We are witnessing the end of 3.5mm Jacks in smartphones and a surge in the demand for Wireless Headphones and TWS earbuds.
But we all are aware that Wired connectivity via 3.5mm Jacks offers better Audio quality and latency.
In order to ensure that you are still having the top-notch music listening experience while switching from a Wired Headphone to a wireless one, the role of a Bluetooth Audio codec is more than significant.
Not only that the Best Codec will offer better Bitrates but it also has an impact on your Wireless headphone’s battery life.
There are various Bluetooth Audio codecs in the market and if you have a wireless Headphone it might be using the one we are about to discuss.
So without any further ado.
Understanding Basic Terminologies
First, let’s start by understanding some of the Basic Terminologies that we will encounter later in this article so that you don’t confuse yourself!
Sample Rate: The terms Sample rate basically means how often a signal is measured or calculated per second. It is measured in Hz or kHz, the most standard rate for CDs is 40.1 kHz that is twice the 20 kHz human hearing limit. This means that the Audio is sampled twice to accumulate the signals.
Bit Depth: This basically denotes the number of “bits” of data a Sample consists of. Bit Depth also defines the Dynamic range so more bits means more dynamic range and vice versa. A higher bit depth will also make for a Large file.
Bit Rate: The most important aspect that you need to understand as a music listener is the Bit Rate. It is measured in Kbps or Mbps and is used to calculate the number of bits transferred over the Bluetooth.
Higher the Bitrate the better the Audio quality you will experience on your Wireless Bluetooth device. Generally, on most Music streaming app you will have a 320 Kbps option which is ideal for music listening.
What is a Bluetooth Codec?
The role of a Bluetooth Codec in any smart device is to ensure that the Best quality of Audio is transmitted via Bluetooth.
A codec does this by encoding and decoding the Digital Audio Data into a specific format while transmitting high fidelity signals at minimum bit rates.
So basically this means that the Low bit rates account for higher compression and lower audio quality while Higher bit rates account for lesser compression and higher audio quality.
A Bluetooth codec needs to be supported in both the receiver and the transmitter in order for it to work.
So now that you have understood what a Bluetooth Codecs are and how does they work. We can move on to discuss the Type of Bluetooth Codecs.
What are the types of Bluetooth Codec?
There are various companies that use their own in-house codec in their Bluetooth device while others use Codec from third party companies like Qualcomm.
The aptX is Qualcomm’s proprietary Bluetooth codec which serves the purpose to deliver CD quality sound via Bluetooth connection.
This aptX codec supports a Sample rate of up to 48 kHz along with 16 bits of Bit depth. While the Bitrate transmitted through the codec can be up to 352 kbps which ensure a Lossless encoding of Audio Data.
At this Bitrate, the user avails a smooth experience while listening to music. Also, aptX is one of the most common Audio codec found on Bluetooth Headphones and Andriod smartphones.
2. AptX HD
On the other hand, the aptX HD is the bigger and more efficient brother of the aptX codec. As the name suggests, this codec is capable to deliver better and much higher quality Audio than CDs. Most of the Android phone with Qualcomm SoCs do supports this codec.
The high-resolution Audio transmission takes palace at a sample rate of 48 kHz with a bit-depth of 24 bits. Surprisingly the codec has a bitrate of 576Kbps which ensures an amazing quality of Audio.
To enjoy the AptX HD codec you need to make sure that your smart device and the headphone support the same.
The latest smartphones that support the latest aptX HD include Google Pixel 3a, Google Pixel 3a XL, Huawei P30, Huawei P30 Pro, Huawei Mate 20 Pro, LG G7 ThinQ, LG G8 ThinQ, Oneplus 8/8 Pro, etc.
3. Advanced audio coding (AAC)
AAC is lossy digital audio compression mainly preferred by Apple and You tube’s (free to use) compression format.
Though this compression format is supported in Android devices as well. It rather aims to achieve Mp3 quality audio than CD quality, but the Bitrate is capped at 250 kbps which is not such an issue but moreover a restriction.
The AAC format has a bit depth of 24 bits with a sample rate of 96 kHz. This format does consume more battery life of the Receiver as well as of the transmitter than other audio codecs.
Different smartphones tend to perform differently with AAC codec, so it’s a bit difficult to understand the difference between AAC and AptX or AptX HD.
Sub Band coding (SBC) is a low-complexity sub band codec which can be considered as the default codec for Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) universally.
If your smartphones do not support the audio codec used in the wireless headphones then in that case you are using SBC.
SBC is also a lossy compression algorithm just like most of the Audio codecs used in other devices. What SBC does differently is that it divides the signal into multiple frequency bands which encodes each one independently.
SBC is capable enough to deliver high-quality 320 kbps Audio but this does not necessarily mean that your music listening experience will be the best using this Codec.
This happens because the main goal of this Audio codec is to efficient. Hence, it focuses on consuming less energy, offering low latency, and use fewer data than offering pristine Audio quality.
LDAC is an in-house Audio codec introduced by Sony. This Codec is incomparable to any other codec in terms of Bitrates as it can offer 990 kbps.
But LDAC is not widely available in other devices and you need to check the developer setting to see if your smartphone supports this.
LDAC gives you the flexibility to choose from three different connection modes which include quality mode, normal, and connection priority. Each of these modes offers different Bit rates i.e 990, 660, and 330 respectively.
LDAC can manage a sample rate of up to 94 kHz and a Bit-depth of 24 bits.
Sony has intelligently combined the lossless and lossy techniques to deliver the Hi-fi sound quality of 990 kbps.
LHDC stands for Low latency and High Definition audio codec which is co-developed by Hi-Res Wireless Audio (HWA) Union and Savitech.
LHDC in a way is an alternative for SBC and L3 codecs as it allows three times the data transmission offered by them.
It supports a maximum bitrate of 900 kbps with a maximum sample rate of 96 kHz and boasts less latency. These figures may seem similar to LDAC but the two are distinctively different in terms of delivery.
LHDC and LDAC are the only two Hi-Res Audio Wireless certification that means both of them are capable of delivering the best bitrates possible by Audio codecs.
In 2019 the first device to support LHDC was Huawei P30.
Low Complexity Communication Codec (LC3) was introduced in CES 2020 along with Bluetooth 5.2 by Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG).
LC3 Audio codec is going to be a revolutionary upgrade in Audio format which focuses to improve transmission rate, audio quality, and power consumption.
This codec can mainly change the game for True Wireless earbuds which faces more challenges because of the Build, Battery Size and, etc.
LC3 is expected to hit the floor by the end of the year 2020 and can become the Standard Audio Codec by replacing the SBC.
This can lead to a change in user experience as you will get much better Audio Quality with lesser distortions and improved Latency using the LC3 codec.
Which is the Best Bluetooth Audio Codec?
As we all want is the Best Audio quality while listening to music, it may get quite confusing that which one you should opt for. We have given you enough information about the different types of Audio Codecs available on different devices.
So based upon your personal preference you can pick one but you may have to compromise one thing or the other.
From our personal point of view, the Best Codec would be the AptX HD which offers balanced performance but depending upon which side you are on (android or iOS) you may prefer AAC.
While Sony LDAC is currently the highest quality Audio codec available in the market.
Always make sure that the Audio equipment you are buying is also supported by your smartphone so that you can take full advantage of the Audio compression format.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is aptX better than AAC?
This depends upon the usability and user preference. To make this easier we can say that if you have an iPhone we would recommend AAC codec as they are perfectly optimized for Apple devices and performs exceptionally well.
While the Android users should work out with aptX or aptX HD to get the best quality audio listening experience.
The reason why we have distinguished between these two based on the operating system is because of AAC’s unpredictable performance on different smartphones.
2. What is the best Bluetooth audio sample rate?
Generally, the frequency audible to Humans are 20kHz which makes 44.1 kHz the ideal choice of sample rate for an Audio CD giving a maximum of 20 kHz maximum frequency.
While many may argue 48 kHz to be better, but it is suitable for professionals and music production.
3. Which is better aptX HD or LDAC?
LDAC seems to be the more appropriate pick among the two as it can stream audio at up to 900 kbps at 24 bits/94kHz. But you need to make sure that your smartphone also supports the same.
While aptX HD is widely available in most of the devices and supports a bitrate of 576 Kbps at 24bits/48kHz which is enough to stream high quality Audio which are usually of 320 kbps.
Understanding the Wireless Audio codec can be a bit confusing but we hope this piece of content helped you.
Also, before buying a wireless headphone or earbuds make sure that you take note of the Audio codec that it supports. There are plenty of Headphones out there in the market which supports multiple codec format.
Thank you for reading!