Qualcomm is bringing Wi-Fi and lossless hi-res audio to wireless earbuds

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Simon Cohen

By Simon Cohen October 24, 2023 12:00PM

Image of Qualcomm-branded earbuds pinch tiles for Qualcomm's S7 and S7 Pro Gen 1 sound platforms.Qualcomm

Qualcomm’s latest chips for wireless earbuds and headphones execute what has agelong been intolerable (or astatine least, very impractical) — they springiness these devices nan expertise to link complete modular Wi-Fi successful summation to Bluetooth. This not only has nan imaginable to importantly widen Bluetooth’s wireless range, but it besides makes playback of lossless hi-res audio a possibility, and that’s thing that Bluetooth’s constricted bandwidth can’t do.

It’s expected that we’ll spot nan first products to usage this exertion arsenic early arsenic nan extremity of 2023.

Micro-power Wi-Fi

The technology, which Qualcomm calls XPAN (expanded individual area network), uses micro-power Wi-Fi that’s built into its latest audio chip, nan S7 Pro Sound Platform Gen 1. “Micro-power” is nan cardinal to making Wi-Fi for earbuds and headphones work. Traditionally, Wi-Fi has been very power-hungry and would person required a bigger artillery than you’d usually beryllium capable to fresh successful a group of wireless earbuds.

Qualcomm claims its XPAN Wi-Fi is truthful power-efficient that it tin watercourse 96kHz lossless audio for 10 hours utilizing nan aforesaid size of artillery that antecedently could only tally Bluetooth audio astatine 48kHz for nan aforesaid play of time.

Greater scope than Bluetooth

Having Wi-Fi connectivity successful a group of earbuds aliases wireless headphones is awesome from a bandwidth constituent of view, but it tin besides play a domiciled successful wireless range. Bluetooth is usually constricted to astir 33 feet, unless you’re utilizing a people 1 Bluetooth power (which fewer earbuds and headphones have). It’s besides mediocre erstwhile it comes to penetrating walls and different obstacles. But galore of america person Wi-Fi networks that screen our full home, either by utilizing a azygous powerful Wi-Fi router or, increasingly, by utilizing a mesh Wi-Fi system.

Qualcomm’s XPAN is designed to consciousness nan value of a Bluetooth connection, and move it seamlessly to Wi-Fi arsenic you scope nan limits of Bluetooth range. That’s useful for listening to euphony uninterrupted, but it’s moreover much adjuvant erstwhile you’re connected a telephone aliases video call.

XPAN useful pinch Wi-Fi 5, 6, 6E, and 7 networks connected 2.4, 5, and 6GHz bands, which intends that successful firm settings, it mightiness let you to roam anyplace that’s covered by your agency Wi-Fi.

Massive bandwidth

Wi-Fi mightiness beryllium overkill for casual stereo listening, but XPAN’s bandwidth — up to 29 Mpbs — is almost 30 times bigger than Bluetooth, which opens nan doorway to a batch of applications. With that benignant of headroom, 24-bit/192 kHz lossless euphony streaming is easy achieved. In fact, it’s a precocious capable information complaint that you could watercourse 16 channels of Dolby True HD, including Dolby Atmos.

Snapdragon Sound required

As compelling arsenic these examples are, nan first products to usage nan S7 Pro Gen 1 chipsets will only beryllium capable to usage XPAN erstwhile paired pinch a Snapdragon Sound device. In this case, we’re talking astir devices that usage Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 mobile level aliases its Snapdragon X Elite level for PCs.

However, Digital Trends was told that XPAN could make its measurement into Bluetooth wireless speakers, wherever it could perchance beryllium utilized to entree Wi-Fi euphony streams from services for illustration Apple Music and Amazon Music without needing a Snapdragon Sound instrumentality acting arsenic an intermediary. It could besides pave nan measurement for further wireless location theatre products that compete pinch solutions from WiSA and Sonos.

Better ANC, transparency, and AI

While Wi-Fi for wireless earbuds and headphones feels for illustration nan large news for Qualcomm’s audio announcement, it’s only disposable connected nan company’s S7 Pro Gen 1 platform. But there’s besides a non-pro type of nan S7 level too, and on pinch nan S7 Pro, it has tons of different enhancements.

Qualcomm says it has accrued nan onboard AI capabilities of these chips 100-fold erstwhile compared to its S5 generation, which opens up a batch of imaginable for companies to create innovative audio-based experiences. Likewise, there’s six times much wide compute power.

The chips support Bluetooth 5.4, including compatibility pinch LE Audio and Bluetooth Auracast. Qualcomm says it has besides improved its autochthonal progressive sound cancellation, which now includes an adaptive transparency mode. There’s besides support for spatial audio and immersive, low-latency gaming audio.

The level moreover extends into proceeding enhancement done nan usage of individual sound amplification.

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  • Sennheiser updates its Momentum headphones pinch individual tuning, hi-res audio

Simon Cohen

Simon Cohen covers a assortment of user technologies, but has a typical liking successful audio and video products, like…

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