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Learn why audio seems out of sync when you’re watching and listening with a pair of Bluetooth headphones (and how to fix it).
Bluetooth headphones are celebrated for their wireless convenience, transforming how we listen to music, podcasts, and videos on our devices.
Yet, users often face a significant setback: sound delay, which disrupts the audio-visual harmony and degrades the listening experience.
This article explores eight practical solutions for fixing sound delay in Bluetooth headphones, so you can get rid of this problem as fast as possible. Let’s dive in!
1. Reset and Reconnect Your Bluetooth Headphones
Sometimes the most obvious solution is the best. Resetting the headphones can fix sound delays by restoring them to their default state, and clearing any underlying bugs.
To reset your Bluetooth headphones, first turn them off. Then, press and hold the power button until the LED light flashes, signaling the start of the reset.
2. Check for Interference
Interference refers to unwanted frequency signals that hijack and disrupt the clean signal between your source and Bluetooth headphones. Your wireless mouse, WiFi connection, television, and other similar appliances and gadgets emitting radio frequency could negatively impact the signal flow to your Bluetooth headphones, resulting in sound delays.
There’s also a maximum distance you can get away from the audio source before you start losing connection and experience choppiness in what you’re listening to. And it’s not just about the range your headphones can handle.
While most Bluetooth headphones can now go as far as 10m on average, walls and other similar forms of physical blockage can prevent you from enjoying the headphones’ full range.
To resolve Bluetooth issues, place the devices near each other, avoiding Wi-Fi routers and microwaves that may cause interference. You can also disable Bluetooth on unused gadgets to cover all bases.
3. Pick the Right Audio Codec
Bluetooth codecs compress digital audio for efficient transmission, reducing file size and bandwidth usage, then decode it into audible signals.
Different Bluetooth audio codecs compress and transmit audio uniquely. This results in different transmission qualities – some codecs are prone to audio delays, some are not.
While it’s great to have headphones that support high-quality audio codecs, your headphones should match the codec of your audio source. If not, they will revert to the lowest audio codec — SBC, which is the most prone to audio delays.
To change the Bluetooth audio codec on Android, follow these steps:
- Open Settings, then navigate to About phone > Software information.
- Tap Build number seven times, then enter your phone lock password to enable Developer mode.
- Return to the main Settings menu, then select Developer options.
- Scroll down until you find Bluetooth Audio Codec and tap on it.
- Select your preferred codec and confirm by tapping OK.
4. Match the Source and Headphones’ Bluetooth Audio Profile
Like Bluetooth audio codecs, not all Bluetooth versions are created equal. Significant improvements have been made with the technology incorporated in Bluetooth throughout the years. Later versions can typically process audio data faster than previous ones, which leads to shorter latency times and better sound quality.
However, also like Bluetooth audio codecs, having headphones with the latest Bluetooth versions won’t always guarantee smooth playback. Your headphones’ and audio sources’ Bluetooth versions must match. If not, you will only enjoy the features of whichever Bluetooth version is lower.
For example, if your headphones have Bluetooth 5.1, but your audio source only has 4.2, you can only experience the features of Bluetooth 4.2.
5. For Windows: Download and Install the Latest Bluetooth Driver
Windows installs the necessary driver for your Bluetooth headphones upon first connection but doesn’t update it unless done manually. Outdated drivers can cause audio lag.
To update your Bluetooth headphones’ drivers to the latest version, follow these steps:
- Right-click the Start button (Windows logo), then select Device Manager from the list.
- Open the Bluetooth dropdown menu by clicking the arrow pointing to the right beside Bluetooth.
- You’ll see a list of all Bluetooth devices that currently work with your computer. Look for the name of your Bluetooth headphones, then right-click on it.
- Select Update Driver then follow the on-screen instructions steps.
This can also solve other Bluetooth headphones issues, like when Bluetooth headphones are connected but have no sound.
6. For Mac: Delete Old Bluetooth Files
System errors caused by corrupted files are a possible reason why your Bluetooth connection acts up when connected to a Mac. Removing them all from your computer could improve your Bluetooth headphones’ wireless connection and remove delays.
- Launch Finder. On the Menu bar, click on Go and select Go to Folder.
- Type /Library/Preferences on the window that will pop up, then click Go.
- A new window will appear. Look for com.apple.Bluetooth.plist and com.apple.Bluetooth.xxxxxxxxx then right-click it to select the option Move to Trash. The xxxxxxxx part stands for a combination of numbers and letters that vary from one computer to another.
- Restart your computer and try reconnecting your Bluetooth headphones again.
7. For Mobile Devices: Disable Power Saver
Power-saving settings optimize your mobile devices to make sure it lasts longer than usual. However, this setting limits the performance, and speed of your devices and background apps. And while the effects aren’t always drastic, this can often result in audio lags when watching movies, listening to songs, or playing games.
Here’s a quick guide on how you can disable the power-saving mode on either Android or iOS:
- Go to your phone Settings and scroll down to Device Care.
- Before going to the power saving settings, click Optimize Now to cover all bases.
- Then, click on Battery and toggle the Power saving mode off. You can tap Power saving mode and customize the additional limits based on your preferences by toggling the options.
- Pull down the Control Center by swiping down the screen.
- Tap the Battery icon to turn the ‘Low Power Mode‘ off.If the Battery icon isn’t in the Control Center, you can also go to your device settings, tap on Battery, and toggle the Low Power Mode.
8. Use a Third-Party Software
When it comes to tackling the issue of sound delay in Bluetooth headphones, third-party software can be a game-changer. These applications are specifically designed to address synchronization problems, offering solutions that can significantly reduce or even eliminate delay.
Here are a few examples:
- Sound Instant: This app helps your Bluetooth headphones work faster. It makes the sound come through quicker, matching what’s on your screen. This is great for watching movies or playing games where timing matters.
- VLC Media Player: VLC isn’t just for playing videos; it can also fix sound delays. If your movie’s sound doesn’t match the picture, you can use VLC to line them up. This is handy if you watch movies on your computer.
There are applications designed to test the extent of audio delay in your Bluetooth headphones:
- The Wireless Earbuds Latency Tester app. It tells you how much your headphones are delayed. By measuring the time delay between a signal being sent and heard, it gives users a clear idea of the latency they are dealing with.
- Audio Video Test. For those who prefer a quick and straightforward method, this YouTube video provides an effective way to test Bluetooth audio delay. Simply play the video and observe the synchronization between the visual and audio cues to gauge the extent of the delay.
Why Do My Bluetooth Headphones Have a Delay?
Bluetooth headphones often have trouble with audio delay compared to wired ones due to the way they transmit audio.
In a wired connection, audio latency is usually between 5-10 milliseconds. For Bluetooth, delay times vary from 34 milliseconds with aptX Low Latency to 100-300 milliseconds for most wireless earbuds and headphones.
Bluetooth requires time to encode, transmit, and decode the audio data sent from the source device (like your smartphone or computer) to your headphones. This process, although typically fast, can result in a noticeable delay between the audio you hear and the corresponding video or game action.
This process is also limited by Bluetooth’s bandwidth. The bigger the audio signal’s file size (higher quality equates to larger audio files), the more bandwidth it needs to get to the receiver.
However, while wired connections have lower audio latency, Bluetooth headphone users don’t always experience noticeable delays. Factors like the Bluetooth version, codec, interference, and settings can influence this.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Do all Bluetooth headphones have latency?
- How much audio latency is acceptable?
- What affects Bluetooth latency?
Do all Bluetooth headphones have latency?
All Bluetooth headphones experience some latency due to the wireless transmission process. However, the degree of latency varies among models and technologies used, with some newer headphones featuring low-latency codecs to minimize this delay.
How much audio latency is acceptable?
Acceptable audio latency varies by application. For general use, up to 100 milliseconds is typically sufficient. On the other hand, in professional audio production or competitive gaming, lower latency, around 20-30 milliseconds, is preferred to ensure synchronicity and real-time feedback.
What affects Bluetooth latency?
Bluetooth latency is affected by several factors: the Bluetooth codec used (like SBC, AAC, aptX), the version of Bluetooth technology (newer versions generally offer lower latency), and the processing capabilities of both the transmitting device and the headphones. Additionally, the quality and size of the audio file being transmitted can impact latency.