Bluetooth audio accessories market kicked into high gear as headphone jacks began disappearing, and soon got flooded with more options than ever. While the Bluetooth 5.0 standard brought significant functional improvements even to the cheapest earbuds, the Bluetooth SIG wants to make further strides with LE Audio. The upcoming wireless standard will keep power consumption in check using a new lower-power codec, while also adding multi-stream audio and native support for hearing aids.
The Low Energy protocol — often called BLE — has existed since 2011, and is used for passive connections with devices like wearables and sensors. With LE Audio, the industry body wants to add audio relay to the mix, but doing so would require additional compression engineering. That's when the new Low Complexity Communication Codec (LC3) comes into the picture. It is claimed to offer better audio quality even at lower bitrates, ergo improved power efficiency on devices like earbuds and smartwatches. Its underlying technology will also benefit those who use hearing aids, though Android 10 already has a solution that is based on the older BLE.
With Multi-Stream Audio, the Bluetooth SIG wants to refine your audio experience when using truly wireless earbuds. Current TWEs receive a single audio stream from the source, say your phone, on the primary bud, which then hops onto the second bud, often causing latency issues and connection drops. Multi-Stream will allow your phone to transmit individual signals to each earbud, and even share your music with others near you. The organization is also working on something called Broadcast Audio that can relay that same audio stream to a large gathering of people, like in bars, airports, theaters, etc.
Bluetooth LE Audio and all its components are slated to start appearing on devices within the first half of 2020, though wider availability may take a bit longer.
- Bluetooth SIG