The Samsung Galaxy 5.0 Test Drive Page 2

Further Exploration
As a first step towards getting the most out of the Galaxy Player 5.0, I recommend going straight to the Android Market and installing PowerAMP and Winamp music players. PowerAMP is a trial version that gives you total functionality for a limited time. Winamp is free in general but won't initially support FLAC or give access to EQ options. Upgrading to the Pro version unlocks all the features. Both apps will set you back $5 for the full versions, which is a small price to pay. I find myself enjoying both and really can't pick one over the other—try them and see for yourself. PlayerPro has a nice UI and could be worth checking out, though it gave me library errors on several devices. Your results may be better.

The next obvious move for users of subscription music services is to get the appropriate app for MOG, Spotify, Rdio, or whatever provider you use. Again, the large screen size is very useful—I had far less accidental taps in the wrong spot as compared to the various phones I've used.

The WiFi only connectivity ended up not being a hindrance—all the major services give the ability to download music to your device for offline listening. With 40GB of total storage space, you can bet I loaded up on music from MOG as well as my own library.

Is It Worth Listening To?
All this talk about functionality is great, but how does the thing sound? To sum it up, I'd say it sounds pretty good but not amazing. Which is about what I had hoped for from a mass market consumer device like this.

I've listened to many Android devices over the past few years, and nearly all of them have left me cold. My biggest complaint has always been the background noise, but I could overlook that to some degree if the sound was something special. It wasn't. With all that processing power, and data flying everywhere during operation, it's easy to imagine why the sound wouldn't be ideal. But the Galaxy Player is specifically focused on sound, and it shows. Whether it is deliberately designed or just a byproduct of removing the phone section, the Galaxy Player has nearly silent operation. Only when using my most sensitive in ear monitors could I hear a slight bit of activity between tracks. Interestingly, this was more noticeable while using services like MOG compared to the stand-alone apps. I don't know why that would be. In any case, the device is basically silent.

I consider the iPod Touch and iPad to have very acceptable sound. Not amazing, but pretty good. The Galaxy Player is very similar. Even when using custom IEMs costing nearly 5 times the price of the player, I didn't feel like it was lacking in any major way. It had a nice balanced sound with fairly good details, and wasn't nearly as harsh on the top end as my LG Optimus phone. I did notice that using PowerAMP or Winamp gave me a subjectively better sound than using the stock player. I have read a few reports of people being disappointed with the sound on this device and I wonder if it has to do with an issue in the stock app. Either way, it did not sound bad at all to my ears, and only got better when using a 3rd party app.

I was unable to find any technical data on the audio side of the hardware. The original Samsung Galaxy S phones used D/A converters by Wolfson, while the newer Galaxy S II switches to a Yamaha solution (with some users reporting a drop in audio quality). I've read unconfirmed reports that the Galaxy Player 5.0 uses the Yamaha while it's smaller sibling the 4.0 uses the Wolfson, but I have yet to see concrete evidence of this. I suspect it doesn't matter as much as people think—your headphone choice is far more relevant.

Compared to the iPod Touch and iPad, the Galaxy seemed a bit less powerful overall. I found myself running volume in the 70% range rather than 50% or so on my iOS devices. But in most cases there was suitable headroom. I tried full-size headphones from Grado, Audio Technica, and Ultrasone, and while the Galaxy Player isn't the last word in high end portable audio, it did a respectable job. The V-MODA M-80 sounded especially nice and became my first choice for portable listening when I wanted a change from my IEMs.

Conclusion
The Samsung Galaxy Player 5.0 is a promising device. Straight from the box it impresses with decent earphones and a versatile audio app. But one of the main benefits that Android has over Apple is the ability to customize everything to your liking. Advanced users can even root their device or flash custom ROMs, which are in ongoing development (check the XDA Developers website for further).

For me, the Galaxy Player 5.0 admirably walks the line between phone and tablet, while satisfying my core requirements for a portable media player. I can see myself using this device on the go for videos, gaming, web browsing, email, and casual music listening. It is clearly not intended as a high end solution, but it does manage to keep up with its counterparts from Apple. A similar device running Android 3.1 with USB host mode (allowing the use of USB DACs) would definitely get my attention. I see it as an important step in the right direction for Samsung, and I hope we continue to see more like it in the future.

Resources
Product page for the Galaxy 5.0 player.
Galaxy 5.0 reviews at Laptop, Slashgear, PCWorld, and Liliputing.

COMPANY INFO
Samsung
85 Challenger Road
Ridgefield Park,NJ. 07660
1800-SAMSUNG
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
4nradio's picture

of these music source hardware reviews from your perspective, Tyll. I think they'll help expand our audiophile interests to the occasional mainstream product that's worth our attention.

I recently discovered, quite by accident, that my T-Mobile (LG) G-Slate is a worthy FLAC player when coupled with Poweramp. I was researching something on the Web totally unrelated to audio topics when I came across a press release from Wolfson mentioning that one of their DACs was built into the G-Slate. Sure enough! I loaded up Poweramp and some FLACs and discovered audio quality surpassing my Yahama chip equipped Galaxy S II mobile phone.

Running the G-Slate's headphone output into an O2 amplifier is a nice combination, and the size of the G-Slate makes for useful and attractive Poweramp screens.

13mh13's picture

Tyll/anyone:

First, a quick Q: how hot/warm does the Samsung get after, say, 1/2 hr of FLAC or AAC operation? How does this 'operating temp.' compare with your other similar iPod/iPhone devices.
----------------------------
Anyway ...
... if you disregard cell-phone capability and Android ... there are, IMO, better-SOUNDING brands in the same smart-phone-size package, and $ range. These brands include: iAudio (Cowon), Teclast/MP4Nation/Colorfly

The QLS players only do WAV, and are bulky, but sound v. good. For a bit more $ (and bulk), the HiFiMan series are high-rated, too.

For me ...my wish list includes: 24/192, AWESOME headphone amp with equally-awesome (and tweakable) x-feed. And v. good batt life, too.

Some of models/brands I've noted can be hard to get (often out of stock, or only orderable thru China) ... and are often unreliable (e.g., MP4Nation/Teclast and Colorfly; iAudio is not v. reliable, either). That said, and other than iAudio or HiFiMan, the Chinese brands, MP4Nation/Teclast and Colorfly, have SQ no iPod/Samsung or similar mainstream brand offers....regardless of $$.

(see reviews and opinions of the above at, where else, head-fi.org)

John Grandberg's picture

I didn't notice any "heating" issues with continuous FLAC playback. I'm guessing the large size is good for heat dispersion.

I've had the QLS QA-350 for a long time and enjoy it. Quirky, poor battery performance, and not versatile at all. But great sound!

Ultimately my wish list is the same as yours. I'm hoping Fang at HiFiMan can pull it off one of these days. But for mainstream users or even casual audiophiles, something like this Galaxy Player is a good general purpose device.

13mh13's picture

Too bad Fiio dropped their high-rez X3 DAP they were developing:

http://www.head-fi.org/t/528916/the-fiio-x3-thread-update-project-halted

My Colorfly CK4 can do high-rez but not reliably:
http://www.head-fi.org/products/colorfly-ck4

About warm operation ...My experience ... The QLS and some old iAudio units run cool (except during chging; the QLS has bulky external charger (v. warm!) so DAP never heats -- nice!). Never owned iPod (orig or Touch) or any late-model smart phone -- so can't comment on them. WRT my exp. w/modern DAPs ...the MP4Nation/Teclast and Colorfly units BOTH can get quite warm. Not sure if this is due to their DC-DC converter or the large-screen pwr ckt. All else held equal, heat+electronics=BAD.

Apple has GREAT cust. service but ... how reliable are iPhones and Android smartphones, anyway?

mward's picture

I'll readily admit to being an Apple partisan when it comes to devices and software (but not download stores—I stick to buying and ripping CDs).

That aside, were I in the market for an Android device, I'd be very concerned by the fact that this piece of hardware, as one of the only two Android music players on the market, is not one but two major versions behind Android's current state of the art OS (4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich). The iPod touch may not be quite up to the current specs of the iPhone 4S, but at least it runs the current version of the operating system, and probably will continue to do so for another year or two.

As far as why the iPod touch has gone unchallenged, the traditional iPod hasn't seen a whole lot of challenge lately either. And with the market for dedicated music players continuing to shrink, I'm not surprised to see all the Android manufacturers sticking to the more lucrative phone market rather than fighting for a piece of a shrinking pie.

If there are some Android fans out there who want an iPod touch equivalent—that is, a smart phone without the phone, I'm glad there's an option. Kudos to Samsung for supporting FLAC (but that puts them roughly on par with Apple, who have long supported their own lossless format), and kudos for including some better headphones (but most readers of this site will bring their own). But I think most of the broader market will buy a traditional iPod, iPod touch, or will take their pick of smart phones.

One other thing—despite my fondness for Apple, I hope for continued, solid competition for them from Android and Windows Phone (and I hate to see Palm bow out of the race). So I do like the idea that I could place my big bet on Apple but still be able to play with cool devices representing other platforms that are less expensive than phones—I just wish this device had the latest and greatest OS.

John Grandberg's picture

The big thing for me is competition. If Android devices stay out of this market all together, what motivation does Apple have to continue innovation? The latest iPod Touch is already several steps behind compared to the iPhone counterpart.

But yes, I agree that Android makers are slacking when it comes to running the latest versions. I can see how this particular device ended up with Gingerbread though - developed in 2010, it would have originally had Froyo, meaning Samsung did do a bit of updating. But moving all the way up to Ice Cream Sandwich would certainly be appreciated.

AncientWisdom's picture

It's too bad that you post misleading information like that.
Gingerbread (2.3) is not 2 versions behind the latest Android release (Ice Cream Sandwich - 4.0) since Honeycomb (3.0) was a version made only for tablets. Therefor for anything that does not have the form of a tablet, Gingerbread is the last revision.
Secondly, while Google have released the code for Ice Cream Sandwich to manufacture, no ports have been released yet. So as far as the public (or anyone reading this article) is concerned, Android 2.3.5 is indeed the latest available version for non vanilla Android.
Samsung have a good reputation of upgrading their devices, the SGS II should be upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich this month, and hopefully so would the Galaxy 5. If that doesn't happen, then by all means feel free to bitch and moan, but until then I see no reason to complain.

John Grandberg's picture

because many of the new phones in stores are in fact running ICS. So for the past few months the general public sees that and expects it from then on.

I actually thought the size of the Galaxy Player was enough to where it could support Honeycomb if they wanted to do that instead.

donunus's picture

I would like to see portable players with spdif output again. Thats what we really need! :)

John Grandberg's picture
That's one thing that I still miss about the iRiver players from back in the day.
13mh13's picture

SPIDF was and always will be a SQ-compromising factor. Better: USB (Adaptive or ASYNC ?) . Too bad superior I2S never caught on to mainstream mkt.

Some Refs (not sure how accurate or honest they are):
http://thewelltemperedcomputer.com/Intro/SQ/USB_SPDIF.htm
http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/USB-v-SPDIF

donunus's picture

USB may be more complicated to implement as digital outs on small devices but sure... If they can do it right then why not. A coax/toslink out would be good enough for me. Being able to connect my portable to a good home DAC will definitely improve the experience.

13mh13's picture

If you've got the $, want Android, and are in Japan ...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahq1IbPqA_E

So the "Sony Walkman" is back. How retro ... hope it's more than marketing.

ultrabike's picture

I've read good things about the Sansa players (audio only type player). The following two reviews (+ stellar recommendations in Amazon) got me to buy the Clip Zip:

http://nwavguy.blogspot.com/2011/02/sansa-clip-measured.html
http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-12519_7-9968448-49.html

I was using an old Creative Zen player which sounds great, but seems to roll off at the low end. I own the Audeo IEM (like the grey filters detail), and since it is not a bass heavy IEM, the Sansa ruler flat response down to 10 Hz and low distortion seemed to help out bring quality bass to my ears.

The player is obviously extremely portable, supports FLAC, and does a good job at being a player. Remarkable price as well.

branon's picture

Just announced today- check it out
http://www.lumigon.com/t2.html

annamarina's picture

I wonder if I could connect it to one of those Halloween things, if it's compatible with 35mm jack

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