The next 20 years of wireless audio

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Where does wireless audio go in the next 20 years? Comprehensive interpretation of Bluetooth 5.2 and LE Audio.

wireless audio

TWS (True Wireless Stereo) true wireless Bluetooth headset is the most concerned and popular product in the consumer electronics market in recent years. Its emergence solves the shackles of wired headsets, which are ready-to-use, compact and portable.

Compared with traditional Bluetooth headsets, the two headsets of TWS headsets can be connected to mobile devices at the same time. With the development of technology, TWS headsets have more and more functions, such as ANC active noise reduction, ENC call noise reduction, and customization EQ, spatial audio, etc., bring consumers a better wireless audio experience.

The basis for all these wonderful experiences is the development and progress of Bluetooth technology. The most intuitive embodiment is the Bluetooth version number. You can recall the Bluetooth audio products you have purchased in the past few years. The Bluetooth version gradually changes from version 4.0, version 4.1, and 4.2. The version is upgraded to the current version 5.0, 5.1, and 5.2. Reflected in the user experience, the stability of the Bluetooth connection is getting stronger and stronger. Due to the reduction of power consumption, the battery life of the Bluetooth device is also longer.

Bluetooth technology is an open global specification for wireless data and voice communication. It is a special short-range wireless technology connection based on low-cost short-range wireless connections to establish a communication environment for fixed and mobile devices. It has been widely used in Audio, data, positioning and control systems and other fields. Bluetooth shares the 2.4GHz ISM band (industrial, scientific and medical band) with Wi-Fi and other license-free radio applications.

Among them, audio is the largest Bluetooth solution field. Use scenarios include making phone calls, listening to music, watching videos, voice interaction, etc. The carriers include headphones, speakers, car stereos and other speakers. The sound sources mainly come from multimedia devices such as mobile phones, computers, MP3s, and TVs.

However, after 20 years of development, Bluetooth audio applications have been extended to the limit by developers. With the explosion of the TWS headset market, a new standard is urgently needed to better meet the needs of the current Bluetooth market and provide developers with a way to innovate. A more flexible application platform.

So in 2020, the Bluetooth SIG (Bluetooth SIG) has successively launched a new version of the Bluetooth core specification version 5.2 and the new generation of Bluetooth audio technology standard LE Audio. Corsca will start with the Bluetooth 5.2 version and LE Audio, Bluetooth 5.2 What does the version and LE Audio mean for chip manufacturers, brand manufacturers and consumers, and whether the Bluetooth 5.2 version headsets on the market support LE Audio? Let me introduce these two standards in detail in these five aspects.

1.What is Bluetooth 5.2 version and LE Audio?

Bluetooth 5.2 version

Bluetooth 5.2 version

The Bluetooth 5.2 version is a new version of the Bluetooth Core Specification released by the Bluetooth Technology Alliance. The new functions on the basis of the previous specification include: LE Isochronous Channels, enhanced ATT (Enhanced ATT) protocol and LE Power Control. These three underlying technical updates laid the foundation for LE Audio.

LE Audio

LE audio

LE Audio is a new generation of Bluetooth audio technology standard based on the Bluetooth 5.2 version specification. The main feature is the new high-quality, low-power audio decoder LC3, which supports multi-stream audio, supports broadcast audio technology, and provides powerful hearing aids. stand by. The previous Bluetooth audio technology standards are now collectively referred to as Classic Audio.

The codec is an important part of all wireless audio systems. It is responsible for compressing the audio signal into a smaller signal and sending it over the wireless link, and then decode it at the other end and convert it back to music. The codecs that everyone is more familiar with include SBC, AAC, aptX, LDAC, LHDC, etc.

Low Complexity Communications Codec LC3 (Low Complexity Communications Codec), sampling rate: 8, 16, 24, 32, 44.1, 48kHz, bit rate: 16-320kbps, frame rate: 7.5, 10ms. LC3 has the characteristics of providing high sound quality even under low data rate conditions, which will provide developers with tremendous flexibility and enable them to better balance key product attributes such as sound quality and power consumption during product design.

Some developers said that LC3 is more efficient, lower power consumption, and shorter delay time. The entire encoding, transmission and decoding process only takes 20 milliseconds; the decoder can reduce the data rate by half, thereby extending battery life or reducing device size .

Multi-Stream Audio (Multi-Stream Audio) function will be realized between a single audio source device (source device), single or multiple audio sink devices (sink device), such as smart phones, to synchronize multiple and independent audio streaming transmissions. This allows the device to provide a better stereo experience and smoother switching between multiple audio source devices.

In addition, LE Audio provides more powerful hearing aid support based on low power consumption, high sound quality and multi-streaming capabilities.

Another important upgrade is that LE Audio supports Broadcast Audio technology, which enables a single audio source device to broadcast one or more audio streams to an unlimited number of audio receiver devices. Bluetooth audio sharing can be based on individual or location.

2.What does Bluetooth 5.2 version and LE Audio mean for chip manufacturers?

Bluetooth audio chip manufacturer Qualcomm recently released an “Questions and Answers about LE Audio”, which analyzed how the existing true wireless technology works with LE Audio, as well as different codecs and LC3 audio codecs from the perspective of the original chip manufacturer. What is the difference between the device and other issues.

Qualcomm said that LE Audio can support all current Bluetooth audio use cases, including audio listening, video playback, voice/video calls and smart assistant control, and LE Audio supports audio sharing and hearing aids, which can bring more wireless audio. A wide range of usage scenarios.

LE Audio expands the functions of traditional Bluetooth audio technology while maintaining backward interoperability with existing Bluetooth technology. The important point of this function is that users can not only benefit from the technical advantages of LE Audio, but also connect and interact with devices that support traditional Bluetooth audio technology.

At the technical level, LE Audio can provide higher quality sound quality than traditional Bluetooth audio (SBC). To get the best high-fidelity sound quality, users can choose LE Audio smartphones and earplugs that support complementary technologies such as Qualcomm’s aptX Adaptive audio technology.

LE Audio runs on low-power Bluetooth wireless communication through a low-power synchronization channel, which can provide a more stable connection than traditional Bluetooth audio technology (SBC). To further enhance the stability of the connection, LE Audio also supports synchronized channels, connection-oriented and connectionless data transmission, and deterministic transmission scheduling.

LE Audio can bring extremely low power consumption to smaller audio equipment, helping to create more comfortable and longer battery life products.

At present, the TWS headset Bluetooth audio SoC market is flourishing and competition is fierce. Different chip manufacturers have their own TWS transmission technology. Qualcomm is still used as an example. After many technical iterations, Qualcomm’s new generation of Bluetooth audio SoC currently uses TrueWireless™ Mirroring technology.

Regarding the question of whether the true wireless technology of the original chip factory can work with LE Audio, Qualcomm said: “The two technologies are complementary. If LE Audio is not supported, Qualcomm TrueWireless Mirroring technology can also be realized. Our future solutions may support at the same time. LE Audio and TrueWireless Mirroring technology”.

In addition to true wireless technology, Qualcomm also gave its own views on the issue of codecs: LC3 is the standard codec for Bluetooth LE Audio, and Qualcomm aptX Adaptive audio technology will be used as an optional codec in addition to LC3. Qualcomm aptX Adaptive audio technology can support high-quality, low-latency stable connections, especially suitable for gaming scenes.

It can be seen that for the original Bluetooth chip manufacturer, the existing true wireless technology and audio codec do not conflict with LE Audio, and can coexist in the future as an option; and after the Bluetooth chip supports LE Audio uniformly, Bluetooth devices of different brands will have better performance in terms of connection, sound quality, delay, and power consumption.

3.What does Bluetooth 5.2 version and LE Audio mean for audio brand manufacturers?

The most common way to use wireless Bluetooth audio equipment is to connect to a smartphone. At present, there are new generation mobile SoCs on the market such as Qualcomm Snapdragon 888, HiSilicon Kirin 9000 series, Dimensity 1200, Samsung Exynos1080, etc., which support Bluetooth version 5.2 specifications, among which Dimensity 1200 has realized the support of LE Audio Bluetooth audio technology standard.

Data from MediaTek shows that Dimensity 1200 supports dual-channel audio streaming, which can provide TWS headphones with more stereo sound, lower latency, and longer battery life. Compared with traditional Bluetooth technology (SBC/AAC), LC3 encoding can reduce game voice delay by 20%, and headset battery life can be increased by 7%.

In the future, mobile phone mobile platforms will, like Bluetooth audio SoCs, generally support LE Audio Bluetooth audio technology standards, which will have two major benefits for audio brand manufacturers: on the one hand, product appearance, LE Audio’s low power consumption and long battery life. It helps brands to create products with longer battery life, or to optimize product design by using smaller batteries while meeting current power consumption requirements.

On the other hand, the compatibility of the product will be better. Two devices that support LE Audio, such as a brand A mobile phone and a brand B TWS headset, perform better in terms of sound transmission delay, sound quality, and power consumption. Classic audio is good.

As for cost, Ken Kolderup, vice president of global marketing of the Bluetooth Technology Alliance, said in an exclusive interview, “In terms of technology and technical standards, the cost of LE Audio has not increased compared to Classic Audio.”

4.What does Bluetooth 5.2 version and LE Audio mean for consumers?

In general, the new generation of Bluetooth audio technology standard LE Audio can bring consumers a better audio experience, including higher-quality sound, longer battery life, and provide richer hearing aid functions and location-based audio services.

Using advanced compression algorithms, the LC3 codec can still maintain good sound quality at low bit rates while reducing power consumption. This allows consumers to experience higher-quality sound quality and a more stable audio connection experience than classic audio, as well as longer battery life.

In addition, the LE Audio solution is compatible with existing Bluetooth devices, enabling consumers to choose the most suitable solution for different wireless audio applications.

Another feature of LE Audio is the multi-stream audio and broadcast audio functions, allowing consumers to use audio sharing functions based on their personal or environment. With LE Audio, users can share the audio content on the mobile phone to multiple Bluetooth headsets or speakers for friends and family to enjoy together. At present, some mobile phones such as Samsung and Xiaomi have been supported at the system level. The principles are different, and only two devices can be connected at most.

Another use scenario is location-based audio sharing, such as waiting rooms, stadiums, museums, conference halls, movie theaters and other public places. You can broadcast audio to allow people to receive different audio signals, which can let everyone They can hear clear and accurate audio, and they can also provide translation services in different languages. The application prospects are good.

Mr. Ken Kolderup of the Bluetooth Technology Alliance said, “The experience of using the broadcast audio function is not substantially different from using WiFi. Once you enter a location, use a smart phone to turn on Bluetooth to scan, if there are several different audios playing. , You choose the audio you want to enter. If you need to enter a password, just enter the password, which is very similar to the WiFi experience.”

Another major application of LE Audio is hearing aids. The new standard is expected to promote the standardization of the Bluetooth hearing aid market, miniaturization of hearing aid products, and TWS headsets. Standardization will reduce costs, drive down market prices, increase penetration, and effectively help people with hearing impairments. At the same time, with the help of the broadcast audio function, the hearing impaired group will also have a better audio experience in public.

5.Do existing Bluetooth 5.2 certified products on the market support LE Audio?

Wireless audio products using Bluetooth technology need to be certified before they go on the market. The core of LE Audio is to use the LC3 codec. At present, most of the headsets that have passed Bluetooth 5.2 certification on the market use AAC or Qualcomm’s aptX Adaptive codec. The decoder, therefore, does not support LE Audio, and the possibility of subsequent upgrades is relatively small.

In the future, Bluetooth audio products that support LE Audio must be based on Bluetooth version 5.2 specifications. As a new generation of Bluetooth audio technology standards, the LC3 codec will also be known to the public like AAC and SBC. Corsca learned that there are already Bluetooth audio SoCs that use the LC3 codec and have passed relevant certifications. It is expected that products will be available within this year.

Conclusion

Through Corsca’s summary and analysis, I believe everyone has learned that Bluetooth 5.2 version is the latest Bluetooth core specification, and LE Audio is a new generation of Bluetooth audio technology standard set on its basis. The main feature of LE Audio is the brand-new high-quality, low-power audio decoder LC3, which supports multiple streaming audio and broadcast audio technology, and can provide strong support for hearing aid products.

The launch of Bluetooth 5.2 and LE Audio is an improvement to the entire Bluetooth audio industry standard. For the original Bluetooth chip manufacturer, the existing true wireless technology and audio codec do not conflict with LE Audio, and can coexist in the future as an option; and after the Bluetooth chip supports LE Audio uniformly, different brands of Bluetooth The equipment will be improved in terms of connection, sound quality, delay, power consumption, etc., and the product quality and user experience will also be greatly improved.

LE Audio provides a more powerful and flexible platform for all developers based on its basic architecture. This will also be the basis for the continued innovation of Bluetooth audio products in the next 20 years, opening a new wave of wireless audio revolution. Corsca will continue to pay attention to LE Audio’s product application dynamics, and will provide you with detailed interpretations in the first time.

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