The Google Pixel smartphone is one of the best Android handsets around right now. The Pixel and Pixel XL were released last year and despite being more expensive than predecessors, are much better than previous models. Despite having improved the hardware across the board, there have been a few issues with the release. One of which is speaker issues causing distortion or popping.
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As well as the widely reported camera problem, it seems there may be a speaker issue too. The good news is that it seems to be software rather than hardware. So if your Google Pixel speaker sound is distorted, there is no need to send it back and get it replaced.
The issue is a popping sound or distortion from the speakers when volume is at full and the media being played is intense. Nearly every commentator on this problem has used The Mummy official trailer as the test as the sound is pretty intense. It certainly isn’t the only movie that causes distortion but it is certainly a good test for the speakers.
The most widely reported test was from Mark Buckman who posted this YouTube video of the symptoms. He is on his fifth Google Pixel and has apparently been told by Google to return it for a refund as they cannot fix it right now. While that sounds harsh, it isn’t unusual. A fix may take a couple months so they don’t want owners keeping the issue alive on social media giving the handset bad press.
The current theory is that the cause of the distortion is driver related. It is very likely to be software at least as many users have had replacement Pixels that have had the same issue. At the time of writing, no fix has been released but there is a workaround.
How to fix the Google Pixel speaker distortion issue
You have two options if your Google Pixel’s speaker pops or distorts. You can use it at less than full volume and find a usable level that doesn’t distort. Or you can root it and use ViPER4Android.
This fix was featured on Gadget Hacks and apparently works well.
ViPER4Android is an app designed to enhance the audio output of Android devices. It has been around a while and I have used it myself on an older Nexus 5 phone. Despite being designed by fans, it outperforms Dolby and Beats when you get it right and is well worth trying. The downside is that you need to root your Android phone first.
- If you would like to root your Google Pixel phone, follow this guide as it is very good. Once you have rooted your phone, take another full backup of it before installing ViPER4Android just in case.
- Download the latest version of ViPER4Android from XDA Developers onto your phone.
- Uninstall any previous versions or any other audio enhancer you may have installed.
- Navigate to the /vendor/etc/ directory using your directory explorer of choice.
- Rename the audio_effects.conf file to audio_effects.conf.bak.
- Open the ViPER4Android FX app on your handset and install the V4A driver when prompted.
- Reboot your handset once the driver has installed.
The driver can take a little while to install on some handsets. It occasionally looks like it stalls or freezes but if you leave it for a few minutes it continues the installation process. Once done, you will see a Driver Installed message. Then it is safe to reboot your handset.
Once rebooted you should see the ViPER4Android FX app icon within your tray. Open it and have a play around with presets and experiment a little. I think you will be amazed with that the little app can achieve. Best of all, the distortion and popping sound should now be gone.
It is a shame that you have to root your phone to perform this fix but until Google come up with one themselves, this is it for now. I know of no other app or fix that addresses the Google Pixel speaker sound distortion problem experienced by so many users.
Arguably cellphone speakers are not designed to cope with intense audio output and are instead designed to be the compromise between being thin and small and providing credible audio output. However, this kind of distortion is not something that users are willing to contend with. Certainly not when the Pixel is priced comparably to other flagship phones from other manufacturers.
At least you now know how to fix it if your Google Pixel speaker sound is distorted!