The standards body behind Bluetooth technology said Tuesday the next-gen version first promoted two years ago is finally here. With Bluetooth LE Audio now complete, new headphones like the upcoming AirPods Pro 2 and AirPods Max can incorporate an array of improvements.
Just to name a few, we can expect better sound, improved power efficiency and connectivity to an “unlimited” number of devices if Apple fully integrates the new standard.
AirPods Pro 2 and AirPods Max could incorporate powerful next-gen Bluetooth standard
Any new Bluetooth-enabled headphones or earbuds could use the new standard, which takes advantage of the newly finalized, highly efficient Low Complexity Communication Codec, or LC3.
Bluetooth LE Audio first made news as an upcoming reality a couple of years ago, TheVerge reported. Finally, after pandemic-related delays, the CEO of Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) said the new codec is ready.
And that means manufacturers can use it in new products, and possibly in some current ones.
“Today is a proud day for the Bluetooth SIG member community,” said Bluetooth SIG CEO 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.”
LC3 can transmit at much lower bitrates — without dropping audio quality — than the current Bluetooth standard.
Potential use in Apple products
And manufacturers could start releasing products with LC3 before the end of the year, Powell indicated. That could include Apple with AirPods Pro 2 and the next AirPods Max, both expected to roll out by the end of 2022.
Plenty of upgrades are expected with both Apple products — with more known about AirPods Pro 2 — but much-improved Bluetooth would certainly sweeten the pot.
It appears Apple is testing the LC3 codec on AirPods Max, 9to5Mac reported. The publication also said a developer recently activated the codec with the latest AirPods beta firmware and found it improved audio quality on calls.
At the outset, LC3 will improve audio call quality and the efficiency and stability of the Bluetooth signal. For better audio with music and video, however, some hardware improvements are necessary.
Bluetooth 5.2 needed for full effect
As of yet, it’s difficult to say if Apple will also make improvements available for listening to music or watching videos. Reaching LC3’s full potential for audio requires Bluetooth 5.2, which is available but not currently in any AirPods models.
As for the next AirPods Pro, they should be able to handle the new technology with the new version of Apple’s audio processor, the H1 chip.
In addition, references in iOS 16 code suggest it will support the LC3 codec and low-energy audio.
Bluetooth 5.2 and LC3 support for Auracast should allow Apple to stop having AirPods desynchronize when on the user’s ears (because each source is now limited to two sets of AirPods but may not be in the near future).
In addition, the low-energy standard built into LC3 should improve devices’ battery life.