aptX Lossless: New Qualcomm technology set to deliver ‘CD-quality audio’ via wireless headphones

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Updated: September 02, 2021 2:44 PM

Technically an extension of aptX Adaptive, the aptX Lossless can stream over Bluetooth CD-quality, 16-bit/44.1kHz lossless audio, Qualcomm said.

qualcomm lossless audioThe first devices featuring the new technology are expected to come out early next year

Lossless music has had a great 2021 so far following Apple’s move to join in on higher-quality streaming and Amazon’s decision to not charge an added premium. But the main challenge for lossless audio is playing it wirelessly on earbuds and wireless headphones.

Now, Qualcomm thinks it has solved the problem with its aptX Lossless, a part of the Snapdragon Sound programme that the company announced earlier this year.

Technically an extension of aptX Adaptive, the aptX Lossless can stream over Bluetooth CD-quality, 16-bit/44.1kHz lossless audio, Qualcomm said. The first devices featuring the new technology are expected to come out early next year. Snapdragon Sound uses the entire hardware chain to optimise performance, which means both the Android phone and the headphones or earbuds need to be compatible with the technology.

According to Qualcomm, the Snapdragon Sound will automatically pick up a lossless audio source and play it at much higher data rates than possible with the previous aptX HD. The company has also outdone Sony’s LDAC in bandwidth terms — the aptX Lossless can hit 1Mbps, while the LDAC has the bandwidth capped at 990kbps.

Qualcomm is still applying some compression; the sample rate in CD-quality music typically hovers around 1.4Mbps. However, Qualcomm’s lossless compression reproduces mathematically bit-for-bit exact audio.

The technology will also dynamically scale the bit rate down to as low as 140kbps in environments of wireless congestion to deliver the best-quality audio performance based on the quality of connection. Sony’s LDAC technology, when its bit rate is pushed to the limit, may struggle in the real world. As a result, it’s no surprise that Qualcomm has offered a solution to make the experience smoother.

CD quality is the aptX Lossless’ limit, however. Hi-resolution audio tracks can still be played, but that might end up with lossy streaming.

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