Thanks to the surprising success of the first-ever Pixel, a lot of attention has been paid to the camera capabilities of Google’s smartphones. This year, however, at least two of the Pixel 4’s best features don’t have anything to do with cameras at all. Live Transcribe and Live Caption, not to mention the shiny new Recording app, all play up to the phone’s audio capabilities. And almost by fate, DxOMark has a new Audio testing protocol to measure just how good those capabilities are.
Google doesn’t really talk much about the Pixel 4’s audio features and, at least on paper, they sound pretty common, no pun intended. There are two speakers, one at the usual bottom edge by the charging port and the other a thin slit at the top. There are also three microphones at their usual locations, with the third behind the LED flash for noise cancellation.
Despite the ordinary specs, DxOMark found that the Pixel 4 was worthy of the fifth spot in its new audio list. It is very good but not good enough to beat two generations of Apple’s literal biggest iPhones and the gaming-centric and expensive ASUS ROG Phone II and last year’s Huawei Mate 20 X. Overall, the performance of the Pixel 4 when it comes to playback and recording have been deemed decent but, as always, the devil hides in the details.
The Pixel 4 was noted to be noticeably lacking in the bass department, making it less ideal to play loud, booming music. Ironically, it actually excels at recording loud sounds without suffering distortion, which makes it good for recording loud concerts. The Pixel 4’s recording score falls slightly behind playback, which is strange given Google’s focus on accessibility features that rely on recording more.
While the Pixel 4 hasn’t taken the top spot in audio the way its predecessor has in photography, it is also a somewhat new venture for Google. At the same time, audio recording quality is critical to its voice-centric features, including Google Assistant. Hopefully, the Pixel 4 is just the beginning of Google’s focus on an oft-neglected aspect of smartphones.