HTC One M8 BoomSound speakers are loud and proud

We put the HTC One M8's new improved BoomSound speakers up against its rivals. They're impressively loud for a phone.

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We put HTC's new flagship's sound performance to the test. Andrew Hoyle/CNET
The large, dual speakers stuck to the face of the HTC One threw out the most volume of any of its rivals -- perfect for watching Netflix on your couch, or annoying every single person on your bus. With tweaked drivers and larger chambers, HTC Reckons the 'BoomSound' speakers in the new M8 are 25 percent louder than before, but how do they stack up against rivals from other manufacturers?

I listened to the differences in sound offered by the One M8, the Samsung Galaxy S4, the iPhone 5S, the Nokia Lumia 1020 and the older HTC One in a quiet room one evening. (Yes, I know how to party.)

Position is everything

The positioning of the speakers on the front of the phone is still a critical characteristic of the phone's sound. Slapped right on the front, it allows audio to be fired towards you when you're holding the phone. That might seem a pretty simple idea, but there are few other phones that use this technique. The Samsung Galaxy S4, for example, has a tiny speaker port positioned on the back of the phone.

Not only does that mean the sound is directed away from you, it also means it's easily muffled when you lay the phone flat on a surface. Put the One M8 down -- say, on your kitchen worktop -- and the sound is still directed upwards. You're also less likely to cover up the speakers when you're holding it up to watch a video, as I sometimes found to be the case with both the iPhone 5S and Lumia 1020, whose speakers are positioned on the bottom edges.

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Crucially, the BoomSound speakers still face forwards. Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Big on volume

The M8's large speakers really do throw out an impressive amount of noise. The volume level easily beat the iPhone 5S, Galaxy S4 or Lumia 1020. While I can't test HTC's exact 25 percent figure, the M8 is definitely louder than its predecessor as well. The speaker size also helps provide a warmer, bassier tone.

The kickdrum and roaring synth lines in Knife Party's brutal "Internet Friends" were more clear and punchy (although did distort slightly at max volume) while the bass in Arcane Roots' superb track "Sacred Shapes" was much warmer than it was from the other phones.

Don't get me wrong, while unquestionably louder than its rivals, the sound is still only "good" by phone-speaker standards. In a quiet room, your friends won't struggle to hear it, but it lacks the clarity, bass response and volume you get from a proper set of speakers.

Where it really comes in handy, however, is in playing TV shows, movies or podcasts that focus more on speech than on bass-heavy, immersive music soundtracks. Dialogue on shows like "Alan Partridge" and "Adventure Time" was noticeably louder than on its rivals, making them easy to hear over the sounds of my kettle and frying pan in my kitchen, which tend to drown out my favourite shows on other phones.

Conclusion

The HTC One M8 packs a much more powerful audio punch than any of its rivals, or even its predecessor. If you're hoping to ditch your Hi-Fi speakers completely, or are expecting your phone to get a mini festival going in the park, you're going to be out of luck. But for listening to podcasts or watching TV shows in a noisy room, it has the volume to help the dialogue really cut through background chatter in ways the iPhone 5S or Galaxy S4 can't do. Just don't use it on the bus. Please.

 

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