Earlier this year, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) announced that the Bluetooth® community would once again be changing the way we connect to the world around us. With the release of Bluetooth LE Audio, the next generation of Bluetooth audio will significantly enhance audio performance. Now, one eagerly anticipated feature of Bluetooth LE Audio is here.
Higher Quality and Lower Power
For years, developers have created some amazing innovations within the parameters of the SBC codec, but the Low Complexity Communications Codec (LC3) is opening new opportunities to expand the limits of wireless audio.
LC3 is a new low-power audio codec that provides high-quality audio even at low data rates. This brings tremendous flexibility to developers, allowing them to make better design tradeoffs between key product attributes, such as audio quality and power consumption.
According to Nick Hunn from WiFore Consulting, the LC3 is more efficient, uses less power, and has lower latency, taking only 20 milliseconds to code, transmit, and decode. “The codec is a really important part of any wireless system for audio,” said Hunn. “It has the job of compressing the audio signal into something much smaller, so you can send it over a wireless link, and then at the other end it decodes it, which turns it back into music without any loss of quality. We’ve been very lucky to have companies that are highly expert in codec design, helping us to develop the new Bluetooth codec.”
“…this new codec is really exciting, because technology has advanced tremendously over the past decade, and we now have a codec with the same quality as SBC but requiring only half the airtime. That brings benefits by reducing the amount of battery capacity that needs to be allocated to the radio, which in turn translates to users experiencing all-day runtime in a smaller form factor or not having to deal with bulky earbuds.”
– Peter Liu
The LC3 Difference
Fraunhofer IIS’s Head of Low Delay Audio Coding Group Markus Schnell says that LC3 will upgrade Bluetooth® headsets to the latest in state-of-the-art audio quality and has already been deployed in HD Voice+ VoLTE networks. Here, the introduction of the Enhanced Voice Services (EVS) standard audio codec brought a new level of speech and audio quality to mobile services. This level can now be delivered through Bluetooth accessories as well.
It cuts the data rate by half, which leads to longer battery life or the ability to develop smaller devices.
For music, LC3 solves two fundamental quality challenges: All kinds of audio can be transmitted with excellent quality, and it cuts the data rate by half, which leads to longer battery life or the ability to develop smaller devices. “Extensive listening tests have shown that LC3 will provide improvements in audio quality over the SBC codec included with Classic Audio, even at a 50% lower bit rate,” said Schnell. “Developers will be able to leverage these power savings to create products that can provide longer battery life or, in cases where current battery life is enough, reduce the form factor by using a smaller battery.”
A Better User Experience
From power savings to audio quality to improved usability, developers can use LC3 to significantly enhance the user experience. Higher audio quality at half the bit rate translates to half the power. Developers can leverage the power savings to design products that provide longer battery life or, in cases where current battery life is enough, reduce the form factor by using a smaller battery. It will also enable standardized support for Bluetooth® technology within hearing aids and enable people with hearing loss to realize the same benefits of Bluetooth audio enjoyed by users of standard Bluetooth headphones and earbuds, including wireless calling, listening, and watching.
The release of LC3 represents the completion of the second of the three key building blocks. Hear for yourself how LC3 will raise the bar for Bluetooth audio quality.