Wireless Bluetooth headphones will soon become more energy-efficient, sound better, and support new features such as the ability to connect an “unlimited” number of devices to a single source. This will become a reality thanks to the new Bluetooth LE Audio standard, which was officially approved by the Bluetooth SIG standards body today. In the organization, it is called the standard for the next 20 years.
Bluetooth LE Audio was announced back in early 2020, and the Bluetooth SIG initially hoped that devices with its support would be released by the end of that year. But after a significant delay due to the pandemic, today’s finalization of the specification means manufacturers can now begin adding support for the standard to their devices. That means the first compatible products should go on sale by the end of the year, according to the Bluetooth SIG.
“Today is a proud day for the Bluetooth SIG member community,” says CEO of the Bluetooth SIG Mark Powell. “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.”
There are several elements to Bluetooth LE Audio, but the biggest impact for users will be the new LC3 codec, which is designed to be a much more efficient way to transmit audio. This either means much higher audio quality at the same bit rate than the current base SBC codec, or even, as Bluetooth SIG claims, slightly better audio quality at a lower bit rate. The latter also means less power consumption, which should lead to increased autonomy of the headphones.
Another key aspect of Bluetooth LE Audio is its ability to connect multiple audio devices to a single source via a feature called Auracast. It can be as simple as connecting two pairs of headphones to one phone, or connecting many headphones to one TV in a public place, such as a gym. The Bluetooth SIG website describes how users will be able to search for audio sources in the same way that Wi-Fi networks currently do. And connect by scanning a QR code or touching an NFC-enabled surface.
Other features include better support for true wireless headphones, as Bluetooth LE Audio allows each individual headphone to maintain its own separate connection to the source device. In addition, it is hoped that all of LE Audio’s features combined will be a huge advantage for future hearing aids.