May 05, 2012, 7:30 AM — While the Music app on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch might be sufficient for you, there are plenty of other apps you can use to listen to music on your iOS device. Some offer unique ways of organizing and listening to music, and others focus on providing better sound. Here’s a look at three apps that you can use to listen differently to music on iOS.
While these three apps approach playing music differently, you may find that one of them offers something you are missing in the default Music app. Try them out and see if you get more out of your music. (And note that there are many music apps for your iOS device, and this is just a small taste of what you’ll find on the App Store.)
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1. Enhance your music’s sound with SonicMax Pro
When you listen to music on an iOS device, it may not be in optimal situations. If you’re on the move, you may listen on mediocre headphones in loud environments (the morning commute, say). If you’re in your office, you may have a small iPod speaker dock. Or you might be listening on some excellent noise-canceling headphones or using audiophile-grade cans.
BBE Sound’s $5 SonicMax Pro steps in to tweak your music and provide better sound on your headphones, through speaker docs, or even when your iOS device is connected to good speakers. When you launch the app, you can choose what you’re using to listen to your music: earbuds/earphones, headphones, external speakers, a dock, or a custom device. Then, in the app’s Settings screen, you can make a number of adjustments to enhance your sound. BBE calls these Lo Contour, BBE Process, iSet, Sound Field, Mach3 Bass, and Mach3 Gain.
One thing this app does is enhance bass, so if you listen to music that calls for more bass, you can compensate for weaknesses in your headphones or speakers. The BBE Process enhances high frequencies, and can sound tinny if set too high. But the Sound Field setting is the most interesting. It is a kind of faux surround sound that renders the soundscape much more detailed. For some music, I found this worked very well; for other types of music, certain highlights sounded slightly artificial.
Classical music is probably least suited to this type of sound enhancement, since part of its effect is to position instruments and voices in multiple locations across the soundscape. In other words, an instrument that is in the center of the mix will sound spread out. Rock, punk and reggae all sound much more spacious though, and some jazz sounds better as well. (Bauhaus’s Bela Lugosi’s Dead is a great track to test this app, for example.) I tested with both my portable headphones (Sennheiser PX 100-IIi) and home headphones (Beyerdynamic DT 990), and the results were noticeable on both. On the portable headphones, the increase in bass was welcome, whereas on the Beyerdynamics it wasn’t needed.
Once you’ve adjusted your settings, you can choose music by artist, album, genre or playlist, and playing your music is simple. My only gripe is that playlists nested in folders don’t display in folders, but all playlists are listed alphabetically.