Qualcomm has introduced a new system-on-chip platform that supports 24-bit/96kHz audio over Bluetooth.
Currently, Qualcomm’s aptX HD and flagship aptX Adaptive Bluetooth codecs can transmit music up to 24-bit/48kHz, but the new Qualcomm Snapdragon Sound takes that to 96kHz – the sampling rate studio music is often recorded and, as digital hi-res files, distributed at. (That said, as Snapdragon Sound utilises aptX Adaptive codec technology, transmission is still slightly compressed – the bitrate scales dynamically from 279kbps up to 860kbps.)
Depending on manufacturer take-up, this means we could see 24-bit/96kHz Bluetooth passthrough between a variety of headphones and smartphones very soon.
This higher data transmission support is only one element of Snapdragon Sound, which is a package of audio-related technologies that promise to deliver high-quality wireless sound end-to-end across the chain, from source (a phone) to receiver (headphones).
Qualcomm’s goal here is to offer manufacturers of headphones, phones, tablets and other consumer electronics components a hardware and software solution that provides their products with best-in-class audio quality, latency and connectivity robustness.
In addition to expanding aptX Adaptive to support 96kHz with 89-millisecond latency (“45% lower than a leading competitor”, says Qualcomm), Snapdragon Sound also incorporates the company’s Active Noise Cancelling and aptX Voice wide-band technologies to offer its optimal noise cancellation and voice calling experience.
Away from wireless device use cases and geared towards wired listening with a phone, is Snapdragon Sound’s incorporation of the Qualcomm Aqstic DAC, which supports native playback of PCM files up to 32-bit/384kHz PCM, as well as DSD.
Qualcomm says we should see the first products with Snapdragon Sound in the second half of this year, with phones and headphones to initially appear before PCs, watches and XR glasses. Presumably, they will be higher-end devices in their fields and, as confirmed by their launch partnership, Xiaomi phone(s) and Audio-Technica headphones will be in that first batch.
“We believe that with Snapdragon Sound we get closer to our mutual vision of providing wired quality sound wirelessly, and are excited to be one of the first manufacturers to get our products to consumers,” said Kotaro Narihara, Audio-Technica’s director and general manager of marketing headquarters.
Snapdragon Sound – available to OEMs from today – will be offered within Qualcomm’s latest QCC514x, QCC515x and QCC3056 series of Bluetooth audio SoCs, which have been geared to enhance the true wireless headphones experience.
With 24-bit/96khz music increasingly prevalent thanks to the hi-res support from streaming services such as Tidal, Qobuz and Amazon Music HD, Qualcomm hopes to encourage and improve the hi-res audio listening experience. It has also partnered with Amazon to launch a collaborative (and celebratory) ‘Snapdragon Sound’ playlist of hi-res streams on the Amazon Music HD service, available today.