Monday, January 13, 2020

Bluetooth LE Audio

Gizmodo reports: [edited]

One of the biggest improvements of the latest Bluetooth standard will be a feature called Multi-Stream Audio. Bluetooth is currently limited to streaming audio to a single device. That’s fine for portable speakers and headphones where both sides are connected with a wire, but for wireless earbuds, such as Apple’s AirPods, your smartphone can only connect to one side. That earbud then has to forward the audio stream onto the one in your other ear, which requires some clever software tricks to ensure everything remains in sync.

Multi-Stream Audio will solve that, as it will allow a single device, such as a smartphone, to stream flawlessly synced audio to multiple audio devices at the same time. The most obvious benefit is that it will be easier to make wireless earbuds work without any audio lag issues. But the feature will also benefit those who want to use their wireless headphones with multiple devices at the same time, such as a tablet, phone, and a laptop, streamlining the process of switching between each audio source without having to go through an annoying disconnect/reconnect process each time.

Bluetooth LE Audio will also make sharing a music stream with others possible. Users should be able to share audio from their smartphone with friends, as multiple sets of wireless headphones can be connected to a single source device at once, and each should receive the exact same audio stream in perfect sync with all the others. Further expanding on that idea is another new feature known as Broadcast Audio which allows a single audio source device to broadcast several audio streams to an unlimited number of wireless headphones, without any private pairing required.

Imagine sitting in a waiting lounge at the airport and instead of TVs blaring the news over their speakers, they’d instead allow anyone with wireless headphones to connect to the audio broadcast, even in multiple languages. It’s a feature that promises to improve the experience at movie theaters, gyms, and even shopping malls.

Even audiophiles might finally have a reason to embrace Bluetooth with LE Audio, as the new spec is introducing the Low Complexity Communication Codec (LC3) — which promises better audio quality at lower data rates. The reduced data rate will also result in reduced power consumption for Bluetooth destination and source devices. This will allow companies to further reduce the size of wireless earbud devices, as smaller batteries will be needed to achieve the same battery life.

New hardware will be required, starting with the chips that should arrive sometime this year.

Image: Adam Clark Estes (Gizmodo)

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