New iPad vs iPad 2: Speaker volume test

One of the things I most eagerly wanted in the new iPad was a better speaker. I didn't expect it, mind, you, but when some early reviewers mentioned the new iPad had the loudest speaker they've ever heard on a tablet, my ears perked up and I became very excited. That's simply because Apple thus far hasn't been willing or able to put a decent speaker into any of their mobile devices. For the company that revolutionized music with the iPod and iTunes, that's mind boggling. Yet year after year I have a hard time hearing my games and movies out of the tiny, tinny iPad speaker, and find myself cupping the speaker with my hand and craning my ear down just to make out the dialog. Sure, I could put on headphones or use a Jawbone JAMBOX (opens in new tab) -- which admittedly the iPad handles really well -- but that should be an option, not a requirement.

Back to the new iPad. After hearing that the speaker may, mercifully, be louder, I tried listening to some music and playing some videos and... I couldn't tell the difference. Both the new iPad and the iPad 2 sounded about the same to me. I turned off volume control and pushed the levels to the maximum on both and repeated the test. Still no difference.

Jawbone JAMBOX giveaway

My next step was to download an app to measure what, if any differences there might be. While not as scientific as a proper, soundproofed lab full of carefully calibrated equipment, it was enough for our real-world tests. The app I chose was Decibels [free - Download now (opens in new tab)]. I then placed my iPhone, armed with the Decibels app, a finger's width away from each iPad's speaker, and played a video.

The Decibels read out never reach 90. (Based on the car I was watching in the video, my inner geek really wants to say it never hit 88!).

Using the Decibels app on my iPhone 4S, I measured both the new iPad and the iPad 2 and recorded nearly identical results

To be absolutely sure, I asked Rene to repeat the same tests on his new iPad and iPad 2, and he recorded the exact same results. (So even if the app wasn't scientifically accurate, it still showed the same result for both.)

All this means that, in the end, the speaker for the new iPad isn't any louder than the speaker for the iPad 2, and to my ear there's not much, if any, difference to the sound it produces.

Given the love the camera and screen got this time, I'm now once again hoping the speaker gets it next.


Senior Editor at iMore and a practicing therapist specializing in stress and anxiety. She speaks everywhere from conferences to corporations, co-host of Vector and Isometric podcasts, follow her on Twitter @Georgia_Dow and check out her series at

  • I dont't know if it is that im still in love with my first iPad and its Retina display, but can't find it any flaws <3, except still not jailbroken. I do the same hand thing you described in the article XD, sometimes.
    Just for the info, jump between 1:00 and 1:16 for the exact comparison.
  • you know when she found that out she went H.A.M she mad as hell i bet...
  • The iPad speaker is good enough IMO. The iPhone 4S has a way better speaker than the iPhone 4. Wouldn't you agree?
  • I noticed a big difference in volume when I went from the iPhone 4 to the 4s.
  • I dunno about the 4, but I noticed a considerable jump in volume from my 3GS to 4S. The speaker is actually a little tinnier than the 3GS, but in this case volume is a bigger deal than quality. I had trouble hearing the ringer with the 3GS when it was in my pocket in noisy environments.
  • Its louder cause of siri.. you need to be able to hear her.. even in crowded rooms and in the car with music..
  • Seems like the new iPad sounded clean. I know it is not sicenctific, but let the meter go to 0 before doing the test. If you can use a music app to test bass, middle, and treble sounds.
  • I agree. The new iPad maybe not be "tested" to prove its louder, but to me, it sounds clearer and the bass is slightly deeper which gives out a great sound of improvement compared to my iPad 2.
  • I use and recommend LouderLogic for iPhone 4; it does a good job of overriding the iPhone 4's volume cap and processing the sound to boot. There's an iPad version too. The company is cool in that its history is that of a normally high-end audio firm for studio pros and musicians that was cool enough to deign to put its resources toward better sound for iOS devices. Until LouderLogic I was dismayed at the volume difference between my old iPod Classic 5th gen. and the iPhone 4 (and latest generation iPod Touch for that matter).
  • I think you have to Test the ipads with a sound file recorded with the maximum amount of db the iPads can handle. If the new ipad can handle louder sound files, a video recorded at low db wont show any difference, i guess!
  • That lead picture, when viewed differently, makes it look like you've got a distance shot of a levitating iPhone 4/4S. Tripped me out this morning when I saw it half asleep.
  • I can't really tell any difference between the two. Still as some have said its good enough.
    Was kinda funny that the Db level reached 88 while listening to back to the future music tho!!
  • I definitely can tell the diff between my og ipad and the new ipad. Their still needs to be a volume increase though.
  • Loving my New IPad but I definitely appreciated the speaker design of the Original iPad which projects the sound straight out from the side edge of the device. The iPad 2 and New iPad speakers seem to be at the same volume but they are angled downward and project sound away from the user. The Retina Display is so good though that I am willing to overlook the speaker volume which is adequate for most use cases - for watching feature films or playing 3D games you would probably want to have headphones or speakers attached anyway.
  • Really good point about the speaker position. It was defiantly a look vs experience call on apples part.
  • I agree, why can't apple have a forward facing speaker? I think it's a major design flaw. I mean how are you supposed to watch and listen at the same time. I have to cup the speaker all the time. I would have thought that Apple would listen to customers and make a change. Let alone by now, I think it should have 2 speakers instead of one.
  • Just curious, been looking at getting a jambox, are they worth it in your opinion?