How Snapdragon Sound can make Android wireless sound like AirPods

Wireless audio on Android has always been a battleground compared to iOS.

Android users have many options that similarly compete on sound quality, battery life, and design. While features like Google Fast Pair try to bring some comfort from AirPods to more devices, and companies like Samsung integrate their wireless earbuds well with their devices, there is still something like the AirPods experience in the Android world.

Qualcomm wants to change that with Snapdragon Sound – or try to die. The audio platform is an extensive certification process for wireless earbuds, headphones, and smartphones, with the goal of ensuring a great user experience. Similar to other tech certifications (such as the Intel Evo), the idea is that customers will feel confident in the audio experience they get when they see the Snapdragon Sound badge stamped on the device case. The ultimate goal is to go beyond the first-class audio and connectivity experience that Apple has nailed with AirPods.

The Snapdragon Sound was announced in 2021 but it’s still in the early stages of being rolled out. According to Qualcomm’s page for supported devices, there are only 13 wireless earbuds and one pair of Snapdragon Sound certified wireless headphones at the time of this publication (May 2022). Only phones supported to hand in Snapdragon sound comes from Motorola, Xiaomi, Vivo, ZTE and Black Shark.

To understand more about the process Qualcomm is taking to roll out the Snapdragon Sound, and the requirements device makers need to meet to earn this badge, entrance I spoke with Johnny McClintock, Director of Product Marketing and President of AptX at Qualcomm. “The Snapdragon Sound’s three pillars are sound quality, latency, and durability,” McClintock says.

Qualcomm sold these Master and Dynamic wireless headphones and Asus phone to “Snapdragon Insiders” eager to try out the Snapdragon Sound.Qualcomm

McClintock was clear that lost sound wasn’t the whole story with Snapdragon Sound. The certification targets the entire audio pipeline: addressing use cases for professionals, mobile gamers, and, of course, audio enthusiasts. While the lackluster number of devices today may sound frustrating, speaking with McClintock made clear that it’s actually the result of Qualcomm’s desire to get the Snapdragon Sound right where new consumers can trust.

Setting higher standards

On paper, any device with a Snapdragon 888 (or later) processor is able to pass the Snapdragon Sound certification. The same is true for many Qualcomm chips (305x, 307x, 517x, 515x, and 514x) for wireless earbuds and headphones released in 2021. These chips all include native support for AptX Adaptive, the key technology in enabling AptX Lossless Inside Snapdragon Sound .

As you know, a lot of phones fulfill this basic requirement. The Galaxy S21 was the first phone in the US to use the Snapdragon 888, and so is the OnePlus 9 Pro and Galaxy Z Fold 3. This year the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 in the Galaxy S22 series is supposed to enable the Snapdragon Sound. So why haven’t the most popular Android devices for US buyers been certified yet?

The reason is that Qualcomm does not treat the Snapdragon Sound as a rubber seal that any device with the right silicon can receive. Using Qualcomm silicone is just the first of many steps to becoming certified.

when Share with us first! With Bluetooth In 2009, bluetooth was a joke for sound.

McClintock says that the certification examines every part of the device’s role in the audio pipeline. There are several APIs, quality checks on radio performance, and audio playback requirements that all need to be met before a Snapdragon Sound badge can be placed on the packaging. Eligible devices also need to own all Part of their SoCs are enabled. If a company chooses a Qualcomm chip for audio processing and active noise-cancellation performance in a new pair of wireless earbuds, but chooses to disable AptX Lossless to save battery life, that pair of wireless earbuds will not qualify for Snapdragon Sound certification.

However, the lack of Snapdragon Sound doesn’t mean the device can’t play lossless audio, or take advantage of lower latency. The S5 and S3, Qualcomm 2022 chips for wireless earbuds and headphones, include native support for AptX Adaptive and AptX Lossless out of the box, along with the rest of the Snapdragon Sound feature set.

Snapdragon Sound is Qualcomm’s seal of approval and ensures that users can expect a specific experience from using a specific device as a result of Qualcomm’s own testing. It will be the best way to know that a particular set of wireless earbuds or smartphone is equipped with the full range of audio features that Qualcomm mobile and audio support.

Look for this badge on the following wireless earbuds and headphones.Qualcomm

McClintock believes this is the best approach to educating the consumer about wireless sound quality as interest grows, rather than spending money to educate people about the features and upgrades of using the home chip of listening devices each year. This is in contrast to each year’s marketing and awareness campaigns for Qualcomm’s roles in flagship Snapdragon chips for mobile devices.

“I don’t think the average consumer is going to want to have those nitty-gritty details about the platforms. I try to look at it through the lens of how I see it through simplicity. You think about all the money everyone is spending on a particular segment, I don’t think the payoff will be there to focus on Building consumer awareness”.

I think McClintock is right with this mindset. How many buyers Is that true Did you know that the H1 chip is the secret sauce to the AirPods experience for iPhone and iPad? The AirPods brand itself is the warranty.

While McClintock didn’t mention names in our conversation, he wasn’t bothered to expect “six to seven” flagship phones and earbud manufacturers to announce support for Snapdragon Sound this year, and confirmed that Qualcomm now has agreements with 49 OEMs in total. To participate in the certification program.

Does this mean the next pair of Galaxy Buds or Samsung’s next flagship smartphone will be on board? Almost certainly not. Although Samsung is often one of the first companies to offer support behind Qualcomm’s mobile SoCs, the company also uses its own Exynos silicon for internationally released devices. This silicon splitting strategy means Samsung will have to improve on both chips and that could be more work than it’s worth for the Snapdragon Sound badge. Galaxy Buds also do not use Qualcomm chipsets and rely on AAC when connected to other Android devices and Samsung’s “Scalable Codec” when connected to a Galaxy phone. While yes, Samsung is just one OEM company, its consumer tech stronghold globally gives it a lot of weight when it supports or not supports a platform.

Features of Snapdragon Sound

It’s important to focus on the way Qualcomm enables lossless audio. AptX Adaptive is the key technology here since AptX Lossless sits on top of Adaptive technology. Designed as a scalable codec, AptX Adaptive is capable of delivering great audio at various bit rates, so Qualcomm focused on this scalability for true lossless audio over Bluetooth.

McClintock says that vanilla Bluetooth becomes very unstable around the 800 kbps mark. This is enough to provide higher quality audio compared to AAC audio operating at 256 kbps, but audio experts do not consider it lossless. Sony’s LDAC can go up to 990 kbps, but it rarely hits peak bitrate, and is still somewhat lossy. McClintock was quick to point this out when I mentioned LDAC.

“LDAC is lossless. This peak of 990kbps is definitely high quality audio but you still lose some data. We are able to achieve bit rates over 1Mbps, which is what you need without CD loss.”

AptX Adaptive includes technology Qualcomm calls Qualcomm High Speed ​​Bluetooth (QHS) that adds a parallel modulation layer to existing Bluetooth radios, providing an additional 300kbps of bandwidth not previously available. McClintock says they are able to achieve this with a significant level of stability and reliability “never seen before” and should provide a much better end user experience compared to LDAC’s attempt to operate at full bandwidth.

It’s pretty impressive stuff Qualcomm has built on top of Bluetooth, but no loss is just the tip of the iceberg as I see it.

without data loss he just Hint subordinate Ice mountain.

McClintock is also very excited about AptX Voice, a key feature of Snapdragon Sound, becoming available to more users. AptX Voice is designed to take advantage of Voice over LTE (VoLTE), a technology that was launched in 2012 but hasn’t been widely deployed for years, just as wireless earbuds are starting to go viral. VoLTE has greatly expanded the frequency range for phone calls, but Bluetooth has never supported this extended range of voice. (This is a big reason why phone calls seem clearer when both parties put their phones to their ears.)

AptX Voice is Qualcomm’s answer to unrealized VoLTE capabilities (the core technology is also included in 5G), and promises wireless voice quality for phone calls comparable to listening directly through a telephone receiver. This will greatly appeal to professionals stuck in conference calls all day who want to rely on their favorite wireless earbuds to get the job done, but Voice over IP (VoIP) services like Discord and Zoom should also improve.

Qualcomm also promises that the Snapdragon Sound will provide low latency for gaming and video watching, reducing delays to 89 milliseconds compared to hundreds of milliseconds of typical latency for most Bluetooth connections, according to McClintock.

IQOO 9 Pro from Vivo is one of the latest phones that have been certified for Snapdragon Sound.vivo

Testing RF interference performance is a big part of the Snapdragon Sound certification process. Qualcomm claims that the connection between the two Snapdragon Sounds will hold up better in areas of high interference and a more stable connection, so fewer random dropouts (or ideally not) when walking outside a building or glitches in high-traffic areas like buses or streets Crowded junction where many people are all connected to Bluetooth devices.

Raise the bar slowly

The Snapdragon Sound may not ultimately be the revolution that Bluetooth LE Audio is on its way to be, but it also doesn’t have to change the world. While AptX has been a reliable part of the Android audio story for years, that’s usually the end of Qualcomm’s place in your listening experience. Qualcomm was content to sell chips and AptX licenses to any company that was willing to pay.

Snapdragon Sound is a new step for Qualcomm’s role in the audio world. The platform makes it a more active player in a crowded field of sellers and allows it to help define audio product specifications to meet the larger seal of approval. Ultimately, Qualcomm will still need to compete with audio chip makers to keep existing OEM partners together.

If it works out and the Snapdragon Sound becomes a motivating factor for buyers of wireless earbuds and headphones, Qualcomm may secure a new monopoly on itself. This will force new OEMs to buy Qualcomm chips and submit their products for Snapdragon Sound certification to stay competitive.

Xiaomi Flip Buds Pro support Snapdragon audio.xiaomi

I would argue that the wireless world will continue to benefit from the Snapdragon Sound project, even if the badge does not become essential to consumers. The motivating factor behind this continues to be increased consumer confidence when choosing a pair of wireless earbuds, even if all of these earbuds use Qualcomm chips. Forcing companies that don’t use a Qualcomm chip, or choose not to offer their Qualcomm-enabled headphones for certification, devote more time to improving connectivity and sound quality for their products can only benefit consumers.

“When we first got involved with bluetooth in 2009, bluetooth was an audio joke,” McClintock says. “In terms of being a reputable thing for audiophiles, it was by no means a medium for people to listen to music critically. Since then, we’ve By making significant improvements with AptX we are now able to deliver true lossless CD quality.”

For now, we can only wait and see which of the major wireless earbuds brands Qualcomm has been able to deliver since 2021, and then judge for ourselves whether the Snapdragon Sound is worth all the hype.

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