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Bluetooth LE Audio: Finally Ready to Give The Best Wireless Audio Yet

Bluetooth aims to connect more people with its new innovation
Bluetooth aims to connect more people with its new innovation

This next generation Bluetooth audio technology, LE Audio, is set to improve the user’s listening experience through its advanced functionalities and accessibility.

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) revealed last July 12, 2022 the completion of LE Audio’s full set of specifications, which is claimed to be the best innovation in Bluetooth audio technology today, with a full host of features for improved music listening, audio sharing, and accessibility.

The Bluetooth LE (Low Energy) Audio was initially introduced in the first quarter of 2020. The Bluetooth SIG had originally planned for supporting devices to become available before the end of that year, but sadly, the pandemic occurred, delaying the completion of its specifications by almost two years.

Now, Bluetooth SIG anticipates that the first consumer devices will be released and be able to operate the LE Audio’s functionality by the holiday season in 2022, or the end of the year.

“Today is a proud day for the Bluetooth SIG member community,” stated CEO of the Bluetooth SIG Mark Powell during his announcement.

He then added, “Our members overcame the many challenges placed on them these past few years to complete the largest specification development project in the history of the Bluetooth SIG. LE Audio extends the boundaries of what’s possible for the wireless audio market.”

Bluetooth LE Audio’s Key Features

Claimed to be the next generation of Bluetooth audio technology to-date, LE Audio holds several elements that contribute to its wide array of purposes.

The LE Audio enhances wireless audio performance, which will allow you to switch between multiple devices even more seamlessly than the standard multipoint feature.

Model of Bluetooth hearing aid and its features (From: Bluetooth SIG)
Model of Bluetooth hearing aid and its features (From: Bluetooth SIG)

This also adds hearing aid support, which aims to jumpstart the possible production of Bluetooth hearing aids that will integrate wireless communication and audio listening.

Most importantly, the LE Audio introduces Auracast broadcast audio—a new Bluetooth feature that will improve how people interact with each other as well as their environment.

Auracast has the ability to connect an unlimited number of audio devices to a single source, such as a smartphone, laptop, or public access (PA) system.

Powell claims this advancement will “reshape personal audio and enable public venues and spaces to deliver audio experiences that will improve visitor satisfaction and increase accessibility.”

Sample WiFi style os searching for audio network via Auracast (From: Bluetooth SIG)
Sample WiFi style os searching for audio network via Auracast (From: Bluetooth SIG)

Bluetooth SIG also explained that users will be able to look for audio sources like how they would search for Wi-Fi networks, connect by scanning QR codes, or tap an NFC-enabled surface.

Furthermore, another impactful feature of this new Bluetooth technology is the new LC3 codec (low complexity communications codec) that focuses on power efficiency while delivering higher audio quality at the same time. It is also intended to be a significantly more effective way to transmit audio.

According to the Bluetooth SIG, the traditional SBC codec often reduces a 1.5 Mbps audio stream to 345 Kbps (0.345 Mbps). But now, with the use of the LC3 codec, the identical stream can be compressed to 160 Kbps (0.160 Mbps) with better audio quality than the SBC codec.

Lower power consumption due to lower bit rates is expected to result in longer battery life.

Bluetooth LE Audio’s Compatibility With Devices

The Bluetooth LE Audio is set to be compatible with any 5.2 or newer-equipped device, which means the majority of the smartphones and audio equipment from the previous two years should be readily upgradeable to the LE Audio through a firmware update.

Nick Hunn, a member of Bluetooth SIG and author of the book “Introducing Bluetooth LE Audio: A guide for developers, technology strategists, analysts and investors wanting to understand the new Bluetooth LE Audio standard,” shared in an interview that they have been issuing a toolbox that will license the next two decades of Bluetooth Audio.

“We’re now ahead of the game in terms of what applications developers are looking at,” Hunn stated.

Feedback From the Community

Despite the several positive attributes mentioned above attached to this new Bluetooth audio technology, mixed comments from the community can still be observed.

For one, Reddit user rotates-potatoes says,

“The Auracast feature is incredibly cool and one of the rare instances where a standards body is ahead of the industry. That is going to be amazing to have local radio-like stations everywhere, joinable like WiFi.”

This is backed by another user, Noblesseux, who says,

“It’d be great in movie theatres for people hard of hearing or who want to focus on the film.”

These statements are in line with Auracasts’ claim to provide assistive listening to various public spaces.

Auracast demonstration of assistive listening in a public space (From: Bluetooth SIG)
Auracast demonstration of assistive listening in a public space (From: Bluetooth SIG)

On the other hand, some users are still doubtful about the development, especially with how this will actually improve the standard listening experience.

For instance, multiple Reddit users, like procrastablasta and oicofficial bring up that the latency issue on Bluetooth wasn’t mentioned in the announcement.

Another user, EthosPathosLegos, even states,

“So the only thing I really find interesting is Auracast. But it doesn’t say if the multiple connections are well synced. Otherwise, it’s not that impressive to me.”

This variety of reactions from the community may imply that many individuals still have doubts about Bluetooth SIG’s newest innovation, but the company continues to assure the public that this LE Audio is the greatest specification-development undertaking in the Bluetooth SIG history.

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