Why it’s best to (and should not) care about it


The Shure Aonic 50 noise cancelling headphones worn by a woman using the Shure mobile app.

Lily Katz / Android Authority

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With the introduction of Qualcomm’s aptX Lossless know-how, Bluetooth headphone clients will lastly be a part of their wired audiophile brethren with the choice to take heed to lossless high quality audio. The promise, as at all times, is superior sound. However whether or not that is actually a game-changer in your future listening habits will depend on who you ask.

On the one hand, current wi-fi merchandise are a few of the best-sounding headphones in the marketplace, packing in highly effective noise-cancelling, digital assistant, and customization choices you’ll seldom discover within the wired area. Plus, there are solid-sounding Bluetooth codecs already in the marketplace, together with LDAC and aptX HD. Nonetheless, audio purists will inform you there’s no substitute for the sound high quality of lossless audio. It’s a debate that’s raged because the growth of the MP3, however who do you have to consider, and is lossless Bluetooth audio actually that necessary?

See additionally: Bluetooth codecs 101 — Everything you need to know

Lossy vs lossless audio: What’s the distinction?

Bluetooth audio codec list in the Android settings menu

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Let’s begin with a fast primer on lossy versus lossless audio. Each are kinds of digital file compression designed to shrink down the dimensions of a music file or stream. Compression was initially very helpful to cram as many tracks as attainable onto your iPod or MP3 participant. At the moment it avoids consuming up your 4G/5G information restrict too rapidly whereas streaming.

Because the names indicate, lossy compression throws away some information from the unique file to avoid wasting area, whereas lossless provides you a completely devoted copy with no loss when uncompressed, therefore the talk about audio high quality variations.

Lossless compression is achieved via the usage of encoding strategies designed to optimize an audio file’s measurement with out throwing something away. Huffman coding is a fundamental instance of this. You’ll be able to consider lossless music as a bit like a .zip or .rar file, however reasonably than being general-purpose, lossless music recordsdata use encoding algorithms particularly designed for optimum audio compression. Frequent bodily file varieties embody FLAC and Apple’s ALAC, whereas aptX Lossless is the one Bluetooth codec at the moment on this class.

See additionally: Audio file formats explained and where to get them

Lossy compression is extra sophisticated and there’s a wider vary of strategies and fashions employed to shrink file sizes. The frequent theme is that they’re primarily based on frequency area psychoacoustic compression, eradicating components of the audio sign which are already masked or very tough to listen to primarily based on the traits of human listening to. In principle, you shouldn’t hear any distinction. Nonetheless, the extra aggressive the compression, the smaller the file measurement however the higher the prospect that the listener will discover what’s been eliminated. Lossy audio file varieties embody MP3, AAC, and OGG, whereas lossy Bluetooth codecs span SBC, LC3, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, LDAC, and others.

Lossless compression at all times sounds nearly as good because the supply however that doesn’t imply lossy compression is inferior or poor high quality. Strong research level to no discernible preference between respectable bit price lossy compression and the lossless supply. Research have proven comparable outcomes for CD vs Hi-Res files too — though that doesn’t imply some audiophiles don’t possess these coveted “golden ears.”

The Bluetooth/lossless drawback

Bluetooth Icon on a smartphone settings menu

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Why does Bluetooth use lossy reasonably than lossless compression, to start with? The issue is that Bluetooth’s information price is just too low for lossless Bluetooth audio.

Regardless that Bluetooth’s Enhanced Knowledge Charge (EDR) is able to hitting above 2Mbps, sustaining that price for real-time information switch shouldn’t be possible. In actuality, 1Mbps, or usually nicely under is a extra reasonable sustainable most switch price. That’s not sufficient for 1.4Mbps CD, not to mention 4.6Mbps Hello-Res audio. This restricted pace is because of a mixture of radio and object interference, packet overhead and loss, and infrequently lower than optimum antenna placements.

Because of this, Bluetooth audio codecs have traditionally focused decrease, extra sustainable bit charges utilizing lossy compression. One other method to think about that is prioritizing playback that’s free from skips and dropouts on the expense of some audio constancy.

Bluetooth audio is traditionally a trade-off between sound and connection high quality.

Compounding the issue is the truth that the unique low-bit-rate SBC codec was designed for voice compression reasonably than excessive constancy music. Regardless of subsequent revisions, third events have stepped in to fill the void with codecs particularly designed to transmit music over Bluetooth. However AAC, aptX, and the upcoming LC3 codec nonetheless goal decrease, sustainable bit charges round 300kbps and under. Qualcomm’s aptX HD pushes the envelope with high-end sound, however it’s nonetheless capped at 576kbps.

Sony’s LDAC was the primary codec to try to deal with the standard and scalability drawback head-on with its 330, 660, and 990kbps high quality choices. The codec additionally claims Hello-Res help and guarantees “similar as CD high quality” playback (notice, not bit-perfect playback). After testing, we discovered the 990kbps mode is certainly virtually transparent for CD-quality audio. Nonetheless, there are nonetheless some small components of lossy encoding and, extra importantly, some gadgets wrestle to supply a glitch-free playback expertise at this bit price. LDAC can obtain near-lossless CD playback, however you’ll usually discover high quality referred to as again to 660kbps, though we’d argue that’s nonetheless adequate for all however the pickiest listeners.

LDAC can already obtain near-lossless CD playback, however sustained connectivity is usually a drawback.

aptX Adaptive is Qualcomm’s different strategy to fixing the connection dropout drawback. This codec dynamically scales its bit price primarily based on the radio atmosphere, dropping down high quality in congested areas to keep away from glitches. Earlier than aptX Lossless, aptX Adaptive nonetheless focused a extra conservative 420kbps however will now scale all the way in which as much as higher than 1Mbps for lossless CD-quality audio. Qualcomm’s aptX Lossless is the primary codec to say absolutely lossless Bluetooth audio, bit-exact playback of CD-quality recordsdata, and in addition seems to have the {hardware} setup to maintain this excessive information price. For now, lossless Hello-Res (24-bit, 96kHz) tracks stay out of attain for all Bluetooth codecs at the moment in the marketplace.

Fast reference bit charges:

  • SBC — 200 to 328kbps
  • AAC — 128 to 256kbps
  • LC3 — 160 to 345kbps
  • LDAC — 300kbps, 660kbps, 990kbps
  • aptX — 352kbps
  • aptX HD — 576kbps
  • aptX Adaptive — 279 to 420kbps
  • aptX Lossless — 120kbps to >1Mbps

A better take a look at the aptX Lossless answer

Qualcomm aptX phone notification up close

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Qualcomm’s lossless Bluetooth audio know-how is a two-pronged assault on the issue. First, aptX Lossless helps the compression of CD audio information (16-bit, 44.1kHz) with none loss in high quality, whereas Snapdragon Sound ensures that each playback and receiver gadgets provide a strong sufficient Bluetooth connection to maintain the mandatory information price with out dropping packets.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Sound encompasses Bluetooth radio parts, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth co-existence administration, and an optimized software program stack to make sure a strong reference to minimal overhead. With out these optimizations, Qualcomm notes that it’s not possible to maintain aptX Lossless high quality audio.

aptX Lossless is a {hardware} and software program answer to Bluetooth’s bit price drawback.

As well as, aptX Lossless falls below the aptX Adaptive tool suite, which means gadgets will profit from Qualcomm’s different codec options too. For instance, audio bit price scales from lossless proper right down to 140kbps with out interruption if you happen to wander into an space with excessive radio interference, so there are not any glitches or dropouts. aptX Adaptive additionally helps 24-bit 96kHz playback, albeit with lossy compression, and a dynamic low latency mode for avid gamers and voice calls.

There are just a few caveats, although. For starters, current aptX Adaptive merchandise received’t routinely obtain Lossless help — not less than not and not using a firmware replace. You’ll additionally want Snapdragon Sound licensed gadgets on each the transceiver and receiver ends to learn from lossless audio. So it’s going to take some time for gadgets to permeate the market with a large portfolio. Sadly, not all Snapdragon Sound gadgets will essentially help aptX Lossless, so understanding precisely what you’re getting may not be as crystal clear correctly.

Is lossless Bluetooth audio truly helpful?

A picture of Apple Music vs Spotify on a OnePlus 7 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S10e, respectively.

Lily Katz / Android Authority

The prevalence of compression-heavy music streaming providers has, till not too long ago, made lossless Bluetooth audio an pointless luxurious that most likely crossed few folks’s minds anyway. A lossless wi-fi connection to your headphones is redundant in case your supply is already compressed.

Nonetheless, there’s a rising marketplace for providers providing music streaming and downloads in lossless CD and Hello-Res high quality. Apple Music, Amazon Music, Tidal, and others provide excessive decision and/or lossless tracks to stream and obtain. It’s these clients, and people with their very own lossless audio assortment, that stand to learn from aptX Lossless help when listening through Bluetooth.

In spite of everything, it’s reasonably pointless to stump up a premium for Apple Music’s lossless ALAC recordsdata solely to have them downgraded to lossy AAC when listening again through your AirPods Pros. Nonetheless, clients with lossy music collections or these nonetheless streaming from extra inexpensive suppliers doubtless received’t understand any advantages with lossless Bluetooth audio over current high-quality lossy Bluetooth codecs.

See additionally: Spotify HiFi — Everything you need to know


With lossless CD-quality, radio-aware scaling, low latency gaming and voice, and Hello-Res help, aptX Lossless seems to be the trade’s most strong Bluetooth audio choice. Nonetheless, there’s nonetheless prone to be some debate about whether or not Qualcomm’s customary affords a perceivable enchancment to audio high quality and which Bluetooth audio codec is the most effective decide for customers with a Hello-Res library. Plus whether or not the proprietary nature of Qualcomm’s know-how will restrict client adoption versus extra common help for SBC and the upcoming LC3 codec.

Prospects with a lossless music assortment stand to learn from CD-quality Bluetooth audio.

Finally, the most effective Bluetooth codec is the one supported by each your headphones and smartphone or music participant. aptX Lossless has some reasonably steep necessities on the {hardware} aspect in comparison with current requirements. We’re ready to see whether or not headphone producers assume that is the best know-how to put money into, or whether or not wi-fi audio high quality is already adequate for his or her clients. What do you assume?

The prospect of lossless audio through Bluetooth will lastly permit clients to profit from the premium streaming choices littering the market, setting Qualcomm up because the chief in the case of Bluetooth audio high quality — though these with a penchant for Hello-Res music collections will doubtless keep on with their wired headphones for a bit longer.

Even so, lossless CD-quality audio over Bluetooth is nice information for audiophiles, who can now benefit from the added bonus of revisiting previous arguments on the deserves and audible notion of lossy versus lossless compression and CD versus Hello-Res music high quality. Thanks, Qualcomm.



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