Qualcomm has announced two new feature-packed wireless audio platforms – the S5 (QCC517x) and S3 (QCC307x) – that look to progress audio quality over Bluetooth.
The S5 and S3 are dual-mode, mobile-orientated platforms combining traditional Bluetooth wireless audio with the latest LE Audio technology standard. But what does that actually mean?
Last year, Qualcomm announced Snapdragon Sound, a package of audio-related technologies that promised to take (still slightly compressed) Bluetooth transmission support to 24-bit/96kHz – above the 48kHz 'limit' of its aptX HD technology. The package is now part of these newly announced platforms – and within this announcement, Qualcomm has also detailed support for lossless 16-bit/44.1kHz (CD-quality) Bluetooth transmission.
Lossless and Bluetooth haven't historically gone hand in hand. Supported bit and sample rates have reached 24-bit hi-res levels but compression has always played a part. Now though, Qualcomm claims to have found a way to deliver lossless audio at 16-bit CD quality. Meanwhile, rumour has it that Apple and Sonos are looking at alternative network and optical means to wirelessly transmit music losslessly (see below).
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The new Qualcomm platforms essentially offer headphones manufacturers chipsets that can enable such compatibility, as well as other features such as wideband voice call quality for crystal clear calls, stereo recording for creators, robust connectivity even in very busy RF environments, and a gaming mode with 68ms low latency audio and voice backchannel.
The platforms also promise low-power integration of LE Audio for audio sharing and broadcasting, multipoint Bluetooth wireless connectivity (for virtually seamless and convenient transitions between source devices) and Qualcomm's third-generation Adaptive Active Noise Cancellation, with "natural leak-through capability".
So, when can we get our hands on it all? Qualcomm says the S5 and S3 Sound Platforms are sampling to customers, with commercial products expected in the second half of this year.
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It's worth considering that the problem with hi-res audio is how you might be listening to it
I'll believe it'll be better and "wideband" only when I see it. Two years into the pandemic and this is still not a top priority, that has me shaking my head ever since it all began...