Bluetooth Audio will in future be available in two operating modes: While LE Audio is based on Bluetooth Low Energy (LE), Classic Audio continues to work with Bluetooth Classic. LE Audio is intended to enable the development of audio products and use cases similar to those of Classic Audio, but at the same time it should also allow new functions to be added in order to enable more performance and new usage scenarios.
Higher quality at lower power
According to the Bluetooth SIG, LE Audio contains a new power-saving audio codec, the Low Complexity Communication Codec (LC3). LC3 is designed to provide high quality even at low data rates and allow developers to better compromise between product features such as audio quality and power consumption.
"Extensive testing has shown that LC3 will improve audio quality over the SBC codec included in Classic Audio at a 50 percent lower bit rate," said Manfred Lutzky, Head of Audio for Communication at Fraunhofer IIS. "Developers are using these energy savings to create products with longer battery life. If the current battery life is already sufficient, they can instead reduce the size of the device by using smaller batteries".
Better headphones with multi-stream audio
According to the Bluetooth trade association, the multi-stream audio function enables the transmission of several independent but synchronized audio streams between an audio source, such as a smartphone, and one or more audio output devices.
This feature can help developers to further develop products such as wireless headphones, for example for a better stereo experience. It will also enable the seamless use of Voice Assistant services and seamless switching between multiple audio sources.
Users of hearing aids and hearing implants will also benefit from LE Audio and its low power consumption, high sound quality and multi-stream capability. Hearing impaired people should enjoy a better sound experience with LE Audio, and new smartphones and televisions should be available to hearing-impaired users in the same quality within a few years".
Audio Sharing by Broadcast
Another feature of the new audio standard is broadcast audio for audio sharing. This is intended to allow a transmitter to transmit sound to an unlimited number of receivers. Bluetooth audio sharing is either personal or location-based. With personal audio sharing, people can share their Bluetooth audio experience with others in their environment, for example, music from a smartphone with family and friends. With location-based audio sharing, public facilities such as airports, bars, gyms, cinemas or conference centres can use Bluetooth audio to benefit their visitors.
The Bluetooth specifications for LE Audio are expected to be released in the first half of 2020.