AudioAudio: Guides

aptX, LDAC, SBC, A2DP, AAC. What’s the difference?

aptx ldac sbc a2dp aac

Bluetooth audio codecs play a significant role in defining the audio quality, latency, and battery life of a set of headphones or best on-ear headphones.

You’ve probably heard people talk about bandwidths and compression, as well as more specialized terminology like lossless.

This may be a challenge for the ordinary customer who simply wants to buy a set of headphones with a codec that ensures outstanding audio quality and a quick, reliable connection.

Several Bluetooth audio codecs comparisons are made, notably A2DP vs. aptX, LDAC vs. aptX, LDAC vs. AAC, and aptX vs. AAC. Here are several Bluetooth audio codecs to keep an eye out for.

What is aptX?

The aptX audio codec for Bluetooth has been around since the late 1980s. The goal was to offer CD-quality music through a Bluetooth connection at the time.

AptX is a lossy compressed format that supports 16-bit/48-kHz LCPM audio data at up to 352 kbps. AptX utilizes compression to transmit this quantity of data wirelessly, which helps to minimize latency. As a result, the file sizes are quite tiny.

This is the most widely used consumer Bluetooth codec for MP3s today. The majority of Android handsets support this Bluetooth audio codec.

What is LDAC?

Sony’s custom audio codec is called LDAC. The variable bit rate is the star of the show here, with the industry’s most significant bit-rate transfer figures. Anything up to 990 kbps is on the cards here.

However, LDAC isn’t commonly utilized, so if your device supports it, you’ll have to dive into the developer options to enable it.

Even so, once it’s up and running, LDAC will allow you to transmit three times the quantity of data in the same amount of time as a regular SBC.

LDAC, once a Sony exclusive, has been available on Android since Android 8.0 Oreo and is now part of the Android Open-Source Project (AOSP).

The LDAC Bluetooth audio codec is supported by smartphones, including the LG V40 ThinQ and the Samsung Galaxy S9+.

What is SBS?

Sub-band coding (SBC) is the preset Bluetooth audio codec. It hence represents the low-quality audio via Bluetooth that you should accept.

Support for SBC isn’t exactly a selling feature for smartphones or headphones, but it’s a need for most of them. It is required for all A2DP-capable devices. The maximum transfer rate is around 320 kbps.

What is A2DP?

Advanced Music Distribution Profile stands for Advanced Audio Distribution Profile. It means that it doesn’t signify anything in the context of something which is currently streaming audio.

A2DP is more or less the default for streaming music over Bluetooth because it is one of the earliest parts of the unified Bluetooth specification.

Any Bluetooth audio equipment you buy—headphones, speakers, phones, and laptops—will at the very least support A2DP, regardless of whether it can also operate with aptX.

The A2DP standard is stereo and supports the majority of common audio compression codecs. At 48 kilohertz, the suggested sub-band coding (SBC) codec allows up to 345 kilobits per second.

That’s about a third of the quality of regular CD audio, or about the same as a high-quality MP3 recording. The audio quality is far worse in actuality, at around 256kbit/s, due to the SBC codec’s extreme “lossless” compression.

The system also supports other popular ways of encoding and compressing audio, such as MP3. The audio source does not need to be re-encoded in SBC if it is already compressed in a format like MP3, AAC, or ATRAC. With A2DP’s maximum audio bandwidth of 728kbit/s, it’s feasible to get high-quality audio.

However, few hardware manufacturers appear to be using this feature, and most A2DP-only products re-encode audio to SBC before decoding on the receiver end. This complicates the entire process, resulting in worse audio quality.

What is AAC?

If you purchase an Apple iPhone, you will receive advanced audio coding (AAC). It’s also the accessible version of YouTube’s default compression standard.

AAC produces a sound comparable to MP3 rather than CD quality, although the transmission rate is limited to 250 kbps.
AAC uses a lot of power, which might shorten the battery life of smartphones and Bluetooth headphones.

AAC is supported by top brand headphones such as the Bose Noise Cancelling 700, in addition to Apple iPhones.

The discussion over whether AAC vs. aptX HD is better has been overshadowed by the Android vs. iPhone controversy. Not only for sound quality but also dependability, most people prefer aptX HD.

Best Bluetooth Audio Codec

Quality is subjective, as it is with all audio and music in general. We all desire high-definition audio with negligible latency. Still, there are compromises to be made, such as battery consumption and connection reliability.

The fact is that it is a matter of personal choice. Qualcomm’s aptx HD has become a de facto industry standard for Android HD audio. Still, any Apple fanatic will tell you that AAC is just as excellent.

The source of the sound and the external device, such as your headphones, must support the same Bluetooth audio codec. Picking the appropriate goods becomes more of a game of matching pairings than pursuing the most desired audio codec support.

You can use your smartphone with various Bluetooth audio output devices, such as headphones and wireless speakers. The goal is typically to achieve parity across all of your devices rather than a single perfect match.

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