Bluetooth Audio Codecs for headphones and smartphones

In addition to variations of audio quality, Bluetooth Audio Codecs represent different latency, different levels of energy efficiency and different levels of stability. These may be important considerations depending on your use case. If you’re going wireless, invest in headphones that support high bitrate codecs like aptX or AAC for iPhone users. To bring you speed in just a few minutes, we’ve put together a guide to understanding the Bluetooth codecs.

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What are Bluetooth codecs?

Bluetooth Audio Codecs

Bluetooth Audio Codecs determines how the Bluetooth source is transmitted from the device to your headphones. It encodes and decodes digital audio data in a specific format. In the ideal world, a high-fidelity signal would be possible at the minimum specified bit rate, resulting in the minimum space and bandwidth required for storage and transmission. Lower bitrate actually means better compression but worse sound quality, higher bitrate means better sound quality and poor compression. So how does Codex navigate this compromise

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How compressing data is used in Bluetooth codec?

Did we all know that Bluetooth was primarily used to send data? So, that’s where the codec aspect comes into play. Codec means compression and decompression of data. Which refers to how the data is made small enough to be transmitted wirelessly. The most common code is mp3, which we already know. But AAC, SBC and aptX are some of the latest and advanced codecs. The purpose of this codex is to transmit less data over a more reliable connection. The more data there is after all, the more likely it is to get lost in the transmission. This will ensure that they do not lose the signal in the middle of your favourite song.

However, the codecs mentioned above are presented as harmful because a lot of audio data is damaged. The idea of ​​the codec is to produce better sound by transferring more data with less compression. The type of codec used will be determined by the compatibility of the two devices in question, so incompatible devices will not play any sound, no matter how hard you try.

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Will Bluetooth destroy audio?

While the codecs used to transmit data may affect the sound quality, this does not mean that it will degrade. If the audio device is transmitting sound and so is the other device, the sound quality will be unaffected due to compatibility. So, for example, Apple Music uses the AAC codec and therefore iPhones. This means that if you listen to Apple music on your iPhone, the quality will be excellent. If you want to use an Android device, AAC data will need to be decompressed and then re-compressed using another codec, resulting in a reduction in sound quality. In some cases, it may not be noticeable, but it is like gambling.

Why we chose to use aptX codec?

An important aspect of Bluetooth audio is latency. This refers to how long it takes to process digital data. The last thing you want is a delay in sound while watching a movie. Codex, especially aptX, has low latency which means it processes data very quickly. If you think about the Clear Audio Alley Plus II earbuds, this is one of the distinguishing features of the devices. No delay means you have a simple sound experience that makes all the difference.

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Below is a list of codecs you need to know

  1. SBC
  2. AptX (HD)
  3. AptX Adaptive
  4. LDAC
  5. LHDC
  6. AAC
  7. LC3

Bluetooth transmission standards are complex, and because I want to keep this article comprehensible to as many readers as possible, I will focus on the most important advantages and disadvantages of Bluetooth Audio Codecs.

Low-complexity sub-band codec (SBC)

The SBC audio codec is used for “low complexity subband codec”. Basically, it is quite negligible in the codec. Moreover, SBC splits the signal into multiple frequency bands and encodes each one independently. Think of SBC as the lowest common denominator in Bluetooth codecs. That’s not the best. However, it is mandatory in all A2DP-enabled devices, making it virtually universal.

Also, this codec can be used without a license. Thus, it is mostly use to make cheap headphones. The codec is part of the Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP). Although, SBC is widely use, compression causes significant loss of quality.

Furthermore, it achieves a maximum of 345 kilobits per second at 48 kHz for SBC wireless connection. For this reason, the codec is not suitable for streaming music. Another disadvantage of SBC is that the connection quality can be reduce more easily. If the headset only offers SBC format, this is usually an indication that the sound quality is not optimal.

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AptX (HD)

This audio codec is develop by Qualcomm and is called “Audio Processing Technology”. It is express by high bit rates and all low latency. In the HD version, aptX supports up to 24-bit resolution, with a maximum bit rate of 567 kilobits per second at a sample rate of 48 kHz. On the other hand, in without HD, AptX offers a maximum of 384 kilobits per second and 16-bit sampling depth at 48 kHz.

Speaking of its latency, AptX HD and AptX have a latency of between 170 and 270 milliseconds. Qualcomm still has a some things to go: AptX LL, used for “low latency”, achieves a low latency of up to 40 milliseconds. This is a real advantage, especially for gaming headsets or musical.

Regarding mobile phones, one of the major problems with AptX is that Apple does not support this codec. So if you connect AptX HD headphones to iPhone, you won’t get any practical benefits. However, since AptX is backward compatible with SBC, you can still use the device.

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AptX Lossless

The AptX Lossless Codec promises lossless audio streams with CD-standard quality. Which is released by Qualcomm in September 2021. Moreover, it is not equivalent to the Hi-Fi / HiRes format, as it offers 44.1 KHz on 16-bit. The company places the new format as ideal for premium audio streaming services.

A frequent problem when talking about codecs, AptX Lossless needs support in both mobile and headset to launch. Which according to Qualcomm should launch in early 2022, but without any expectation of compatibility with the iPhone family.

AptX Adaptive

Qualcomm uses AptX adaptive as a successor to the AptX. Which is not yet seen in many Bluetooth headsets on the market. As per the built quality, the codec is flexible and can switch between the advantages of different AptX standards. It also offers low latency mode which is especially suitable for mobile games and movies.

However, if low latency isn’t so important, the AptX adaptive achieves a very high bit rate of 279 kilobits per second to 420 kilobits per second. Qualcomm only refers to latency in 80 milliseconds. Additionally, AptX is backward compatible with adaptive aptX and aptX HD. Thus, if your device already supports AptX Adaptive, but your headphones only support AptX HD, you can still take advantage of AptX HD.

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LDAC

If you want to minimize the damage when streaming music wirelessly. You should look into the Bluetooth LDAC codec. The LDAC was developed by Sony and can be found in existing headphones such as the Sony WF-1000XM4 or Sony WH-1000XM4. Furthermore, the codec offers a maximum of 990 kilobits per second with a 16-bit sampling depth at 48 kHz.

Since LDAC is part of AOSP (Android Open Source Project) from Android 8.0, a large number of devices support the standard. If your headphones are compatible, you can find the HD quality option via LDAC in your phone’s Bluetooth settings. However, the default bitrate for devices is not specified. In this case, you have to go to Android Developer Settings to adjust it on your device. As you may have already noticed: Again, you won’t benefit from LDAC-compatible headphones if you use an Apple device. But we will cover the best audio codec for iPhones owners later in this article.

LHDC

The LHDC codec is another standard with a higher bitrate. Theoretically, it is ready to be integrate into the system interface by software developers from Android 10. In practice, however, LHDC support is not as widespread. Here is an example:

OnePlus Buds Pro supports the LHDC standard and, together with OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro, offers better sound quality than many other Android phones. However, despite the flagship line being compatible, OnePlus does not extend support across its entire product range. Which means that newer features are not offer in cheaper models like the OnePlus Nord 2.

While LHDC is technically impressive, the standard is not easily captured in the 24-bit definition, with bit rates of up to 900 kilobits per second and sample rates of 96 kHz. Several manufacturers partnered in September 2018, including premium audio brands such as Sennheiser, Audio-Technica and Edifier, chipmaker Cirrus Logic and mobile phone maker Huawei.

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AAC

The abridgement AAC stands for “Advanced Audio Codec” and describes the audio codec that is standard on iPhones and iPads. However, this does not mean that Android devices or laptops do not support the standard. While the technical side doesn’t seem particularly impressive with 24-bit and 320 kilobits per second at 96 kHz, the quality of the AAC as a whole is very interesting.

This is because AAC’s file transfer is based on schismatic models that take into account what people can hear during compression. Since this requires more processing power and power management works differently between Android and iOS, AAC provides better sound quality on your iPhone.

AAC-compatible headphones are a clear recommendation for iOS device users. For example, you can purchase Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700!. Since the quality under Android depends on many factors. If you do not have an iPhone or do not intend to buy, you should pay more attention to the previous codecs.

LC3

Since Bluetooth 5.2, there’s another new audio codec, the LC3, which is still special. However, I would like to include it in this article as it is basically a successor to the SBC codec. The LC3 can maintain high audio quality at a low sample rate.

However, the LC3 isn’t really widespread yet and is currently a more interesting promise for audio geeks. Now that we have dealt with the most important codecs, the conclusion deals with the question of what is the “best” Bluetooth Audio Codecs.

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So, what should I be looking for in Bluetooth speakers, headphones, and earbuds?

While high-quality codecs can make a difference, there are some things that should be preferred. These include sound drivers and battery life. Given a real example, we will once again focus on Ally Plus II earbuds. The best sound quality is achieved through the use of 10mm dynamic graphene drivers compatible with AptX. Taking it a step further to ensure powerful bass and overall performance, earbuds have Bluetooth 5.2 technology with AptX ™ and AptX ™ adaptive to deliver a thumping sound every time. All of this is backed by a 33-hour battery life that is capable of maintaining even the most demanding lifestyle.

Conclusion

Gaint electronics brands have always been working for the best performance of their Bluetooth Audio Codecs. Complex relationships are often broken up and compare on the basis of numbers. But just as a 108-megapixel camera doesn’t necessarily provide “better” images than a 12 MP sensor, the same applies to Bluetooth codecs.

If you want to hear premium streaming service in 2022 with as little loss as possible, LDAC may be a good choice. However, you can enjoy the benefits only if you have an Android device and may need to change the settings. AptX HD is considered a good balance between distribution and compression, but again Apple is left to a loyal audience.

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