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Change this one Pixel setting for dramatically better sounding music

This Android 13 feature can help you get the most out of the music blaring from your Pixel device.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Reviewed by Alyson Windsor
Pixel 7 showing the camera bar
Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

I love music. In fact, it's a rare occasion that I'm not listening to something as I work, exercise, and just generally go about my day. Unless I'm sleeping, most likely I'll always have some form of music playing. But phones never really have the best sound. It doesn't matter how much a company brags about its onboard sound processors and speakers, phones all sound like phones. 

Also: How to configure your Pixel phone to automatically decline robocalls

Sure, there are variations on that theme and some devices do sound better than others. But these are small devices with small speakers and cannot match the fidelity of a dedicated stereo. 

This is especially true when your favorite listening method is vinyl and you consider yourself an audiophile.

Of course, Android (on Pixel phones) has a little trick up its sleeve to give the audio a bit of a boost. 

That trick is called Adaptive Sound. No, it won't make your phone sound like a Transrotor Artus FMD turntable, but it will give it a bit more clarity.

What is Adaptive Sound? 

Adaptive Sound uses the mics and sensors on your device to learn the type of environment you're in, so it can then adjust the sound accordingly. The adjustments are made via automatic EQ and do make a considerable difference in the sound you hear.

Also: How to remove background noise in Audacity for better-sounding podcasts

You might be thinking, "Hold up. My phone will use its mics to listen in on the ambient sound of a room. Isn't that a privacy issue?" That's an understandable concern. However, Google has made it clear that all Adaptive Sound processing is done locally, so there's no need to worry that Google is listening in on you. Android, on the other hand, is listening but doing so to help improve your experience.

One thing to keep in mind is that the changes made by Adaptive Sound may be less noticeable at higher decibel levels. This is all about equalization and how subtle changes can make a big difference in the sound you hear.

Also: The best Android phones right now

With that said, how do you enable Adaptive Sound? It's quite easy. Let me show you.

How to dramatically improve the sound from your Pixel phone 

What you'll need: The only thing required for this is a Pixel phone running any version of Android 10 and newer. 

1. Open Settings

Pull down your Notification Shade twice and tap the gear icon to access the Android Settings app. You can also access this app from within the App Drawer by swiping up from the bottom of the display. 

2. Navigate to the Sound settings

From within the Settings app, locate Sound & Vibration. Tap that entry. On the resulting page, locate Adaptive Sound and tap it.

The Sound & Vibrations menu in Android 13.

Accessing the Adaptive Sound setting in Android.

Image: Jack Wallen/ZDNET

3. Enable Adaptive Sound

Tap the ON/OFF slider until it's in the ON position and Adaptive Sound is enabled. You can close the Settings app.

The Adaptive Sound settings page.

Enabling Adaptive Sound in Android 13.

Image: Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Now, all you have to do is experience music from your Android device in a way that will automatically adapt to your environment to dramatically improve the sound you hear. Give this feature a try. 

Also: These $169 headphones sound so good you'd think they'd cost a lot more

Start playing some music and move from environment to environment to see how the change affects the sound you hear. If music is as important to you as it is to me, you'll be happy you enabled the feature.

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