Music streaming got a big boost in quality this year, but Pixel 6 owners can’t enjoy it. A bug that’s affected the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro since launch prevents the devices from using external DACs, which are required for high-res streaming on Apple Music, Tidal, and Amazon Music. And Google hasn’t addressed the problem.
Update, 6/9/22: Google finally fixed the Pixel 6 DAC problem.
Like most Android phones, the Pixel 6’s internal DAC (the thing that turns digital audio into a headphone-ready signal) caps out at 24bit/48kHz sampling rates. That’s good enough for CD-quality audio, but far short of the 24bit/192kHz sampling rates now offered by some music streaming services.
So to take advantage of super-high-res music streaming, Pixel 6 owners need an external DAC to process audio. But popular options like the FiiO E10K don’t work. Apps meant to control these DACs crash on the Pixel 6, or worse, ring out a nasty screeching sound. (Some external DACs work fine on Pixel 6, but they fail to bypass the phone’s internal audio stack and simply output music at 24bit/192kHz.)
This external DAC bug is really a double-whammy for audiophiles. Not only does it prevent high-res or “lossless” audio streaming on the Pixel 6, but it could make headphone amplifiers with built-in DACs useless. That’s a huge problem, because premium high-impedance headphones need a “bigger” audio signal than what the Pixel 6 can offer, and are effectively useless (or too quiet) on the Pixel 6 without a headphone amp.
Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro owners have complained about this bug since the devices launched in October. It was first reported in Google’s Issue Tracker on November 15th, but Google is yet to acknowledge that there’s a problem.
Now’s a good time to mention that all smartphone manufacturers are terrible at supporting high-res audio codecs and sample rates. Yeah, the real-world difference between CD-quality and “lossless” audio is debatable, but companies like Apple are offering high-res audio without taking the time to really build their products for such technology. Google overlooking the DAC incompatibility bug in its flagship phone is just another example of how little manufacturers care about high-res audio (or wired audio, for that matter).
We hope that Google will patch this bug in a future firmware update. But hey, maybe the company will just blame customers for using “uncertified” accessories, as it did when Pixel 6 owners started complaining about charging issues and unresponsive fingerprint sensors.