If you read our Nexus 5 Voltron-style review, you know that one of the Nexus 5's only real failings is its tiny, tinny speaker. To quote Mr. Ruddock: "It doesn't get very loud, the quality is pretty gag-worthy." A few XDA-Developers members decided to investigate the actual hardware on the speaker, leading Adam Outler to conclude that at least some units were affected by a manufacturing defect. He decided to fix this problem the XDA way: by cracking the phone open and poking holes in it.


OK, so it's a little more subtle than that. Outler suspects that runny manufacturer glue is covering some of the ports in the speaker unit used to resonate sound outwards, muffling the speaker to an extreme and annoying degree for some users. By opening the case, physically removing the unit, and using a hot needle to drill additional holes in the plastic, the sound escapes through more of the speaker unit, making the audible noise more clear. You're not going to get "BOOMSOUND" with this method - it's not actually amplifying the speaker itself - but another user who tried the modification measured a decibel rise equal to a 2.5x increase in perceptible sound. Not bad.

YouTube user XatakaTV recorded the process and uploaded a video. You probably won't get much out of the narration unless you're fluent in Spanish, but it clearly demonstrates the process and results.

This modification isn't for the faint of heart: opening a sealed device with no removable battery like the Nexus 5 is always a pain, and you can wave your warranty goodbye. ("Modifications? Oh, no, sir. I just removed the speaker and poked holes in it with a needle. Which I heated with a lighter. Yes, crack-spoon fashion. Can I have a replacement?") But for those who are frustrated by a phone with crappy speaker volume, and who are comfortable with a little phone repair, it might be worth the effort.

Source: XDA-Developers via XDA Blog

Jeremiah Rice
Jeremiah is a US-based blogger who bought a Nexus One the day it came out and never looked back. In his spare time he watches Star Trek, cooks eggs, and completely fails to write novels.
  • Slawootsky


  • http://brgulker.wordpress.com/ brgulker

    I haven't noticed that the speaker is bad. It's not quite as loud as I'd like, but I haven't noticed "tin" in terms of the sound. Maybe mine isn't glued up.

  • https://plus.google.com/+TroyLeonard Troy Leonard

    Am I the only one that doesn't think the speaker sucks. Mine is just as loud as my old galaxy s 4g. And while a little tinny (aren't they all) sound fine. My only complaint is that with its placement my hand covers it in landscape.

    • Christofftofferson

      Coming from a galaxy nexus it's waaaaaaaaaay better!

      • Nick

        Yeah, former GNex owner here and the N5 speaker is SUPER loud compared to that phone. I find my self getting surprised half the time a YT video starts playing at how loud it is and have to turn it down. I have no issues with the N5's loudness. My only complaint would be its placement makes it awkward to hold for gaming and not cover up.

      • YipYap

        Agree...the GNex has a real craptastic speaker.

      • NeedName

        I tested two N5 at bestbuy — one was the demo and the other owned by a manager — against my gNex. . . they were identical. Both N5 had the issue. . . and sounded just as poorly as the gNex, thus I'll pass for now.

    • ReturnOfTheMack

      The title of the article is misleading. This problem is only present on a small number of Nexus 5's. Most do not have this manufacturing defect and their speakers work just fine.

      • perfectlyreasonabletoo

        Mine sounds fine except on certain tones... like, for some reason my father's voice. So I can't have speakerphone conversations with him, but music and speakerphone conversations with anyone else sound great.

        I wonder if it might just be his phone. It's a Galaxy Nexus...

    • NinoBr0wn

      No you're not the only one. This isn't the only site that mentioned the speaker but I never understood it. Mine sounds fine, and it's definitely loud enough. Is it only on some units?

    • Dart

      Yeah. I'm fine with the speaker in my Nexus 5, too.

      It's actually quite loud. I'm happy with it.

    • gheedsgreed

      It's much worse than my Nexus 4 speaker

    • hum0nX

      I completely agree, and other than that one downside the placement is better than the speaker of the nexus 4

  • Chris G

    this only effects some devices so if it sounds fine to you. I wouldn't bother with this. If you do have problems you can either look to exchange or if you feel comfortable, try this.

    • Kenny O

      Exactly. I only use the speaker for notifications, nothing else.....not worth the trouble for me.

  • Frankie Claessens

    One of the big reasons I picked an S4 over a Nexus 4 earlier this year (together with removable battery & micro SD slot). The speakers on the nexus devices (except the Nexus 7 2013) are just not good enough. My Galaxy Nexus was a real disaster when it came to loudness, half of the calls I received I didn't even hear because of that.

    • Walkop

      The Nexus 5 is way better in that department. Volume is easily twice as loud as my Galaxy Nexus.

    • pfmiller

      Don't forget the Nexus 10, the front facing speakers on that device are top notch!

    • Hoggles

      I have an S4... Sammy failed big time on the speaker placement. Case or no case, if you simply set the S4 down on any surface, the speaker is totally muffled. I've missed so many calls this way. Really a huge fail on placement.

  • Kelly Caffrey

    I did come across a recent mod for those who are rooted. It's a simple mod, you just flash it and it increases the output levels of speakers and headphones. Works like a charm.

    if anyone is interested in another fix/tweak for the low sound.

  • Jessie Alicea

    Although this is great, it shouldn't have to be done. When you drop $350 on a product it should perform and function as expected. Period.

    • Walkop

      Well, that's just not fair. People spend $700 on the iPhone. It can't do that.

      • Jessie Alicea

        People spend that much on iPhone because of the name. It probably cost the same to manufacture. Obviously products will have defects, but given how popular (and important to the Android name) Nexus devices are, you kind of expect these things to be ironed out.

        • A Big Nerd That Eats Toblerone

          It costs around £180 to build an iPhone 5S. It costs around £270 to build a Nexus 5. The Nexus 5 sells for £299, the iPhone costs £600. Both are 16GB models.

          • Jessie Alicea

            We know how both companies make their money, but that mark up is ridiculous.

          • Stacey Liu

            Source? I would expect the iPhone to be more expensive to make...every component except the display is better and the build is of much higher quality.

            Apple does have an advantage with hoarding the cheaper suppliers and having more of an economy of scale.

          • Walkop

            The SoC is more powerful ounce-for-ounce in the Nexus 5. Actually, it is MUCH more powerful ounce-for-ounce considering the die size of the A7 is ridiculous when compared to the 800.

            Anyway, my point is that the 800 outperforms the A7 in offscreen GPU benchmarks which is the most accurate representation of overall SoC performance.

            The haptic feedback in the Nexus 5 also utilizes a more expensive motor (a linear oscillating vibrator) versus a rotational vibrator in the iPhone 5/5s.

            Then there's also the larger battery, which is more expensive.

          • A Big Nerd That Eats Toblerone

            For one, the Nexus 5 is better in every way in terms of components, the build of the iPhone 5S is better but do not say that the components are better, the 64bit processor isn't even comparable to the Snapdragon 800. Also, here is the iPhone 5S source: http://blogs.wsj.com/tech-europe/2013/09/30/how-much-does-it-cost-to-make-an-iphone/

            And LG said that they will not make a profit on the device at $350, rounding up to between $350 and $400 so that is roughly £270 on the price. Source: http://www.androidheadlines.com/2013/11/lg-explains-nexus-5-costs-450-outside-play-store.html

            The prices that I stated include VAT and and logistic costs by the way, as the Pound Sterling to Dollar is alot stronger than that, around £1 is $1.70 usually (not right now). And I apologise for sounding aggressive.

          • Stacey Liu

            Alright it says the iPhone 5S costs $213 in terms of materials and that non-component costs should be about 33-40% of device cost. That puts the device cost somewhere between $317 and $355.

            I suppose we can take LG's word for it and put the Nexus 5 between $350 and $400 when it is subject to the additional costs of selling it outside the Play Store. Apple faces these same costs too, but they are likely much lower, since they already have a well established infrastructure for those purposes. LG doesn't.

            As for why the costs are what they are. You have to take into account that Apple gets better deals than other manufacturers on just about any component, since it's by far the biggest buyer for specific models.

            The Snapdragon 800 is likely more expensive than the A7, but not because it's a vastly better or more advanced chip. Krait's architecture is definitely behind Cyclone's for sure in terms of IPC and efficiency.

            First, Qualcomm bundles their SoCs with modems, so the cost of them modem is included in the cost of the unit. Next, there's a middleman with the S800 - Qualcomm has to make money too. Apple can design their chip and submit it to a fab like TSMC, avoiding the middleman cost. Historically, I think flagship Snapdragon chipsets have cost $30/unit for OEMs and I think the A7 + M7 combo costs $19 here. There's not a tremendous difference.

            I'm not sure which camera module costs more. The Nexus has OIS, but the iPhone's module by and large has better image quality.

            The Nexus has more RAM, induction coils, a barometer, a better display (probably the only thing that matters here), and a bigger battery. The iPhone likely has better NAND, better speaker unit(s), a fingerprint sensor, a better DAC, and better build/materials (main factor here).

            TL;DR If the Nexus really is more expensive per unit, the difference is just as easily attributed to Apple's advantageous market position as it is to hardware.

        • Walkop

          Yes, I am aware of that - I was simply being sarcastic, lol. "The iPhone can't function as expected" was the point.

          Too bad sarcasm is so lost on the internet. Lol.

    • Γαβρίλος

      I agree, is it too much to ask for a decent speaker? Even my Nokia 3210 has a better speaker and it doesn't cost 350$.

    • perfectlyreasonabletoo

      I'm not sure if you're being sarcastic... sure there's some with a defect, and they should be RMA'd. But overall the sound is pretty decent, well in line with a $350 smartphone.

  • Christopher Paul Ferrell

    Crack spoon style! Love it!

  • Tony T.

    Or you know... just flash a custom kernel and modify the speaker volume/gain. *coughfrancokernelcough*

    • Ygor Vaz

      Still, increasing the volume won't make the speaker sound less choppy, you will probably only perceive the problem even more. The only real fix is cleaning the audio exit as the video shows.

      • Tony T.

        Like others have said, a lot of N5s are not affected so much by "bad quality" so much as lack of actual volume. Kernel mods fix that issue. If you received a phone with a defect, I would exchange it rather than tinkering with the phone itself unless you're really willing to risk it.

  • scuttlefield

    Okay! This is making sense to me now. I've never felt that the sound on my N5 was spectacular, but I've also not thought that it was a crappy as many of the reviews were saying. Sounds like a must have gottent an unaffected device.

    • gierso

      if you cover the left corner grid do you still get sound from the right grid?

      id like to know if this is intended as in mine there is no sound from the right bottom grid

      • remister

        Sound only comes out from ones set of the grills. The other is for symmetry and cosmetic feel.

      • scuttlefield

        That is intended. Actually there is only one speaker (under the left grille) and the microphone is under the right grille.

        I was very happy when I found this out because I thought I had a defective unit.

        • gierso

          thanks!!! now i can rest in peace !!!

  • yankeesusa

    Or you could just sell it and still get your money's worth and then buy a better phone like the note 3 or for those that can get the xperia z1

    • Milind Shah

      A NEXUS IS A NEXUS!!!!

    • TSON1

      How dare you, sir.

      • yankeesusa

        It's just an opinion. I love the nexus 5, that is why I bought one. I'm just stating that before you go on opening up your phone to fix a speaker you have better options if it bothers you that much. I would still choose the n5 over most phones due to price and specs plus it is no contract. No need to get your panties in a bunch.

        • Walkop

          Then why did you call the Note 3 or Z1 a "Better phone"?

          Nexus will always have the best performance. The screen calibration is also top-notch. The speakers are actually very respectable in my opinion (both the earpiece and speakerphone). The camera is great save for focus time (software glitch).

          And you don't have to mess with it to get the updates and latest features.

          • yankeesusa

            For the things that I use my Note 2 I prefer it over a nexus phone. That is why in my opinion the note 3 is better for me. But that is all I will say. No need to get into a debate on why one phone is better than another. All I meant to say before I start making hardware modifications to a phone I would just buy another. That's it.

          • Walkop

            I'm not intending to get into a "mine is better!111!!!" battle either; I just prefer the UI performance of Nexus devices over others. They beat the iPhone in some respects, which is massive.

            I'm in the same boat; I wouldn't take mine apart. I'd just replace it through warranty or wait until another opportunity for a phone came up.

    • Ygor Vaz

      Yeah, sure. Because The Nexus 5 is just so bad. I mean, who cares for the beast performance, the great display and the nice build quality when the camera and the speaker are just a little worse than other flagships which cost twice as much?

      • yankeesusa

        That is very true. That's why I got my wife the nexus 5. The speaker isn't that big of a deal. I just wouldn't take a phone apart to fix this issue. Before I do that if the speaker bothered me that much I would just resell. But the pros on the nexus 5 are far more than the cons. That is why it's still a great phone with speaker and all.

    • Cuvis

      And pay twice as much.

      • yankeesusa

        Very true. That is one reason why the last 2 nexus phones have been so great. An amazing off contract phone at a great price brand new. I got lucky and was able to snag a mint condition xperia z for only $279. Haven't seen any that low anymore used. At $400 and with 32gb the nexus 5 is untouched.

    • NinoBr0wn

      And people call iPhone owners sheep. Samsung got millions of you by the balls, and it's quite annoying at this point.

      • yankeesusa

        What? what does this have to do with anything that's being talked about here?

    • TheLastAngel

      Have fun when you ever need technical support from Samsung. Oh boy are you in for a ride :P

      • yankeesusa

        Don't know how that relates but i'll play along. I own an iphone 4, an xperia z, a galaxy s3 and a note 2. Ive had to call samsung tech several times and they are just like any other tech support, only difference is turn around time is a lot longer than most. If tech support is your reason for not going with samsung that's your choice. I buy my gadgets based on specs and reviews not because people say "oh, iphone is better, oh samsung is better". Who cares. Let's stick to the subject at hand please.

        • omegavesko

          You're hilarious, you know that? You come to a thread baiting people with completely unrelated comments and then tell him to 'stick to the subject at hand'. :P

          • Walkop

            Lol; you're the hilarious one. How is any of this unrelated? The OP clearly went on a tangent, Yankee replied stating his opinion, that TLA was wrong (which is definitely the case based on my reading of people's experiences online: seems everyone is so impatient that they freak out when their device isn't back within 2 days), and then concluded telling him to get back on track with the article.

            If anything, you're the one baiting. No offense intended, of course.

  • in2android

    This is the first time I ever read an article on an Android fan site and raced to the comments ready for some potentially hilarious isheep trolling, and they're no where to be found... Are you serious? Wow, today's isheep are a real disappointment! I remember when isheep would've been here before we were, and still here trolling the comments a week after we all moved on! The iyouth today really have their heads up their asses!

    • krelb

      in2ANAL amIright!

  • gierso

    why does the nexus 5 has 2 sets of grids but the sound only comes out from the left one :(

    is the right one blocked or is was never a speaker grid??? :P

    • Paul Klinger

      The right one is for the microphone, there is only one speaker.

      • gierso

        never crossed my mind sadly im losing my powers :'(
        hehe thanks for the tip!!

  • Greg Nelson

    I never listen to music/watch anything without headphones. It's completely ridiculous that the external speaker on any phone is a "failing".

    • deltatux

      I think with the loudness is an issue with ringtones and notification bells more than music. Loudspeakers on smartphones weren't really meant for watching videos or listening to music. Personally, I'm like you, I don't use the speakers for music, no reason to.

    • blairh

      Your personal usage does not translate to everybody. I will often find myself listening to podcasts without headphones around the house and in other situations. Speakers do indeed matter for many smartphone users.

    • pfmiller

      I don't use headphones around the house, that's absurd. But usually my house is quiet enough that the crappy speakers get by. The biggest problem is when I am with friends and want to share a video, usually no one can hear a thing.

      • NinoBr0wn

        What's absurd about using headphones in your house?

        • pfmiller

          It's inconvenient and should be completely unnecessary. I am not going to go fetch a pair of headphones every time I want to watch a quick video.

          • NinoBr0wn

            I'm not saying that you have to, but you said it's absurd like I can't sit down and listen to my music in my headphones.

      • Oliver Phillips

        Is your phone your only device? If not, why are you using it to listen to music or watch videos when you could be using a laptop or tablet/plugging your phone into external speakers?

    • Luis Augusto Fretes Cuevas

      People show other people videos or songs... but I agree. It's not a terrible problem.

  • Matthew Fry

    Was that a subtle word play on the word 'waive?' If so, good job! If not, I'd leave it there.

  • Hoggles

    Way to go Google & LG. Thought of everything, except for sound quality.... Oh and that horrible camera.... Hey, just 2 little things no one ever uses....

    • Walkop

      The camera is fantastic. It's getting WAY downplayed when in reality, it has some of the best low-light performance of any smartphone.

      The focus time is what's bad right now, which is a software issue. Camera Awesome apparently fixes that (3$ application).

  • A_Noyd

    I got lucky? Mine does not have this issue.

  • Claw

    2.5x on a dB scale is pretty much actually.... as the dB scale is logarithmic.

  • Joni Johirul

    Anyone know where I can buy a replacement part so i can try it on the the replacement and see how good works..

  • Konstigt2

    ..or you can always return the phone to get a new one or send it off to warranty repair. My speaker sounded horrible so I sent it to warranty repair (as I bought it in another country so I couldn't return it as DOA).

  • Dan

    Brother couldn't borrow a dremel tool from somebody?

  • Ray

    I tried doing this the other day when I came across the article on XDA. I managed to get half the back off but near the bottom it was stuck - tight! I think it may have been glue/tape holding it in place. I was putting a little bit of force into it but I really didn't feel like breaking the phone - so I left it alone.

    Has anyone successfully done this mod?

  • Luis Augusto Fretes Cuevas

    If someone wants me to translate the instruction I ca do it :). Although it seems mostly self-explanatory by watching the video.

  • A Black UI is the best UI

    Awesome this certainly fixes the really poor speaker on the Nexus 5.

  • Zsolt67

    Mine working fine. My problem is the microphone. Techblogs doesnt speak about it. Serious problem with the 2nd mic

  • Kashif Shahzada

    Mine sounds great. I had a Galaxy Nexus before so the sound on this is amazing. In fact coworkers get annoyed because its so loud.

  • Rabee Ahmad

    Worked like a charm.

  • Hosen

    I bought Nexus 5 last week. I just realized only one of speakers is working, left side. the right side one not.