LG V20: A Smartphone Good Enough For Audiophiles


I don’t know what it is about LG Electronics that stops them shooting up the smartphone rankings. The G5 was a cracker of a smartphone and their new V20 is up there with the best smartphones in the world today especially for people who want a great sound experience from a mobile device.

Despite LG’s lack of traction in the smartphone market, one must give them credit for their engineering, design and the overall quality of their devices which is significantly ahead of several other brands out there.

Ironically, the LG tablets and notebooks, which were also up there design and performance wise, still ended up being pulled from retailer shelves in Australia due to poor sales.

When the new LG V20 arrived at my office, I was sceptical about the device. That was until I picked it up and started using it. I took it to Asia with me, then up to Queensland. This gave me an in-depth insight into what this device can deliver.

It was slim, fast and had an excellent display, which is not surprising as LG make some of the best display screens in the world. It is also why Apple uses LG display technology. But it was the sound output that really blew me away.

In fact, this device is so good that one would have to question why consumers are paying $1,900 for a Full HD Sony Walkman or the top end Astell & Kern AK380 portable High Res audio player which costs a staggering $5,900.

That’s a lot to pay even for extremely high performance, especially as one gets everything that’s in the Astell & Kern device with the V20 plus one can get a hell of a lot of music on 2TB of data which is what the V20 is capable of housing. Recently Astell & Kern launched the AK70 which sells here for $999 which is the same price as the V20.

What initially let this review version down was that it came loaded with a Korean carrier’s software which was difficult to get rid of. Even the settings had to be reset into English. After an hour of reconfiguring this device, which is selling at JB Hi-Fi for $999, I was able to seriously give it a workout.

The first thing you notice about this device is that it has a monster 5.7-inch display screen that is crisp and clean, and then there is the Bang & Olufsen audio technology that delivers high res audio. There is even a HD audio recorder which chews through data but it does deliver great sound.

To get the best sound that I have heard from a smartphone, simple plug in a pair of good headphones, go to settings and switch on the Hi-Fi Quad DAC. You will immediately be transformed into another world.
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What LG has delivered is the first ever “Quad” DAC packed into a smartphone. The term has led to a fair bit of confusion, with some wondering if LG is counting the number of outputs, or if there’s multiple DACs for different audio paths. I assure you that this isn’t the case.

What LG is using is the latest ES9218 component from ESS Technologies. This is a 32-bit 394kHz and DSD512 capable component, with some nifty sounding analogue audio controls, jitter controls, and integrated headphone amplifier. The chip delivers 130dB SNR, 124dB DNR and -112dB THD+N to please audiophiles.

The sound output is so good that the specialist audio channel should be selling it alongside JB Hi-Fi.

The LG V20 can also detect and adapt the power output to all audio devices connected to it. Most of the time, you will use headphones, but not all are created equal. High-end headphones can accept a more powerful signal, and high-end amps take an even stronger one.

I tried the LG V20 with the Bang & Olufsen earbuds that are shipping with the Korean version and the audio quality with either normal MP3 files I own, or Hi-Fi files, is drastic. I also tried it with a top end pair of Sennheiser headphones. The sound is cleaner, crisper, and sounds noticeably “better” than any other smartphone I have ever tested.

Battery wise, this device delivers. I was getting at least 9-12 hours of solid battery life and that includes watching videos, hours of talk time and at least 90 minutes of online browsing and listening to music.

Under the bonnet is a Snapdragon 820 processor, a 5.7-inch display with more pixels that it could possibly need, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage. It’s a serious workhorse that’s slim and feels great in the hand.

The other big advantage is that it comes with a battery that can be easily accessed by slipping off the back cover via a simple side latch. The LG V20 comes with a 3,200mAh removable battery, which is slightly bigger than the one found in the LG G4. On the side is a microSD slot, for expandable storage up to 2TB, and this is as good as it gets especially for audiophiles who want lots of music.

There’s even a thin second screen at the top of the display that persistently shows the time, notification icons, battery level, and so on. What I liked is that this could be customized for quick access to the apps you use most of the time.

If you are into wanting a great camera as well as sensational sound the LG V20 delivers. LG’s camera software is similar to what you will find in most top end smartphones. All the settings such as photo effects, the front to rear swap button, flash are easy to find. What’s more, the easy camera swap gesture is back so “Cheese” is the in-word for V20 owners.
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The main rear-facing sensor still shoots at 16MP, with an aperture of F1.8, but is now joined by an 8MP sensor with an aperture of F2.4 that is dedicated to shooting 135-degree wide-angled images.

LG has made significant improvements to its laser detection auto-focus technology. This allowed us to shoot excellent pictures in low light. On the front, there’s a single 5MP lens, with an impressive F1.9 aperture – an improvement from the V10’s F2.2 front-facing camera.

For the video enthusiast, LG has delivered 4K and 1080p video recording support. Additionally, LG has improved its Steady Record feature that it debuted earlier this year. The idea is that you’ll get smooth video, even with the V20 being slightly shaken during the recording.

Other odds and sods include quick-charging USB-C.


The bottom line is that if you’re looking for bells and whistles, the V20 has them. For audiophiles as well as people who love great sound this is the device to fall in love with. It has no equal.

It also has everything that you want to run your life from a mobile device, easy configuration of apps, speed of application, a great screen and a camera that allows you to click away knowing that you can shoot top end video and still images.

It even comes Android 7.0 however the device is NOT waterproof so if you are sitting by the pool or on the beach be careful with your device.

Last but not least, the V20 has the power button on the back and I for one absolutely love this. It’s easy to access and is a feature that makes LG smartphones standouts.

The LG V20 is available now for RRP $1099.
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