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Bluetooth headphones to get new features with massive upgrade

·2-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Bluetooth headphones are about to get a massive upgrade with a new update that is coming out today.

The new Bluetooth LE Audio format, which was first announced in 2020, will make headphones more power efficient, sound better, and will be able to connect to an unlimited number of devices.

The most vital part of the update is the Low Complexity Communications Codec (LC3), which will provide high quality audio at a lower power rate.

“LC3 will bring tremendous flexibility to developers, allowing them to make better design tradeoffs between key product attributes such as audio quality and power consumption”, Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) write.

This will be particularly good for Android users, who have not been able to use the AAC open source codec Apple uses in its iPhones. High quality sound usually came via Qualcomm’s aptX or Sony’s LDAC – via a paid-for license on top of the standard Bluetooth technology - but including the LC3 codec in the standard Bluetooth licence will now make it more accessible.

“We believe that LC3 is as advanced as any other codec out there”, Nick Hunn, chief technology officer of WiFore Consulting, and member of Bluetooth SIG, told Input in February. There’s going to be lots of marketing jargon from [licensed] codecs, and it will ultimately be up to the platform and device makers to decide what codec gets priority, but LC3 is going to be highly competitive.”

Developers should also be able to use the Multi-Stream Audio feature to provide a better stereo imaging experience, make using voice assistant services more seamless, and make it easier to switch between audio sources. Currently, most headphones can only support two devices at a time – usually a smartphone and a laptop.

This new innovation, which is being branded as Auracast, could mean that two pairs of headphones can be connected to a single device, or multiple earbuds paired to a television via a QR code or specific Wi-Fi network in a public place, the SIG suggest.

Bluetooth LE Audio will be compatible with any Bluetooth 5.2 or newer-equipped device, which means most phones and audio hardware from the past two years will benefit from this. Early Android 13 betas show support for the new Bluetooth, but the SIG notes that it “will be up to product developers to decide which versions of Bluetooth audio their solution supports.”

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