For anyone with the problem:
I visited a samsung service center in Singapore. The person assisting me tested the speakers but couldn't discern the drop in volume in the crowded and noisy environment.
She then consulted their lead technician and was told that they are aware of the problem and liaising with Korea and a software update will fix the issue. When asked when the update is to be expected, they said they do not know.
I visited a samsung showroom and ran a loud 10 minute video on a display note9 unit and I could not find the speaker problem on it. The display unit was in retail mode but had the latest software updates.
So is it really a software bug or is the amplifier on some note 9s faulty?
Yeah, I am beginning to think I was bamboozled. I was probably told that so I'd leave. Happens in Singapore.
So, I went to the service center again a couple of days ago and was served by another agent. He simply couldn't identify the problem in the noisy environment. He couldn't understand that it's not that the sound would cut off but only drop in volume.
I had pre-downloaded a video from youtube and played it for him using the samsung video player app. He noticed the drop in volume but at first he pretended he didn't and then said it was because the video was corrupted. So, I had to play more videos for him from youtube but the phone didn't exhibit the problem that time. (This is probably because it got "stuck" in the dropped volume condition and so, no change in volume was discernable).
I had to leave empty handed.
I wrote in to samsung customer service and they told me to take it another service center. These guys are supposed to give me a 1-to-1 replacement (within 30 days of purchase) in case of physical defects but the problem is that it is tough to demonstrate the problem to them in a noisy environment. Not to mention that we don't know that it's a physical defect in the first place.
(I can't simply return the phone because there is no such customer friendly policy in Singapore).
Exynos 960F/DS from Taiwan here.
The problem with relying on support in international service is some of us live overseas and just happened to get the model there. I've tried sending error feedback on my phone but I kept getting a reply along the lines of "due to we cannot understand your problem".
I don't think this is a hardware defect, or at least not one that can easily be managed. It's not the Cirrus Logic or Aqstic DAC as both Exynos and Snapdragon users have reported it. I'm not sure if the Note 9 uses dedicated DACs for the speaker or not. The problem would either lie in the software DSP or the amplifier itself. If it was the speaker would remain dropped, but sometimes if I wait long enough it seems to recover. I was playing a game where this happened, and the moment it happened I temporarily exited the app (not closed it), and played music from Samsung Music, and it sounded perfectly loud but going back to the game. If I play both at the same time it sometimes just sounds bad. I haven't had any issues with Asphalt 9 and it only happened to me once with Real Racing 3, but maybe I'm just not noticing it easily when it happens as the audio quality with these games through the speakers is so-so. On Horizon Chase it happens very quickly (probably within 5 minutes). I don't recall it occurring with Samsung Music.
It could be related to how the DSP or amplifier manages the volume in the bottom speaker - it inherently has a lower frequency response than the top speaker, so bass is usually directed to it. However, since this would mean a very imbalanced sound, the equalizer tried to compensate for it , especially with Dolby Atmos turned on. I'm not sure but it might be an "adaptive" DSP as sometimes I can hear the music try to play on one side but it pans slightly inward because there's lower frequencies going on. For example Daft Punk's Get Lucky when Pharrell starts to sing, it sounds like the audio pans left very slightly It also sounds to me like Dolby Atmos fails to work with the speakers occasionally although this glitch seems independent of that.
EDIT: I just got the N960FXXU2ARI9 update. Will be checking whether it still occurs. So far so good with Horizon Chase and Smash Hit. However, one thing I do want to note is how you're holding the phone and cupping the bottom speaker in landscape mode. When I first play audio I think it sounds ok even without cupping my hand, but as I cup my hand there for a while and remove it, the audio just sounds unbalanced.
I do not play games. So, Icannot comment on the speaker performance there.
However, over the month and a week that I've been using the phone, I've noticed that the issue
So, I've decided am just going to live with it. The audiophile community often talks about burn-in periods. Maybe this is some burn in for the speakers or amplifier. I do not know.
But for such an expensive device whose audio is "tuned by AKG" this is downright incompetant.
I would also bet that many units have this issue but they may exhibit it in a very sutble way so as to not be noticeable OR people simply do not notice audio problems as they would problems with the screen.