Bluetooth® technology has become synonymous with wireless audio, and Bluetooth audio’s impact in the world cannot be understated. Now, Bluetooth technology is once again changing the way we look at wireless audio.

LE Audio introduces an entirely new architecture for supporting audio applications using Bluetooth technology and sets the stage for the next 20 years of innovation in wireless audio. LE Audio improves wireless audio performance, adds support for hearing aids, and introduces Auracast™ broadcast audio, a new Bluetooth capability that will enhance the way we engage with others and the world around us.

When the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) announced the completion of the LE Audio specifications, they released this video, featuring commentary from some of the key contributors and stories about how the project started, the major challenges, and what they look forward to from the next generation of Bluetooth® audio.

The Making of LE Audio

“I don’t think there’s other wireless technology that’s going to be on par with the wireless audio over Bluetooth® technology in the next 20 years.” 
– Kanji Kerai, Meta Platforms, Inc.

Making LE Audio

The idea for LE Audio started in the hearing aid industry. “Back in the 50s, when hearing aids first started to become fairly decent, nobody really anticipated that you would be spending most of your life connected, not only to phones, but to televisions, to computers, and all sorts of other devices,” said Richard Einhorn, consultant at Einhorn Consulting, LLC.

It was clear across the industry that the time had come to create a digital standard for connectivity. It wasn’t long before the working group members involved in building the technology saw that its potential could extend well beyond hearing aids to encompass all wireless audio use cases.

The Challenge

One major hurdle from the onset was the sheer scope and scale of the idea. It impacted every layer of the specifications, starting with the core specification and working all the way to the top-level profiles. “It was the largest spec release Bluetooth® has ever done,” said Nick Hunn, CTO of WiFore Consulting. “It took some time to architect it and make it extensible.”

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Auracast™ broadcast audio will deliver life-changing audio experiences that will enhance the way you engage with others and the world around you.

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“That sort of a complete rewrite of what we’re doing is a once in a decade sort of adventure.” 
– Joel Linsky, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.

Another major challenge the group faced was the pandemic. Without being able to meet for face-to-face testing of the specifications, the working group needed to come up with an alternative means of testing LE Audio remotely. “Somehow, this group, across all the different time zones, across all the countries that went through so much with so many different waves of COVID, somehow pulled it off,” said Joel Linsky, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. VP of Technology. “I am thoroughly impressed with everybody…being able to pull this off in the middle of a pandemic.”

The Result

In addition to introducing new features to Bluetooth® audio, LE Audio offers a new, flexible architecture that provides an ideal platform for future wireless audio innovation and work within the Bluetooth SIG is already underway to bring additional LE Audio features and capabilities to market. “I have no doubts that Bluetooth and Bluetooth LE audio will dominate the market,” Alexander Tschekalinkskij, Fraunhofer IIS.

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LE Audio Resources for Developers

The LE Audio Specifications are complete. Access a library of technical resources including a book, videos, study guides, and more designed to help you get familiar with the new LE Audio architecture, the individual specifications, and the capabilities LE Audio brings, including Auracast™ broadcast audio.

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Auracast Broadcast Audio

LE Audio adds Auracast broadcast audio to Bluetooth® technology. This new feature enables an audio source to broadcast an audio stream to an unlimited number of Bluetooth audio sink devices. Bluetooth audio broadcasts can be open, allowing any in-range sink device to participate, or closed, permitting only those sink devices with the correct passkey to participate.

Auracast broadcast audio opens significant new opportunities for innovation. “I think we won’t truly appreciate how useful broadcast audio will be until people are using it every day,” said Chris Church, senior staff engineer with Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “Much like when your internet goes down, when you start to experience a network without broadcast audio in a few years time, you’ll quickly wonder where has it gone and how did you manage to live without it for so long?”

Auracast Broadcast Audio for Assistive Listening

Auracast broadcast audio will also support new capabilities for Bluetooth® hearing aids, and it will become an advanced, new assistive listening system (ALS) that will be significantly easier and lower cost to deploy while offering higher audio quality and greater privacy.

Auracast broadcast audio will overcome the challenges of traditional ALS solutions by using a familiar, proven technology ubiquitous in most consumer audio devices. It will provide the added benefits of enabling broader deployment and increased availability of ALS for people with hearing loss while expanding applicability of these systems to consumers with all levels of hearing health.

“12 years ago, when I fell overnight into the world of hearing loss, I knew that I, and everyone with hearing loss, needed some sort of way to connect wirelessly to all the devices in our world. And finally, we’re getting a solution that does it. I just want to thank everyone involved in this wonderful effort…You did a great job.” 
– Richard Einhorn, Einhorn Consulting, LLC

LE Audio Products

Qualification for Bluetooth® products seeking to add support for LE Audio is now enabled. Initial consumer products supporting LE Audio, including those with Auracast™ broadcast audio, are expected to come to market in the coming months, and the Bluetooth SIG anticipates LE Audio product availability to ramp up as we approach the end of the year. “We don’t really know how it’s going to all come together in this new ecosystem, but the sky’s the limit, and I’m looking forward to all the innovations that will come,” said Jeff Solum, wireless system architect with Starkey Hearing Technologies.

Watch the full video to learn more about the making of LE Audio.

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Auracast™ Broadcast Audio

Auracast™ broadcast audio will deliver life-changing audio experiences that will enhance the way you engage with others and the world around you.

LEARN MORE

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