The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) today announced the upcoming launch of LE Audio, which is the next-generation of Bluetooth audio. LE Audio will bring enhanced Bluetooth audio performance, it will add support for Audio Sharing, and it will add support for hearing aids.
LE Audio features a new high-quality, low-power audio codec that will bring improved performance and better power consumption by offering high-quality audio even at low data rates. Developers will be able to create audio products that offer longer battery life or are smaller thanks to the need for less battery capacity.
With support for multi-stream audio, Bluetooth LE will allow for the transmission of multiple, independent, synchronized audio streams between an audio source device like a smartphone and one or more audio sink devices like earbuds. This will improve performance of wireless earbuds, offering a better stereo imaging experience, plus it will make it easier to use voice assistant services and swap between multiple audio sources.
LE Audio includes support for hearing aids, and it will allow for the development of hearing aids that also include the benefits of Bluetooth audio.
Broadcast Audio, another LE Audio feature, allows an audio source to broadcast one or more audio streams to an unlimited number of devices, officially enabling audio sharing capabilities.
Bluetooth Audio Sharing will allow people to share their Bluetooth audio experience with others around them (i.e, listening to music from the same smartphone), and there’s also a location-based feature that will let public venues like airports, bars, gyms, and cinemas share Bluetooth audio that “augments the visitor experience.”
“Location-based Audio Sharing holds the potential to change the way we experience the world around us,” said Peter Liu of Bose Corporation and member of the Bluetooth SIG Board of Directors. “For example, people will be able to select the audio being broadcast by silent TVs in public venues, and places like theaters and lecture halls will be able to share audio to assist visitors with hearing loss as well as provide audio in multiple languages.”
Apple, a Bluetooth SIG member, has already enabled audio sharing functionality with its AirPods and Powerbeats Pro headphones, but that functionality is specific to iOS devices and a limited number of earbuds. LE Audio will bring those capabilities to all headphones that have LE Audio support.
When LE Audio launches, Bluetooth audio will support two operation modes. The LE Audio will operate on the Bluetooth Low Energy radio, while classic Audio will operate on the Bluetooth Classic radio. LE Audio will be a replacement for Classic Audio, as it supports the same audio products and use cases while also adding new features.
The Bluetooth specifications defining LE Audio will see a release throughout the second half of 2020. More information about LE Audio is available on the Bluetooth SIG website.