In today’s smartphone market, wireless devices are increasingly becoming our means to listen to music and communicate hands free. There are fewer devices on the market with 3,5mm audio jacks, while the streaming music market is increasingly offering higher quality audio listening experiences. Until now, Bluetooth technology has fallen short in supporting lossless audio playback, meaning that these upgrades in audio quality have largely been lost through a wireless listening experience.
Snapdragon Sound was launched by Qualcomm in March 2021 as an end-to-end audio system solution to provide premium sound — up to 24-bit, 96kHz high-resolution Bluetooth music through its aptX codec suite called aptX Adaptive. To kick things off, Snapdragon Sound had its first in-person event of the year in NYC on September 1 to demonstrate its latest aptX Adaptive codec called aptX Lossless to analysts, media and other influencers. Steve Aoki, who is a big proponent for audio advancements, even ended the night with a DJ-set and cake-throwing performance for fans, Qualcomm invitees, and the new Snapdragon Insider program.
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Sound certification promises to create high-resolution wired quality audio for the wireless market.
AptX Lossless – newest piece to the puzzle
Qualcomm initially had several different audio codecs, from aptX and aptX HD to aptX LL. AptX Adaptive essentially can dynamically scale the bitrate to adjust for quality, whereas the other codecs were locked into a bitrate.
With the latest aptX Lossless announcement, Snapdragon Sound adds a new layer to its codecs by promising CD quality 16-bit 44.1kHz lossless audio over Bluetooth. With more music-streaming services offering HD, hi-res and even lossless quality music files, Qualcomm is hoping to cater to consumers looking for the highest quality wireless listening experience possible. AptX Lossless is also capable of scaling down the bitrate to as low as 140kbps in congested RF environments to ensure there are no audio drops or other issues. CD lossless audio is supported for 44.1kHz, but for hi-res 24-bit 96kHz lossy is still supported.
Future of wireless streaming
Aside from the universally used low-complexity sub-band codec (SBC), there are other codecs in the market, such as Sony’s LDAC, HWA Alliance’s LHDC and Samsung’s Scalable Codec to name a few. Each have their pros and cons. The new aptX Lossless codec will help Qualcomm deliver a very holistic solution to the wireless market for those looking for high-fidelity Bluetooth devices. Not only will this solution attract audiophiles, but it will also target gamers and those working on the go through ultra-low latency audio synchronization (89 ms) and the aforementioned bitrate scalability to adapt to different RF environment settings.
Snapdragon Sound will be the first to offer a codec that provides true CD quality 16-bit 44.1kHz lossless audio over Bluetooth. Since it is an end-to-end solution, OEMs that manufacture both smartphones and TWS may be especially interested in this offering as an added ‘premium’ feature for their higher-end products. The Snapdragon Sound certification can also be a strong marketing tool to cater to consumers looking for the best possible wireless sound experience, especially since aptX has already built up a great reputation over the years.
Apple Music is already offering lossless CD and hi-res audio to its subscribers for free, and with Spotify HiFi coming later this year, there is a clear demand for higher quality music. With global TWS sales growing 27% YoY, the market is also readily adopting Bluetooth and other wireless hearables. Snapdragon Sound is well-positioned with aptX Lossless to capture the attention of consumers looking for a very versatile and robust audio experience. Xiaomi and Audio-Technica are the first two companies that have adopted Snapdragon Sound. Qualcomm has also made its own devices sporting Snapdragon Sound via its Snapdragon Insider program in partnership with Asus and Master and Dynamic. The Asus smartphone is powered by Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 888 processor while the Master and Dynamic TWS device has Qualcomm’s QCC5141 Bluetooth audio chip. Products with aptX Lossless will not be available until the end of this year or early 2022.
More to come as devices are announced and launched.