The organization that develops standards around Bluetooth has just formalized Bluetooth LE Audio. This new standard promises to improve the audio quality of wireless headsets and earphones as well as their autonomy, and will allow multiple connections on a single device.
The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), the organization that develops standards around Bluetooth, has just finalized the technical specifications for Bluetooth LE Audio.
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This publication marks the start of this new technology which promises better audio quality for wireless headphones and headsets, reduced consumption and new functions. Manufacturers will now be able to start integrating it into their products, the first of which could hit the market in the coming months.
Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) is a low-power wireless connection mode, generally used by low-power devices that only send data periodically, such as sensors.
Bluetooth LE Audio relies on this technology to take advantage of these advantages while providing continuous audio stream transmission and should thus make it possible to reduce the size of the devices or increase their autonomy.
What are the benefits of Bluetooth LE Audio?
Comparing the audio operation of basic Bluetooth, known as Bluetooth Classic, with the new Bluetooth LE Audio, the latter is superior on all counts.
Audio quality will be better with the new Low Complexity Communication Codec (LC3), compared to the low-complexity subband codec (SBC). The new codec makes it possible to compress a 1.5 Mbp audio stream to just 160 kbps instead of 345 kbps while maintaining a listening quality deemed superior.
This new standard also promises reduced latency. Where Bluetooth Classic has a response time of around 100 to 200 milliseconds, Bluetooth LE Audio reduces this delay to just 20 to 30 milliseconds.
This will limit the need to compensate for lag between audio and video, and will be much better suited for video games.
Of course, there are already other codecs that offer higher performance or lower latency compared to Bluetooth Classic. However, aside from the fact that both the headphones and the device they’re plugged into must support the same, these are proprietary codecs.
Builders have to pay for the right to include them. Bluetooth LE Audio is free, which could reduce the price of headphones slightly and encourage manufacturers to adopt the standard very quickly.
A new broadcast function
This new standard offers better handling of data packet loss thanks to the Isochronous LE channels added in the Bluetooth 5.2 standard.
Rather than requesting the resend of lost data which, therefore, will be received when it becomes unusable because the audio stream has continued, devices can simply move on. This allows for better performance in the event of interference or at maximum distance, and disturbances will go more easily unnoticed.
The devices will thus be able to manage multiple simultaneous streams, which leads to better stereo management for wireless headphones.
Rather than having one headset connected to the source device and the other connected to the first headset, as is often the case, both will be able to connect directly to the same device.
Isochronous LE channels are also the foundation of Bluetooth LE Audio’s new flagship feature, called Auracast. Finally, it allows multiple headsets to be used simultaneously with a single device. It works like a one-way broadcast, so it can work with an unlimited number of devices within range.
Users will be able to connect to a public Auracast, for example for news at a train station or to hear the TV at the gym. They will also be able to create private, password-protected Auracasts to share their music with friends nearby.
The technology will also work with hearing aids, which could encourage rapid adoption by TV manufacturers, but also by cinemas, theaters and other places open to the public in order to improve accessibility.