What is a Bluetooth Codec, and what is important to know?

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As more companies kill the headphone jack, many are now embracing Bluetooth technology. And you don’t have to be an audio expert for you to know that Bluetooth audio codecs are very vital. 

Bluetooth Codecs improve the quality of the audio, energy efficiency, and also reduce latency. And once you decide to go wireless, you should go for headphones that support the latest technology.

Also, note that while some phones support both the headphone jack and the Bluetooth, others have refused to reintegrate it. Whether your phone supports wired audio or not, you will enjoy more convenience when you go wireless. 

Though the wires can clutter your home, and Bluetooth codecs come with many features.

Bluetooth Codec

How Bluetooth Codecs Work

Codecs determine the way data will transmit the Bluetooth from the source to the headphones. Regardless of the type you choose, they encode and decode digital audio data to the destined format.

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These codecs usually transmit signals of high-fidelity using the lowest bit rate to reduce the bandwidth and space requirements for playback and storage.

Low bit rates are responsible for low audio quality and higher compression, but a higher one means better audio quality and less compression.

READ MORE: The Best Outdoor Bluetooth Speakers (2021)

Types of Bluetooth Codecs

AptX 

This Bluetooth audio codec has been in the market since the 1980s. Initially, it was used to deliver CD-quality sound over Bluetooth connections, and it uses compression to beam the data wirelessly and reduce latency.

This Bluetooth codec supports 16-bit/48kHz LPCM audio data at a speed of up to 352 kbps, a “lossy compressed” format.

The AptX is the most popular Bluetooth codec as of 2021and is supported by most Android smartphones. 

AptX HD 

Well, you can even guess this is the HD version of AptX HD. Qualcomm is the owner of this codec and is common in most expensive smartphones with Snapdragon SoCs.

It supports HD audio transfers and up to 576 kbps transfer rate. Therefore, you will enjoy a higher quality than CD, and it has a better signal to increase the definition in music. 

But for this codec to work, it must be compatible with the input and output device. The input devices include media players, computers, and smartphones, and the output devices are wireless headphones and other Bluetooth-enabled output devices.

High-end phones like Huawei P30, Google Pixel 31, and OnePlus 8 support this definition. And in headphones, big names such as Bowers and Sony WH-1000MX3 support this type of definition. 

AAC

AAC is an initial for Advanced Audio Coding and is preferred by Apple and YouTube.

Most iPhones benefit from the hi-rise playback of the AAC that goes up to 250 kbps. It also supports Android, but its performance is low owing to inconsistent and poor streaming quality. 

But this is not a drawback on the AAC side but on the Android side, which has not become ready to handle AAC universally. It is a power-intensive codec, and Apple has a well-maintained ecosystem that can handle it well.

SBC

SBS is the initials for Sub-band coding and is the basic and default Bluetooth audio codec.

It is of the lowest quality, and nearly all Bluetooth devices support it because it’s basic.

It is not a marketing point for any smartphone or other Bluetooth devices, and it’s a mandatory requirement for A2DP-enabled devices. The SBC’ transfer rate usually maxes out at 320 kbps.

LDAC 

Sony’s LDAC Bluetooth codec is very promising, and according to manufacturers, it has a high variable bit rate and is three times better than SBC.

However, this is not the reality, and it offers three transfer modes: 330 kbps, 660 kbps, and 990 kbps. But once they reach 20Hz, the two highest rates lose their fidelity, and here, the SBS and aptX even become between them.

And though the 990kbps is an attractive option, most phones don’t support it, and you will have to adjust the developer settings for it to work.

LDAC-supported headphones are rare in the market but if you find one, be ready to pay a hefty price.

Low-latency and high-definition audio codec (LHDC)

LHDC is also a popular Bluetooth codec in the market but is only supported by Android 10 and above devices.

It offers three times higher data transmission than SBS and up to 900 kbps bitrate and a max sample of 96kHz. The first phone to use this codec was the Huawei 10 Mate. 

Another HWA codec called LLC, an excellent alternative to LHDC, has low latency and is ideal for gamers. LHDC supported up to 600 kbps and was first introduced to Huawei P30. 

LC3 

LC3 is still a new entrant in the market and is not available yet.

But it’s one of the best future Bluetooth codecs, and we are hoping it will be released soon.

It’s part of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) and will offer better features like optimal power consumption and good audio quality.

When you look at its technical specifications, you will know little about it, but a press release says it will replace SBC and become a default Bluetooth codec.

This codec offers better PLC and audio quality than SBS. Also, it will have lower latency requirements and minimal power consumption making it best for modern use.

READ MORE: Top 10 Best Bluetooth Headphones with Noise Cancelling (2021)

How to change the Bluetooth codec on your Android smartphone?

If you want to change the Bluetooth codec in your android smartphone and improve the audio quality, then follow the guide below: 

  1. First, open your phone’s “Settings” and go to the “Developer Options” smartphone. If you have not activated it, tap the phone’s build number seven times to activate the Developer options. This option gives you more choices to tweak your phone to suit your needs. After activating the developer options, you can access it anytime you want to. 
  2. Open Bluetooth in your phone and scan for your wireless headphones. Pair them and connect to the Android smartphone. 
  3. Now, scroll to “Audio codec” in the Developer options and click it.
  4. The option will display numerous Bluetooth audio codecs. Pick another one apart from the SBC option. Provided your wireless headphones support your chosen audio codec, it will increase the sound quality.

Bottom-line

When Bluetooth technology was introduced, you had limited audio codecs to use with your input device.

However, after many companies continued to get the headphone jack out of the market, many codecs have sprung up, improving audio quality and reducing latency.

Well, you need to invest in high-quality headphones that support different Bluetooth audio codecs for the optimum sound experience.

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