Wireless headphones are already worth the money and will soon be even better. Bluetooth LE Audio promises a new powerful, energy-efficient audio codec. You can expect a longer battery life, the ability to stream to multiple headphones simultaneously, and more!
What is Bluetooth LE Audio?
Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) Audio is a new standard for low-power audio transmission via Bluetooth. It is separate from Bluetooth 5 and 5.1
In addition to lower energy consumption, the new Low Complexity Communications Codec (LC3 for short), co-developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits and Ericsson, promises improvements in audio quality compared to the existing SBC Bluetooth codec.
"Extensive listening tests have shown that LC3 improves audio quality over the SBC codec that comes with Classic Audio," said Manfred Lutzky of Fraunhofer IIS. "Even at a 50 percent lower bit rate."
Bluetooth LE Audio also introduces several new functions, including multi-stream audio, the ability to & # 39; broadcast to multiple devices via Bluetooth & # 39; and future integration with hearing aids for more seamless accessibility options.
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Hasn & # 39; t Low Energy Bluetooth has been around for a while?
Bluetooth Low Energy is not a new technology, but Bluetooth Low Energy Audio is. Integrated low-energy circuits already appeared in 2009, but overcoming the hurdle of high bandwidth requirements for audio transmission required another decade of development.
Many products on the market, such as wearables, smartphones and medical devices, already use Bluetooth LE as standard. However, these devices send relatively small amounts of data, without the additional complexity of dealing with latency and audio compression.
The LC3 codec forms the core of Bluetooth LE Audio. Now that Low Energy Audio has been standardized by the Bluetooth SIG, we can look for manufacturers of devices that support it in future products.
New functions that you get with Bluetooth LE Audio
Bluetooth LE Audio is not just about improved energy efficiency. The technology makes some exciting new functions possible while improving existing Bluetooth audio standards.
Connect to multiple sources simultaneously
With Bluetooth LE Audio you can connect a single headset to multiple devices at the same time. This should allow you to receive audio from multiple sources, without having to bounce between devices.
This is possible thanks to the way multiple streams are implemented in the new LE Audio standard. Currently, device manufacturers must overcome the limitations of single-streams when designing wireless headphones. For example, in the case of truly wireless earbuds, only one earphone connects directly to the source.
This can result in increased latency, patchy sound and outages because both earphones are forced on one channel. Many of the tricks needed to implement voice-assisted assistants and two-way audio communication are no longer needed thanks to synchronized multi-stream audio.
In practice, you can do things like listen to a baby monitor, take a phone call and use a smart assistant like Alexa, all from one set of Bluetooth headphones.
Connect one source to multiple Bluetooth devices
You will theoretically also be able to connect to an unlimited number of devices within the range of a single source. This is similar to (but better than) Apple's new "Share Audio" feature, which allows AirPods and Beats owners to share audio with two headphones.
The way the standard is designed does not interrupt the source audio when you connect a new device. This allows listeners to get in and out as they please.
If you ever want to host your own silent disco, Bluetooth LE Audio makes it easier than ever!
Broadcasting Bluetooth audio such as WiFi  Building on the ability to control source audio to multiple Bluetooth listening devices, you could compare the new "broadcast function" with Wi-Fi. Just like when you scan a public space, such as an airport, for available wireless networks, you can listen to streams in a similar way with Bluetooth LE Audio.
You can protect your stream with a password if you want to broadcast privately or leave it open for anyone who wants to listen.
These streams can make it easy to tune into foreign language audio tracks in a movie theater, or listen to the sound of a silent TV in an airport lounge through your headphones. You can take a tour and, if the museum uses this technology, enjoy the audio from the guide through your own headphones.
Better accessibility for people with hearing loss
Bluetooth LE Audio fully supports the development standards of hearing aids and could make it possible to transmit audio directly from a source to a hearing aid or even an entire room with people with hearing aids.
In the next decade, most TVs can be equipped with modern hearing aids, making them ideal for millions of people with hearing loss right out of the box.
What does Bluetooth LE Audio mean for devices?
Because Bluetooth LE Audio with the LC3 codec is about twice as energy efficient as Bluetooth audio with the existing subband codec (SBC), it makes two things possible for devices that implement the technology.
Firstly, devices can be smaller without sacrificing the lifetime, and secondly, the lifetime of the battery can be significantly improved without additional size or weight.
However, Bluetooth LE Audio will co-exist with the Classic Audio standard. It is up to device manufacturers to implement the right technology for the job.
Audio with higher bit rate probably sounds best when using Classic Audio SBC, so don't expect all high-end Bluetooth headphones to switch to the new Low-Energy standard.
When will Bluetooth LE Audio hardware be available?
Since the new standard was just announced in early January, there are no devices on the market that support this. Bluetooth SIG said that this will change in 2020 as manufacturers market their devices.
However, do not expect that the functions of LE Audio "Broadcast" will be implemented for several years. The technology is not expected to be fully launched until 2021. It will also take some time to catch up, but by the time they do, there should be enough compatible devices on the market.
A groundbreaking technology  Bluetooth Low Energy Audio means a leap forward in wireless audio streaming technology that could change the way we communicate with the world.
You would expect more smartphone manufacturers to throw away the headphone jack, since technology such as LE Audio finds its way to boards.
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