Call Quality And Audio Performance
The call quality of the G3 was good when we tested it on three different Canadian GSM networks: Bell, Rogers and Telus. Like most current smartphones, the G3 has an additional microphone for noise cancellation to improve the outgoing call clarity when using it in loud environments.
The G3’s speaker resides on the back of the phone, which is a change from the bottom speaker placement on the G2. What doesn't changed is its single-driver construction. While front-facing stereo speakers would be nice, that'd require enlarging the bezels and sacrificing the G3’s “compact” size.
Thankfully, the mono speaker in the G3 is actually good. Rated at 1W, it gets plenty loud and LG says there’s even a 1.5W “Boost Amp” that improves clarity and enhances the bass. When we tested the speaker playing music, watching YouTube videos and making speakerphone calls, we were impressed. Its volume and clarity were up there with the HTC One M8, widely considered to have the best smartphone speakers.
Still, despite its quality, you're still only getting a single speaker directing sound away from you, so it isn’t able to fill space as well as the M8’s stereo pair. Also, it is a lot easier to accidentally muffle the G3’s rear-facing speaker with your hand when holding it.
I subjectively tested the sound quality of the audio output from the headphone jack using a pair of NAD VISO HP50 headphones and Apple's iPad Air as a reference. While the G3 sounds good (the best I've heard from any Android phone so far), it fails to match the listening experience Apple provides.
After listening to several tracks across different genres of music, the G3 sounded a bit flat and lacked the iPad's dynamic range. The soundstage also seemed narrower, and crescendos didn't reach peak impact. In Metallica's "One", the double bass drums didn't have the same punch and energy, and it was difficult to hear fingers squeaking on the guitar strings. In "A Window To The Past" by John Williams, the recorder at the beginning of the song sounded shrill and the harpsichord didn't sparkle. When listening to more complex music, it became difficult to discern each individual instrument and note, and the background tended to blend together.
I tried using the EQ in the Music app to compensate, but unfortunately, it's next to useless. All of the predefined EQ settings sound terrible and horribly unnatural. Trying to adjust the EQ manually is just frustrating. Normally, tweaking one of the sliders only affects frequencies in a narrow band centered around the selected frequency. In this case, however, adjusting the slider to boost one frequency has the opposite effect across the remaining spectrum. For example, adjusting the lowest frequency slider to boost bass drastically reduces gain in both the midrange and treble. Without finer control, it's impossible to improve the sound using the EQ, no matter what adjustments are made.
While this assessment may sound harsh, I want to make clear that these deficiencies are subtle and generally only apparent while critically listening during the A/B tests. If you just pick up the G3, plug in some headphones and start listening, you're probably going to be quite pleased with how it sounds. Only those who have a critical ear or high-quality headphones should expect to find something missing from the listening experience.