Understanding Bluetooth Codecs on Wireless Headphones and Earphones

Bluetooth know-how has been a game-changer for private audio, and ever-improving Bluetooth requirements have made wi-fi headphones and earphones extra standard than ever earlier than. Not solely that, private wi-fi audio gadgets are additionally very reasonably priced as of late, to the purpose the place they are usually most popular over wired earphones and headphones. Wired headphones are nonetheless the go-to selection for audiophiles for his or her superior sound high quality, however in case you’re on the lookout for new headphones or earphones proper now, you are probably searching for one thing wi-fi to make use of together with your smartphone, pill, or laptop computer.

You’ve got in all probability heard the time period ‘Bluetooth codec’, which is a one of many key specs to maintain a watch on when shopping for wi-fi headphones and earphones. Assist for the appropriate Bluetooth codec could make an enormous distinction to sound high quality. However what precisely is a Bluetooth codec, and why is it essential? Learn on to search out out.

What’s a Bluetooth codec?

With out going into the main points of audio codecs or how streaming companies work, we’ll first attempt to clarify what a Bluetooth codec is, and how totally different Bluetooth codecs perform. To grasp that, it is first essential to understand how Bluetooth itself capabilities.

Bluetooth is a set of wi-fi requirements that be sure that a digital sign from the supply system might be interpreted by the receiving system. Within the case of audio, a supply akin to a smartphone converts audio information into radio waves. The receiving system, akin to a speaker or pair of headphones, makes use of a digital-to-analogue converter (DAC) to show that sign into sound that may be heard by the listener.

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This whole course of often takes place rapidly and stably, to make sure that the listening expertise is not hampered in any method. The upper the standard of audio you need, the extra information must be transmitted. To attain this, the digital audio sign is compressed in order that extra information might be transmitted wirelessly in the identical period of time. This must be decompressed on the receiving finish. The Bluetooth codec (which is brief for “coder/decoder”), is basically a set of parameters and directions for the way this compression and decompression occurs. Each gadgets must assist the identical codec so as to use it, and its most information transmission fee is a sign of its capabilities.

Bluetooth codecs work in a different way, and among the fundamental ones such because the sub-band codec or SBC, are likely to discard numerous the sign information through the compression section. This significantly reduces the standard of the digital audio sign and the following analogue audio that you simply hear. Superior Bluetooth codecs akin to aptX and LDAC are capable of carry extra information wirelessly and can obtain larger secure bitrates, making certain a greater high quality sign is acquired on the audio output system.

Compatibility with a Bluetooth codec is required at each ends; basically, the receiving system wants to have the ability to perceive the ‘language’ of the supply system, so to talk. Thus, a Bluetooth codec can solely be used if each the supply and receiving system assist it. If there is a mismatch, the hyperlink will fall again to no matter commonplace each gadgets have in widespread. This makes it essential to match the codec assist on your wi-fi headphones, earphones or speaker together with your smartphone, pill, or laptop computer.

Widespread Bluetooth codecs defined

SBC (sub-band codec)

Probably the most fundamental Bluetooth codec is SBC, and it’s virtually universally supported since it’s a part of the fundamental Bluetooth protocol. Virtually each system able to transmitting or receiving Bluetooth audio helps this codec, and that is what ensures the interoperability of just about any Bluetooth headset with any Bluetooth-enabled telephone. Within the absence of every other codecs, gadgets will default to SBC.

As talked about earlier than, SBC is fairly fundamental in relation to information transmission and bitrates. It favours connection stability and energy effectivity over sound high quality. SBC helps a transmission bitrate of round 345 kilobits per second or kbps, however often operates at decrease bitrates to enhance stability and cut back lag.

Many entry-level Bluetooth headphones and earphones assist solely the SBC Bluetooth codec. This naturally signifies that the audio sign acquired is compressed considerably, and sound high quality is often restricted.

AAC (Superior Audio Coding)

To not be confused with the audio file format of the identical title, the AAC Bluetooth codec is a step above SBC in phrases with the ability to stably switch audio information over Bluetooth. It helps a most transmission bitrate of 320 kbps, and is often capable of keep a excessive bitrate with out having to continuously alter for stability. Notably, that is the default Bluetooth codec on Apple

gadgets akin to iPhones and iPads in addition to Apple’s AirPods vary of Bluetooth headsets.

AAC can also be broadly supported on Android gadgets and by loads of wi-fi headphones and earphones, throughout the worth vary. Though AAC presents higher sound high quality than SBC, it nonetheless considerably compresses the audio sign as in comparison with extra superior Bluetooth codecs.

It’s, nonetheless, a preferred and sensible codec, and you need to search for it in case you intend to make use of your wi-fi headset with Apple gadgets.

Qualcomm aptX, aptX LL, aptX HD, and aptX Adaptive

The Qualcomm aptX codec household has been round for years, and for the reason that unique model was launched, there have additionally been new and improved iterations akin to aptX HD and aptX Adaptive. With bitrates going as much as 576 kbps, and the aptX Adaptive codec even implementing variable bitrates for flexibility and higher connection stability, aptX presents a substantial enchancment over each SBC and AAC.

Assist for the aptX codecs is widespread on Android gadgets, and it’s also obtainable on some Apple Macs, however not on iOS gadgets to this point. Though aptX does have an effect on energy effectivity and battery life, it presents a major enchancment in sound high quality over SBC and AAC, significantly the newer aptX HD and aptX Adaptive implementations.

Many headphones and earphones throughout value ranges assist the aptX codec set, often by the use of utilizing a appropriate Qualcomm Bluetooth answer as a part of the {hardware} setup. It is price looking for assist for this codec when you’ve got a appropriate supply system, which might be nearly any fashionable Android smartphone.

Samsung Scalable

Samsung launched its personal Scalable Bluetooth codec just lately. It has a variable, continuously adjusting bitrate going as much as 512 kbps, and is alleged to allow high-quality information transmission even in environments the place there may be numerous radio interference. It is broadly thought-about to be on par with aptX HD and aptX Adaptive when it comes to transmission high quality.

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Nevertheless, Samsung has saved this know-how proprietary and the Scalable codec is just supported on Samsung gadgets for now. This contains most of the firm’s true wi-fi earphones and headphones throughout the Samsung and AKG product ranges, in addition to most Samsung smartphones and tablets operating Android 7 and above.

A headset with Scalable codec assist is sensible when you’ve got a appropriate Samsung smartphone or pill to make use of it with. Most of Samsung’s current audio merchandise, together with the Galaxy Buds collection, assist the Scalable codec.

LHDC (Low-latency and Excessive Definition Codec)

On paper, LHDC is among the many higher Bluetooth codecs round with assist for a versatile bitrate going as much as 900 kbps. Nevertheless, the most important downside of this codec is compatibility with gadgets. Not too many wi-fi headsets and supply gadgets assist LHDC, and solely a handful of manufacturers akin to Xiaomi, Oppo, and Huawei have to this point launched merchandise that assist it.

Matching these wi-fi headphones or earphones with an LHDC-compatible supply system is especially troublesome in the intervening time, and this has held again its reputation. The extra widespread compatibility and adoption of the opposite codecs on this checklist, significantly aptX and LDAC, give them the sting over LHDC.


Among the many greatest standard Bluetooth codecs round, Sony LDAC has variable bitrates ranging throughout three settings — 330 kbps for secure connectivity, 990 kbps for a spotlight on sound high quality, and 660 kbps, which strikes a stability between the 2. Though initially restricted to Sony merchandise, LDAC is now supported on a variety of gadgets together with headsets from numerous manufacturers, and many Android smartphones and tablets are appropriate.

LDAC is taken into account to be among the many greatest Bluetooth codecs proper now, enabling much more element and perception in transmitted sound than different codecs. It is sometimes seen on high-end wi-fi audio merchandise, though there are some reasonably priced ones that do assist it. Many mid-range and high-end Sony headphones and earphones assist LDAC, and it is price on the lookout for this codec in case you use an Android telephone.

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