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New Bluetooth codec improves sound quality, benefits the hearing impaired

An exciting leap for Bluetooth audio is here.

Published onSeptember 22, 2020

A picture of a man and a woman smiling at a laptop screen.

Update, September 22, 2020: This article was updated to mark the official release of Bluetooth LE Audio and address more detailed specifications.

Bluetooth SIG announced the official release of Bluetooth LE Audio, which will allow audio companies to revert back to standardized practices rather than create proprietary audio codecs. The new Low Complexity Communications Codec (LC3) offers better audio quality and efficiency than SBC, so you can enjoy extended battery life from supported products. It will also aid the deaf and hard of hearing.

Learn more: Bluetooth codecs 101

Once the Bluetooth LC3 codec comes to consume audio products, we’ll see smaller devices, because of the significant power consumption improvements. What’s more, LC3 is is great news for listeners who can’t afford premium aptX headsets, as the gap between SBC and aptX is reduced. With the LC3 codec, higher quality audio can stream at a 50% lower bit rate. This makes it easier for developers to balance audio quality and power consumption when designing products. Bluetooth SIG hosts a demo on its site so listeners can hear the difference between Classic Audio and LE Audio.

Bluetooth LE Audio and the LC3 codec improve call quality too, because all LE Audio devices mandate the Super Wideband (SWB) quality and are compatible with HD Voice+. This means you’ll have fewer call quality issues on your next conference call.

Bluetooth Codec Comparison bar chart.
Bluetooth LC3 greatly improves streaming quality.

More than just consumer products benefit from LE Audio: Bluetooth hearing aids are afforded efficient, multi-stream support. Multi-stream audio facilitates independent audio stream transmissions between a smartphone and left and right hearing aids. This is designed to completely synch up each channel down to 20 microseconds. According to CTO of WiFore and working Bluetooth SIG group member Nick Hunn, this has potential to improve other medical sensors that need to be located between your ears.

Bluetooth LC3 brings high-quality audio at low data rates, which improves power efficiency.

LE Audio also introduces broadcast audio for audio sharing, which lets anyone broadcast audio to share with an unlimited number of nearby Bluetooth devices. This means you can now simultaneously share what you’re listening to on your smartphone to your friends’ headsets. Not only does this afford personal benefit, but it enables venues to stream Bluetooth audio to inform visitors during an event. For instance, if you’re waiting at the airport, you may be able to subscribe to announcements that only pertain to your flight, filtering out extraneous distractions.

Bluetooth LE Audio runs on Bluetooth Low Energy radio and supports the development of the same products as Classic Audio.

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