Bluetooth Codecs Explained: Understanding What They Are and How They Operate on Wireless Headphones




Bluetooth technology has been a recreation-changer for particular audio, and at any time-bettering Bluetooth benchmarks have made wireless headphones and earphones more popular than ever just before. Not only that, personal wireless audio units are also very affordable these days, to the stage wherever they are often desired more than wired earphones and headphones. Wired headphones are nonetheless the go-to decision for audiophiles for their superior sound high-quality, but if you happen to be wanting for new headphones or earphones appropriate now, you might be possible purchasing for some thing wireless to use with your smartphone, tablet, or laptop computer.

You’ve got probably heard the phrase ‘Bluetooth codec’, which is a a single of the critical specs to hold an eye on when buying wireless headphones and earphones. Guidance for the appropriate Bluetooth codec can make a big change to audio high quality. But what specifically is a Bluetooth codec, and why is it important? Examine on to obtain out.

What is a Bluetooth codec?

With no likely into the information of audio formats or how streaming expert services do the job, we will to start with consider to reveal what a Bluetooth codec is, and how distinctive Bluetooth codecs function. To realize that, it truly is first essential to know how Bluetooth by itself capabilities.

Bluetooth is a set of wi-fi specifications that make certain that a digital signal from the source device can be interpreted by the acquiring gadget. In the situation of audio, a source such as a smartphone converts audio info into radio waves. The getting unit, this kind of as a speaker or pair of headphones, employs a digital-to-analogue converter (DAC) to turn that sign into audio that can be read by the listener.

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This overall course of action ordinarily will take place quickly and stably, to ensure that the listening encounter isn’t really hampered in any way. The increased the quality of audio you want, the extra info wants to be transmitted. To obtain this, the electronic audio signal is compressed so that extra info can be transmitted wirelessly in the very same quantity of time. This demands to be decompressed on the getting finish. The Bluetooth codec (which is shorter for “coder/decoder”), is effectively a set of parameters and guidelines for how this compression and decompression happens. Both equally products want to assistance the identical codec in purchase to use it, and its maximum information transmission level is an indicator of its abilities.

Bluetooth codecs work differently, and some of the essential types these as the sub-band codec or SBC, tend to discard a lot of the signal info all through the compression phase. This considerably reduces the high quality of the electronic audio signal and the subsequent analogue audio that you listen to. Advanced Bluetooth codecs these types of as aptX and LDAC are ready to have additional info wirelessly and can accomplish bigger steady bitrates, making sure a much better excellent sign is gained on the audio output device.

Compatibility with a Bluetooth codec is required at both finishes basically, the receiving gadget requires to be equipped to comprehend the ‘language’ of the source product, so to discuss. Thus, a Bluetooth codec can only be utilized if each the resource and acquiring system assistance it. If there’s a mismatch, the link will fall again to regardless of what standard each units have in widespread. This will make it essential to match the codec assistance on your wi-fi headphones, earphones or speaker with your smartphone, pill, or notebook.

Well-liked Bluetooth codecs defined

SBC (sub-band codec)

The most simple Bluetooth codec is SBC, and it is nearly universally supported since it is element of the primary Bluetooth protocol. Practically every machine capable of transmitting or receiving Bluetooth audio supports this codec, and this is what makes certain the interoperability of really a lot any Bluetooth headset with any Bluetooth-enabled cellular phone. In the absence of any other codecs, units will default to SBC.

As mentioned before, SBC is pretty basic when it will come to information transmission and bitrates. It favours connection security and ability performance about audio top quality. SBC supports a transmission bitrate of all over 345 kilobits per second or kbps, but commonly operates at reduce bitrates to improve stability and decrease lag.

Quite a few entry-stage Bluetooth headphones and earphones guidance only the SBC Bluetooth codec. This the natural way suggests that the audio signal received is compressed significantly, and sound high-quality is usually limited.

AAC (State-of-the-art Audio Coding)

Not to be puzzled with the audio file structure of the very same identify, the AAC Bluetooth codec is a move previously mentioned SBC in terms being able to stably transfer audio data around Bluetooth. It supports a utmost transmission bitrate of 320 kbps, and is generally ready to preserve a high bitrate without the need of getting to often change for steadiness. Notably, this is the default Bluetooth codec on Apple products this kind of as iPhones and iPads as effectively as Apple’s AirPods assortment of Bluetooth headsets.

AAC is also extensively supported on Android devices and by a great deal of wi-fi headphones and earphones, across the value array. Even though AAC provides better seem good quality than SBC, it continue to significantly compresses the audio signal as when compared to much more sophisticated Bluetooth codecs.

It is, nevertheless, a preferred and simple codec, and you must glimpse for it if you intend to use your wireless headset with Apple units.

Qualcomm aptX, aptX LL, aptX High definition, and aptX Adaptive

The Qualcomm aptX codec loved ones has been all around for a long time, and considering the fact that the initial edition was launched, there have also been new and improved iterations such as aptX High definition and aptX Adaptive. With bitrates going up to 576 kbps, and the aptX Adaptive codec even utilizing variable bitrates for overall flexibility and greater link security, aptX presents a significant advancement around each SBC and AAC.

Support for the aptX codecs is common on Android products, and it is also out there on some Apple Macs, but not on iOS equipment so much. Although aptX does have an affect on power performance and battery life, it features a considerable improvement in sound quality above SBC and AAC, notably the more recent aptX Hd and aptX Adaptive implementations.

Numerous headphones and earphones across price tag ranges aid the aptX codec set, commonly by way of making use of a compatible Qualcomm Bluetooth remedy as part of the components set up. It is really really worth seeking out for assist for this codec if you have a compatible supply unit, which can be just about any present day Android smartphone.

Samsung Scalable

Samsung launched its own Scalable Bluetooth codec not long ago. It has a variable, continuously adjusting bitrate likely up to 512 kbps, and is explained to allow significant-good quality details transmission even in environments in which there is a ton of radio interference. It can be commonly thought of to be on par with aptX High definition and aptX Adaptive in phrases of transmission quality.

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Nonetheless, Samsung has kept this technological innovation proprietary and the Scalable codec is only supported on Samsung equipment for now. This includes quite a few of the company’s accurate wi-fi earphones and headphones throughout the Samsung and AKG solution ranges, as very well as most Samsung smartphones and tablets running Android 7 and previously mentioned.

A headset with Scalable codec support makes feeling if you have a suitable Samsung smartphone or tablet to use it with. Most of Samsung’s latest audio goods, like the Galaxy Buds collection, assistance the Scalable codec.

LHDC (Lower-latency and Substantial Definition Codec)

On paper, LHDC is among the improved Bluetooth codecs around with assistance for a versatile bitrate going up to 900 kbps. Having said that, the most important disadvantage of this codec is compatibility with products. Not way too a lot of wireless headsets and resource products assist LHDC, and only a handful of models these as Xiaomi, Oppo, and Huawei have so considerably launched solutions that assist it.

Matching these wireless headphones or earphones with an LHDC-compatible supply product is notably hard at the instant, and this has held again its recognition. The much more prevalent compatibility and adoption of the other codecs on this checklist, notably aptX and LDAC, give them the edge around LHDC.


Among the finest well-liked Bluetooth codecs close to, Sony LDAC has variable bitrates ranging throughout three options — 330 kbps for steady connectivity, 990 kbps for a concentrate on seem excellent, and 660 kbps, which strikes a equilibrium between the two. Despite the fact that initially limited to Sony products and solutions, LDAC is now supported on a vast vary of equipment including headsets from many makes, and lots of Android smartphones and tablets are suitable.

LDAC is thought of to be among the the greatest Bluetooth codecs proper now, enabling considerably a lot more detail and perception in transmitted seem than other codecs. It can be generally witnessed on higher-finish wireless audio items, though there are some affordable ones that do guidance it. Several mid-selection and significant-conclusion Sony headphones and earphones support LDAC, and it can be really worth hunting for this codec if you use an Android telephone.

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