on their phones for hours on end?"

I had to review an LG V30.

Audiophile Bonanza
LG offers two models of the phone: the V30 ($799), which has 64GB internal memory, and the V30+ ($929.99), which has 128GB. Both offer expandable storage to 2TB via an optional microSD card, and both sport the same 32-bit "Advanced Hi-Fi Quad DAC," whose ESS Technology Sabre ES9228 chip can process PCM files, with or without MQA, up to 24-bit/192kHz, and DSD up to 256. According to MQA Ltd.'s Bob Stuart—his company partnered with LG in implementing and tuning the V30's MQA decoder—the only other phone he knew of, as of mid-February 2018, that included a comparable high-performance DAC was Onkyo's Granbeat, which is available only in Japan.

518lg.300.jpgIn an e-mail, Stuart added: "The LG V30's [Qualcomm Snapdragon system processor] is a powerful processor which has a DSP core. Most phones would do things like decoding MQA in an App. In the App you would be using high-level processing (meaning closer to the customer), but the code is less efficient. By pushing the high-performance audio down into the DSP part of the Snapdragon, we get higher performance with much lower power consumption, and a clean signal path to the DAC and no vagaries, because the decoder is there all the time and the stream need not be interrupted by other applications."

The V30 also supports Bluetooth wireless aptX HD, and has a 6" display and camera and video features galore. As I used the phone solely for audio, I couldn't assess how long the battery will last in normal use. However, using the V30's battery-saver settings, an engineer at MQA reports that he "plays MQA all day and normally charges the phone every two days."

Up and At 'Em
My plan was to load up the LG V30 with a treasure trove of well over 100 high-resolution files of the same recordings in both PCM and MQA—generously supplied by Bob Stuart, John Atkinson, Wilson Audio's Peter McGrath, and David Chesky—and compare them. I'd also listen to Tidal HiFi Master Audio streams through Audeze LCD-X headphones equipped with Nordost Heimdall 2 cables, or, in noisy environments, Thinksound On2 closed-back 'phones. Then, using a stereo 3.5mm-to-RCA adapter from RadioShack, I'd also listen to the V30 through my reference system (Lamm Industries L2.1 linestage, Pass Laboratories XA200.8 monoblocks, and Wilson Audio Alexia 2 loudspeakers with Nordost Odin 2 cables).

To load the V30 with audio files, I installed the Android File Transfer app on my Mac laptop and copied the files to the LG phone. After that, it seemed simple: open the V30's Music app, scroll through my carefully sorted files, hit Play, adjust volume.

Simple? Almost. Because I'd contented myself with a quick tutorial from an LG specialist named Tyler Worth, who manages the local Verizon store, I hadn't navigated the multiple layers of the V30's Help app to discover that, if you go to Settings>Sound>Hi-Fi Quad DAC>Sound presets, you will find there five predetermined response curves: Enhanced, Detailed, Live, Bass, and Normal (flat). Happily, my sample was set to Normal. There are also three digital filters for non-MQA PCM: Short, Sharp, and Slow. The default setting, Short, is described as producing "a more spatial and ambient sound." What I heard was a lovely if soft top and a warmer, fatter-than-normal midrange. This setting may be safest for those who listen through earbuds while crossing the street preoccupied, but it's not the ideal filter to use to compare with the sound of the phone's single MQA filter. The menu describes Sharp as "a more natural sound" and Slow as "a clearer sound." I found Sharp extremely neutral, notably quiet, and gratifyingly colorful, so that's what I used for most of my comparisons of MQA with non-MQA files. That said, differences between PCM and MQA (see later) were consistently audible, regardless of choice of non-MQA filter.

518lg.screen1.jpg

After I'd set the filter, I opened the Music folder and scrolled to the desired track. To the right of each track listed appears one of three provenance indicators: HiFi (PCM), MQA, or DSD. Tap a track and it begins to play. The bit depth and sample rate appear next to the provenance icon; tap the Play bar at the bottom of the screen to display album-cover art (if available). If the V30 goes to sleep, a tap of the Power button followed by a screen swipe wakes it up.

Listening
I began by comparing versions of "Get Lucky!," from Daft Punk's Random Access Memories (24/88.2 FLAC & 24.44.1 MQA.FLAC, Columbia 88883716861). I thought it sounded extremely smooth, musical, and enjoyable through the Audeze LCD-Xes, the bass fairly fast if a teeny bit lazy. Without MQA, the hand claps weren't as vivid, and the overall experience was less lively and involving.

Dave Wilson's classic recording of violinist David Abel and pianist Julie Steinberg playing Beethoven's Violin Sonata in G, Op.96 (24/176.4 FLAC & 24/44.1 MQA.FLAC, Wilson Audiophile W-8315), confirmed that MQA delivered more believable dimensionality, air, and overtones. With Amber Rubarth singing "Storms Are on the Ocean," from Dr. Chesky's Sensational, Fantastic, and Simply Amazing Binaural Sound Show (24/48 FLAC & 24/48 MQA.FLAC, Chesky), MQA better conveyed the breathy edge of Rubarth's voice, and delivered greater color saturation. MQA simply sounded more musical.

After taking the ferry to Seattle, to review for ClassicalVoiceAmerica.org what turned out to be an extraordinary concert by violinist Vilde Frang with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and guest conductor Cristian Macelaru—and, during my travels, enjoying via the LG V30 the sounds of everything from Mozart to the Brooklyn Funk Band—I had tea with SSO publicist Shiva Shafii. Although she pursued majors in musical performance (violin), music administration, and PR and marketing, Shafii is not well versed in audiophile jargon. Nonetheless, when I played for her Eiji Oue and the Minnesota Orchestra's recording of Debussy's orchestration of Satie's Gymnopédie 1, from HRx Sampler 2011 (24/176.4 FLAC & 24/44.1 MQA.FLAC, Reference HR-2011), and Gregory D'Agostino's performance on pipe organ of the excerpt from J.S. Bach's Toccata and Fugue in d on the Dr. Chesky compilation (24/192 FLAC & 24/48 MQA.FLAC), she declared, "The MQA has more color, more depth, and is more multidimensional. The other versions just don't resonate with me the same way. I was visualizing vibrations on a string, and without MQA, they're funneled into one dimension."

Although I've never been one for wearing headphones while working out, I brought the LG V30 along to the Port Townsend Athletic Club and tried to use the close-backed Thinksound On2s to compare MQA and non-MQA versions of Peter McGrath's live recording of pianist Martha Argerich performing J.S. Bach's Partita 2 (24/44.1FLAC & 24/44.1 MQA.FLAC, unreleased). Within 30 seconds, someone jumped on the noisy treadmill to my right and I threw in the towel. No wonder so many people are experiencing hearing loss—to hear this recording over that din, I'd have had to turn the volume way up. But listening at home, through the Audezes, I discovered that Argerich's notes sounded rounder and more lifelike with MQA, and were less fatiguing.

"I love this phone," I wrote while scribbling down how MQA let me hear more of the distinctive texture of pianist Kyoko Tabe's touch in her heartfelt rendition of the Adagio of Beethoven's Piano Concerto 5, "Emperor," with Martin Sieghart conducting the Bruckner Orchestra Linz (24/192 & 24/48 MQA.FLAC, from a Denon DVD-A released in 2000). The MQA version touched me more deeply—the sound was clearer and more direct, the spatial envelope surrounding the piano more lifelike, and colors were far more naturally saturated and satisfying.

COMPANY INFO
LG Electronics
US distributor: LG Electronics MobileComm U.S.A., Inc.
1000 Sylvan Avenue
Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632
(201) 816-2000
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
dalethorn's picture

I had a couple of weeks with the AR M2 last year, and I thought it was a reference-quality sound. I didn't have the DF Red then so as to compare with the iPhone7 plus DF Red, but if the V30 is as good as the M2, then we're getting close to the point of needing only one player for home and away.

dalethorn's picture

BTW, the comment related to Mr. Forbes and playing through the desktop system:

"I thought the separation of instruments was better with MQA, although the horns sounded a little thin."

Not being picky, but it would be good if someone could run that down in case there's an identifiable cause, especially in the phone's digital processing.

Charles E Flynn's picture

Approximate number of dealers: "huge,"...

Indydan's picture

This review was posted 23 days too late...

tonykaz's picture

...is the V30 a more important Component than those B&W loudspeakers on the Front Cover ?

When could we ever get a Wilson compatible "front end" for $750 ?

so

I'm assuming the V30 "IS" an A+ Recommended Audio Product. ( is "I love this phone" trying to say "You Gotta Buy this thing!")

I'm wondering if you ran out of word budget. Why not a report on it's Battery Life ? and of course on it's screen and user interface utility.

You left me wishing for more content. Those new Owners gotta double or triple your stuff. for god's Sake !!!

Tony in Michigan

ps. is the new girl holding "our" future in her hands? it seems like it.

DH's picture

Why not? Because it isn't coincidence that they don't review other high end phones. The point of the review is to promote MQA.

dce22's picture

Comparing uncompressed 24bit192khz to compressed MQA 24bit48khz of the same material
and declare that the lossy version is better?

Jason is damaging his reputation by pushing this useless file format.

spacehound's picture

The 24/192 is in effect the 'master' as it is probably what was used in the studio.

To report that the lossy, compressed, and even when 'unfolded' only 17/96, and distorted (proven 'imaging' distortion caused by higher frequency 'aliasing') MQA file is superior is laughable.

And as DH above says, the supposedly 'high quality' Stereophile doesn't usually report on mere mobile phones, so it's only purpose must be to further promote MQA.

And it's not working. The only magazines still spending much time on MQA are TAS and Stereophile.

DH's picture

"or the iPhone, which lacks a headphone output, I used a little double-branched Lightning-to-stereo-3.5mm female adapter. "

And then you compared the $0.10 DAC in the Lightning cable to the fully optimized internal HW in the V30.

Laughable if you don't point this out in your review. It's an apples and oranges comparison.

Or is this just another way for you to slyly promote MQA without truly informing the public what you are doing?

Real objectivity and transparency? I guess not.

John Atkinson's picture
DH wrote:
And then you compared the $0.10 DAC in the Lightning cable to the fully optimized internal HW in the V30.

Laughable if you don't point this out in your review. It's an apples and oranges comparison.

We felt it a fair comparison as price for price, the iPhone with its Lightning adapter DAC and the LG phone with its internal high-quality DAC are relatively evenly matched.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

DH's picture

All those predictions of "by press time" turned out to be wrong.
Can you give an update?

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

That much seems to have come to pass. I did not psychically predict the rest; I based my statements on what I was told by key players at Roon and HDTracks.

I've since learned that David Chesky has some interesting things up his sleeve that are delaying launch. It does feel like I could have my baby before the service debuts. But that's just how it feels.

Delays happen.

DH's picture

Thanks for the response. I'll ask over at Roon what's happening.

rustybutt's picture

The millennials, of whom 92% listen to music on their phone daily, are also the same demographic that has more than 65% of whom don't know about the Holocaust or Auschwitz. But then, why should they? They don't have to know anything. They can just look it up on google.

https://www.denverpost.com/2018/04/12/holocaust-study-millennials-aushwitz/

dalethorn's picture

I have Navajo relatives. Their great-grandparents were in concentration camps here in America, and many died. We don't have to go overseas to find warnings about what can happen here. It happened.

mmole's picture

...the article you cite ends on a more hopeful note:

"Despite the lack of historical knowledge, the survey found a desire for Holocaust education – 93 percent said in response to a question toward the end of the survey that all students should learn about the Holocaust in school. Perhaps because respondents feel that lack of knowledge is a real threat to the future: 58 percent said they believe something like the Holocaust could happen again."

Relayer's picture

I've been been playing 24/96 for a few years now on HTC 1s and 10s. Sounds great on phones and in the car system. I've wondered at times at how they've been ignored by the audiophile press. Strangely, I haven't hooked them up to one of my home systems. Maybe later...

Someone needs to praise MQA just one more time, lol.

spacehound's picture

By a group headed by Paul Miller, long-time editor of the very highly regarded 'Hi-fi News and Record Review' and also designer/manufacturer of extremely high quality audio test equipment, one wonders if it will mark an end to all Stereophile's MQA nonsense, which is now stooping to the low level of 'reviewing' mobile phones, their budget DACs and cheap IC amplifiers included. It's certainly not in line with Paul Miller's usual position.

dalethorn's picture

I can't vouch for internal DACs on any cell phones at this time, but the concept of a pocket size device with huge memory and thousands of high-res music tracks acting as a source for a full-size home system, as well as being able to be disconnected and carried with you in a pocket to be used alone or with a small DAC like the DragonFly - that's a concept that was fully realized in computing as far back as 1984. Back then it was a "really advanced idea for geeks" etc., but today audio is beginning to catch up with that idea.

spacehound's picture

Last year I purchased an iPod touch, both to use as a 'remote' for JRiver to avoid having to use the PC screen/mouse and to use in my car.
The car came with only a 3.5mm analog input which I found was too insensitive for the weak iPod output to drive properly. So I bought a Chord Mojo and at the same time downloaded the ten dollar Onkyo HF Player app to bypass the limitation of iTunes. This means the iPod is just acting as a fairly large 'disk drive'.
It was so good that I am more and more using it as the source in my home system, thus bypassing the PC completely other than occasionally loading the iPod via the Onkyo HF Player app with more music hi-res files I have purchased since last loading it.
It's all so convenient.

As for MQA it has many known and easily demonstrable failings and its claimed 'Authentication' is simply not happening in the real world.
But I have NOT found it to be audibly inferior to standard 16/44.1 though it falls behind at higher resolutions. Does this matter? Probably not.

So:
The original idea, and claims, of MQA were ONLY to equal regular 16/44.1 for streaming, but using a lesser data bandwidth as that bandwidth is expensive for mobile use.
And no more than that.
With this LG phone that has been achieved.

MQA's problem is that Stuart has not been content with that and has gradually expanded his claims such they have been proven nonsensical. Thus it is not only finding resistance from 'geeks', but even Tidal and the record labels are holding back, despite their initial enthusiasm.
If Stuart had not been so over-ambitious, causing him to make more and more easily disproven wild claims, I feel his original '16/44.1 MOBILE STREAMING replacement' would be a lot further along than it is. (I emphasise the mobile streaming as bandwidth simply doesn't matter in stationary installations.)

dalethorn's picture

Since you mention it, mobile streaming will undoubtedly become at least a limited reality. Cellular charges are a problem, since the telcos will throttle users with no notice if they have unlimited usage accounts, and they actually try to run with the data pipe wide open all day.

I envisioned my pocket computer of the 1980's brought up to date 30 years later as a programmable data device, whereas the cellphone of today is far beyond that with social media, music, videos, games, research, medicine, and so on. In spite of all of the capabilities of the cellphone, even with virtually unlimited data exchange across cell networks, it's still a "flat" environment until VR gets a lot better.

But VR using goggles and the like is a very weak simulation - the future is holographic projection that ties in all 5 senses. The really sad thing is these technologies could move way ahead very quickly if more people would understand what's possible and believe in that kind of progress, but our main roadblock is that our societies are run by people who aren't willing to believe.

John Atkinson's picture
spacehound wrote:
With the British takeover of Stereophile's owners by a group headed by Paul Miller, long-time editor of the very highly regarded 'Hi-fi News and Record Review' and also designer/manufacturer of extremely high quality audio test equipment, one wonders if it will mark an end to all Stereophile's MQA nonsense?

Ignoring your use of the word "nonsense" for what we feel is considered, balanced, and thorough coverage of the subject, why should Stereophile's change in ownership affect we what do?

spacehound wrote:
... which is now stooping to the low level of 'reviewing' mobile phones, their budget DACs and cheap IC amplifiers included.

As the footnote in the review says, the measurements to go with this review will be published in the July issue. (Logistical issues prevented them from appearing in the same issue as the review.) But when you see them you will understand why your characterization is incorrect. This smartphone is indeed a high-end audio performer.

spacehound wrote:
It's certainly not in line with Paul Miller's usual position.

But it is in line with my own position, as editor of Stereophile.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

spacehound's picture

There is no way Jason, who is without doubt a man of sophistication and culture (and I mean that, one only has to look at his background and his music reviews here to see it, whether one agrees with his music reviews or not) would review a mere mobile phone were it not for it supporting MQA.

Further, Jason absorbs verbatim, totally without comment, Stuart's e-mail remarks about "they could have used the method of performing the 'user end' MQA functions in an app" which is a total 'about face' on Stuart's previous and long-held position of making that near-impossible. (Except for the Rossini, which is a hugely powerful, expensive, and sophisticated box designed and built almost next door to MQA's headquarters, allowing easy interchange of ideas and 'instant' trials.)

And if you look through the comments on this thread you will find that I am far from alone in my view.
We were not born yesterday, we all know that magazines such as this are totally dependent on advertising revenue for their very survival, and we are also aware that you and your writers know that too. And even though the MQA company may not advertise direct, many of those manufacturers who have installed its functions do. So Stereophile can't now back out without offending them or losing vast amounts of 'face'.

Paul Miller may not care about that, Stereophile won't be his 'flagship' magazine anyway, HFN&RR is that. So with luck we may see a return to Stereophile's previous credibility, lost by its ever-uncritical support of MQA.
'Owners' usually allow editorial freedom, but only up to a certain point. And possibly unlike the previous owners or their immediate representatives, Miller has the knowledge to know "what's what" in high-end audio.
He's not scared of tearing 'fake icons' off their pedestals with his very own measurements either, a process which Stereophile has studiously avoided or unsuccessfully attempted to belittle (by way of assorted red herrings) regarding certain aspects of MQA.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

I always find it fascinating to discover that people who do not know me, and who, to the best of my knowledge, do not have access to the inner workings of my cluttered brain, know my true motivation.

The reason I asked to the do the review - the impetus for the review came from me, with John giving the assent - is exactly as I state it in the opening paragraphs. The phone is a bona fide hi-resolution playback device with astoundingly good sound quality. I consider it a breakthrough product.

If MQA makes you see red, ignore MQA. Unless the fact that it includes MQA makes it, by default, an enemy product, with anyone who uses it automatically labeled a turncoat or enemy sympathizer, anyone can listen to hi-rez files on it - PCM and DSD - and ignore MQA.

NeilS's picture

Whether or not MQA makes anyone see red, it's pretty hard to ignore when the word appears dozens of times in the review.

spacehound's picture

I did call you a man of sophistication and culture. And I meant it. The audio equipment you generally use shows you have a clue too :-)

You will also see I said that with this phone, with its MQA capability, Bob Stuart's original claim, which was ONLY to bring 16/44.1 quality to mobile streaming, AND NO MORE THAN THAT, has been achieved.

Until Stuart started to expand and exaggerate his claims (as below) I was fine with what MQA 'promised' though it didn't exist as a product at the time.

The problem for me and many others is that Stuart has later exaggerated and expanded his claims into areas of total fantasy.
And his claims have been proven to be a fantasy by many people, most NOT anonymous, and some using measurements, some using mathematics, and some using both.
What is more these measurements/mathematics are easily repeatable by anyone with a reasonable degree of competence in the fields.

Stereophile seems to have deliberately avoided doing that in ANY of its MQA tests, though I am certainly not blaming you for that omission.

As for your preferring the sound, fine.
But at most MQA is only 17/96, their claims for greater resolution have been proven false, over and over, in the above tests and in a simple analysis of their filters. It's all just oversampling, which adds no information, just 'bulks the data out', unlike true 24/192 for example.
It has also been proven to add audible 'imaging distortion' with some musical instruments/combinations of instruments. The way it works it can't help but do so.

THAT is what you are hearing. If you enjoy those distortions, fine. But why should the rest of 'the world' be expected to enjoy them? MQA is NOT technically or audibly superior to DSD, 24/192, etc. That is an impossibility.

hellrider77's picture

It was a great source of information over the last years and I cannot be thankful enough. I am really sorry to see Stereophile reaching this low.
I hope it was worth for you guys trashing so many years of hard and excellent work against sundry incomes generated by backing MQA.

tonykaz's picture

I've been involved with Audio for more than 5 Decades. ( since the last days of 78's )

Stereophile's Journalistic quality level is the highest the Industry ever enjoyed... and it's getting better!

We have every Audio Format still enjoying a throng of loyal followers, along with new folks discovering Audio as it arrives to them thru the Magical Electronic devices they choose to own.

There's room for all of us.

No need for Acid Spitting commentaries. Is there?

Tony in Michigan

ps. I'm biased (a bit) : I've loved and Imported Meridian Products.

spacehound's picture

US magazines, on any subject whatsoever, are far too manufacturer orientated.
That is part of US culture - "Give 'em reality TV, McDonald's burgers, Britney Spears, and Corvettes and they will stay just about satisfied enough not to be too much of a nuisance".

tonykaz's picture

Rolex for example is investment grade, Naim is investment grade.

We consumers love the "Quality short-cut" that Brand Names allow.

Of course, we could DIY Audio gear, Nelson Pass will be helpful, Blueglow and Mr.Carson on YouTube will help aplenty.

As a Transportation Industry Retired Specialist, I realize that people achieve good useful decisions when buying Toyota and maybe not so good when buying one of the flashy Italian Brands like Lancia. ( I'm an Alfa Romeo lover but not owner ).

Consumers are Manufacturer Loyalists and Brand Loyalists: "Old Spice means Quality, said the Captain to the Bosun: Look for the Bottle with the Ship that Sails the Ocean" !

Branding means established quality !

My Sennheisers have the finest transducers the world has ever Heard. I'm a Sennheiser Loyalist.

Tony in Michigan

ps. and now I'm thinking about owning a Narrowboat and spending the Summer Months Cruising the 4,700 Miles of England's Canal System ( I just learned that Shakespeare is a Person and not just a fishing thingy )

Gumbo2000's picture

if this is considered a new high for Stereophile then some people have pretty low standards.

tonykaz's picture

Ok then,

present your example of better Audio Journalism.

Tony in Michigan

spacehound's picture

Master
Quality
Authenticated

Whether you think being lossy matters or not, and Stereophile, (merely parroting Bob Stuart) tries to convince us it doesn't....

The fact remains that MQA IS lossy. The studio file wasn't.

Thus MQA isn't a reproduction of the master. It's something else - an 'abbreviated' version.
Thus is not of master quality.
So it isn't "authentic".

tonykaz's picture

Is it all that important?

Is Schiit actually Shit? , maybe some of their stuff is shitty but some is outstanding.

Are Audiophiles seeking perfection or are they simply Gear Collectors? or Record Collectors that will probably never actually listen to their vast range of Purchases ?

MQA is a Compression Method for smart phones.

Authentic only exists in a Live Acoustic Music performances.

Arguments about things like Wire, Tubes, Class D, MQA, Moving Coil Phono carts, etc.... are starting to sound like Trump talking to Fox News ( BAR stool talk after a few ).

Everything we accomplish is the result of compromise.

Tony in Michigan

spacehound's picture

But it is such that the MQA company could probably be prevented from promoting or selling it under the UK's (MQA's home country) 'Trades Descriptions Act', or whatever it's called this week :-)

But the relevant authority is not allowed act on it's own initiative except for things such as 'watered down whisky' for example, which clearly fall under 'Weights and Measures'. It has to be 'prompted' by a member of the general public, preferably more than one.

But there is now sufficient proof that MQA is not what its manufacturer implies in its name and also doesn't actually do what they say it does.
But the process is deliberately tedious and long-winded to discourage spurious cases. And, reasonably enough, the evidence/proof provided by the public will be independently tested.
I certainly can't be bothered with all this and I doubt many others will be either.

It will probably fail on its own account soon enough, it doesn't seem to be gaining much traction. Not even the record labels, who almost certainly have not paid high fees in advance (MQA is the 'supplicant', not the record labels) seem only to be half-heartedly 'testing the waters'.

Also LG, the maker of this phone, is just a low-level 'also ran' in the mobile phone market. And Jason didn't bother to report the 'merits' or otherwise of this phone outside the audio area, which, unless very bad, is not an important area for most people. Which, as others have also commented, is a strong indication that he would not have reported on it at all but for the presence of MQA

tonykaz's picture

How does LG's $20 Billion in Phone Sales compare with anyone else in Audio?

It's about the same $ amount as the Car Industry Sales of Audio Gear.

The two things a person must have : Car & Phone !

Both are "the" Giants in Consumer Audio.

On this Scale, Naim & Focal aren't even "also rans"!, neither one is barely large enough to be a 3rd tier OEM to either of these Industries.

Tony in Michigan

ps. wanna tell us who the OLED supplier for iPhone X is ?

John Atkinson's picture
spacehound wrote:
Jason didn't bother to report the 'merits' or otherwise of this phone outside the audio area, which, unless very bad, is not an important area for most people.

Our review sample didn't have a SIM card installed and I didn't feel it necessary to get one. We felt that reporting on the V30's performance as a phone/camera,Web surfer, etc wasn't relevant for a review in an audio magazine.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

spacehound's picture

I eagerly await Stereophile's review of the audio performance of my 30 dollar Nokia. Or the iPod Touch/Onkyo HF Player app combination (which doesn't even have a slot for a SIM card but does support hi-res and DSD) I mentioned recently. Or an iPhone/Onkyo HF Player app combination if you consider a phone and mobile streaming essential.

But of course none of these support MQA.

Jason could have reviewed the audio of any of 20 or more 'high quality' phones. But no, he chooses this one, thus being able to provide yet another report on how 'wonderful' MQA is.

You really do think we were born yesterday, don't you?

rt66indierock's picture

“What blew me away was the sound of the LG V30 through my reference system.” Sounds like over promise and under deliver to me but then I had a V30 for a week last September. I found the V30 to be a good solution when plugged into my office system but nothing outstanding. Definitely good enough to discourage purchase of a digital audio player though.

It is a great quote though and I plan to use it if MQA somehow gets to the “stop line” out in the distance.

spacehound's picture

The only recent items I have found to be 'outstanding' in the digital arena have been the dCS Rossini, which is both a network player and (unusually) a 'computer friendly' USB DAC (most network players only have a 'memory stick' type USB input) and the Chord Mojo.

Leaving MQA aside, both sound terrific when driven by an iPod touch via the Apple camera cable and the Onkyo HF Player app, when the iPod becomes merely a 'disk' drive.

So yes, mobile phones or 'pods' do have a place in a home system. But not 'especially' this LG phone.

Bisbee68's picture

At first I was excited that someone was finally reviewing the LG V30 from an audiophile point of view (even though the phone has been available since early Oct 2017). I've had the phone since it came out and also had the V10 prior. I consider myself an audiophile novice so I was really looking to this review. Even though Jason had very good things to say I couldn't help but feel this was more of a promotion for MQA than a V30 review. Don't get me wrong, over all I did enjoy reading the review despite it's lackings.
Anyone wanting to know of the phones capabilities in other areas other than it's audio features I can confidently say it is an excellent phone!

Ktracho's picture

Do any other LG phones, such as the V30s or G7 ThinQ, decode MQA streams, or do you have to get the older model if you want a phone with this feature?

SReedLepley's picture

How many unfoldings are possible through the Tidal app and through the Music app? While playing an MQA track, Tidal displays "Master". Does one unfolding happen through the V30 processor and a second through the DAC? Same question when using the Music app. Thanks.

Grateful4Music's picture

I must be the anomaly in this group and say that I enjoy MQA files. I just picked up the new LG G7 phone with the Hi-Fi Quad DAC. (Same as the V30) Compared to my iPhone X, this little device sounds awesome. Did Jason say that Tidal with MQA streaming is available? Can someone confirm? Tidal's site doesn't give me much info. Thanks!

DigiFiddler's picture

Unlike certain people on this comment thread, I have the LG V30 (bought it first of June) and have actually listened to both non-MQA and MQA files through it. Those that haven't can spout all the theories and conspiracies they want, and hand-wave as much as they want. It means nothing.

First, as far as audio is concerned, this phone is fantastic! I purchased LG V30 solely because I needed a new phone and discovered via this site, that it had a high quality DAC in it. This to me was a notable event. For so long I've desired a portable high-quality music device, and being a phone too, I could now justify it to it my wife. I think LG should be applauded for sticking their necks out and bucking the iPhone and Samsung trends and actually putting in high quality audio. For that reason alone, I hope they can carve out a successful niche in the market place. As far as MQA is concerned, I didn't know anything about MQA until I started researching this phone. I don't have any biases for or against it.

When listening to music, I don't care so much about the specs, only how the music sounds. And hearing both CD quality and higher resolution files through this phone is quite pleasant. I have done some listening tests to compare CD vs 96/24, 192/24, etc., and have come to no firm conclusions other than to say anything above CD quality (44.1/16) is usually better than CD, although on numerous tracks it can be quite subtle if there at all. I can't really hear the difference between 96/24 and 192/24 or higher. I have only modest headphones ($75 range) and modest earphones ($100 range). I've listened to the phone only through these methods, not through an external amp and speakers, etc. But I can certainly hear the "smoother" sounds of 96/24 and higher vs CD.

As far as MQA is concerned, it has its own distinct sound, but it took me an afternoon or two of listening to a wide range of sources and genres to finally hear that sound. It just sort of popped into being some point along the way. My ears started to become attuned to it. I can only describe the sound as "clean." On certain albums I liked the sound better than 96/124 or 192/24, on some albums, I didn't. On other albums, I couldn't really tell.

For those where the difference was apparent, the non-MQA hi res files often came across as "sweeter" or "more enjoyable", probably because of the nature of MQA to try to dampen down the ringing in the impulse response of the digital filters. While it's nice to get rid of the pre-ringing, the post-ringing can add a bit of a luscious feel to the music that can be pleasant to listen to. I respond to it more. It's quite noticeable when switching between MQA and non-MQA hi-res (above CD) sources. In my listening tests, I took great care to find samples that are supposedly from the same mixes for MQA vs non-MQA. That's hard to do, and I was never really quite sure they came from the same source. On one album I like to listen to, The Days of Future Passed by the Moody Blues, there are so many mixes out in the wild it's hard to sort them out. And then to try and find an MQA version of the right mix. Whew!

For those albums that I couldn't hear the difference between MQA and non-MQA, that can mean one of three things: (1) Since the MQA files were significantly smaller, that's a win right there. (2) Or perhaps my modest head/ear phones prevents me from hearing the difference, or (3) there is no difference anyway. Whose to say which of these is correct.

After I started hearing the "MQA sound" I got curious about its filtering. Since that is proprietary, few know the details of it. One thing that helped me was the fact that with the LG V30 you can select from three different digital filters having different impulse responses -- from one with little pre-ringing but lots of post ringing to one with moderate amounts of pre and post ring, to one with minimal amounts of pre and post ringing. You can change the filters on the fly when listening to a track, though there is a one second gap or so where the sound goes silent while the switch is being made. Having this feature is very useful, for you can hear for yourself just how different the various impulse characteristics sound. Note that this only works when you are not in MQA mode. In MQA mode, the MQA processing takes over and it uses its own set of filters regardless of what you've selected. I can say definitively that MQA filtering sounds more like the built-in filter than has minimal amounts of pre and post ringing, though to my ears, the MQA sounds better than said built-in filter on many tracks. It seems "fuller."

Some have commented that Stereophile has an "MQA agenda" and that's why they reviewed the LG V30 phone. Well, I can't speak for the magazine, but it's easy to dismiss that argument. The LG V30 was one the first (maybe the first? I don't know the history) to have a high-quality DAC so it very much is appropriate for Stereophile to be reviewing it. The fact that it has MQA is a side-show: It has the feature, so why not review that too? Why not see if it really makes a difference?

The samples I listened to ranged from classic 70s rock (Doobie Bros, Allman Bros, The Eagles, Steve Miller, Moody Blues, etc), to acoustic folk/bluegrass, to acoustic jazz, to acoustic Steinway piano music, to classical (though little of that, really). It is my belief that acoustic sources best bring out the issues of audio recordings. I used my own downloaded sources, as well as through Tidal's new MQA streaming, which by the way, now works on the LG V30 through it's own app. I have to say, though, that this app often stutters during the first portions of tracks when you've switched to a new one. Even with this glitch, being able to hear such high quality on a phone I'm likely to have with me at all times anyways is really quite a treat. I use a 128 GB SD card in the phone that lets me take my favorite CD and hi-res tracks with me wherever I go, regardless if I have a mobile or wifi connection or not.

Thomasj1949's picture

JVS: Do you beleive that it ouwl have enough oomph to pwoer a set of MrSpeaker Aeon Flow closed headphones?

jagwap's picture

It is a pity tha the automatic impedance sensing was missed. This phone detects low inpedance (<50 ohm) headphones and lowers the gain and maximum level (0.44V rms) to suit most portable headphones. This also lowers the background noise as these types of headphone are generally more sensitive. Plug it into a line in and the output rises to 1V rms to suit when it sees >600 ohms. But if it sees 50 - 600 it assumes insensitive larger headphones and outputs nearly 2V rms! This is a drain on the battery so only availble when it senses it. With a bit of effort I can fool it into thinking my Audese Sine headphones are >50 ohms, and they get driven quite well.

There is more to this phone and the V10, V20, G5, G6, G7 and soon V40.

cundare's picture

So, Jason, your review sold me on the LG's sonics and it made it to the top of my holiday gift list. But now I find that there's a V40. Any word from the mfr re: whether this new model has similar sonics?

Bill Allen's picture

I think the LG V40 is a tad tastier sounding than the V30, coupled with my Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones, they set a new low-cost mobile standard IMO. This is some serious slick kit that only the crustiest audio curmudgeon could sneer at. I fly on a weekly basis with a loaded 1TB micro SD card, the sound of silence & fidelity this combo provides is uncanny. (No pun intended). I feel so guilty flying in total bliss I pop them on anyones head who stands still long enough to listen. Without exception everyone comment's 'it's the finest sound I have ever heard'.

For fun tonite I hooked the V40 up to my Kondo Ongaku ... lord help me for I have sinned.
While my PS Audio Directstream DAC outclass's the V40, its nothing 2 fingers of good scotch couldn't equalize.

Oh BTW I download & stream MQA from Tidal, along with HiRes, DSD's, and CD's from my lifelong collection ... its all good my friends.

Enjoy the Ride!

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