New aptX bundle understands what you’re listening to, chooses the best settings

Qualcomm’s aptX audio technology is about to go through a major change, except rather than launch another new format or a revision of a current technology, it’s making those that already exist easier and more accessible. Qualcomm’s aptX Adaptive bundles aptX, aptX HD, and low latency aptX together into one, which is clever enough to dynamically switch to the best option depending on what you’re listening to.

A fascinating advancement, this is Qualcomm looking closely at how we all use mobile devices, and what kind of audio is best suited to our use. The regular aptX codec makes regular Bluetooth music playback sound great on supported devices in comparison with non-aptX Bluetooth streaming; but if you’re listening to high-resolution (aka HD) music files, playing games, or watching movies, there are better aptX codecs to use.

Rather than forcing the use of specific headphones, or a specific device, aptX Adaptive will understand you’re watching a movie or playing a game, and switch to a low latency setting. The advantages of low latency are often only associated with gaming, but it’s also essential for lip syncing in movies when listening over Bluetooth. It’s the same if you’re listening to a high-resolution file, when aptX HD will kick in. Mobile devices are called upon to do many different things, and wrapping all these codecs into one will make life considerably easier for many of us.

Metadata driven

Qualcomm’s new aptX Adaptive bundle takes advantage of metadata in associated files to work out what settings to use, and that’s it. It’s backwards compatible, doesn’t require any configuration, and will dynamically adjust without any input from you. Digital Trends asked Qualcomm if the metadata is freely available, or if aptX Adaptive needs special treatment before it will work. Jonny McClintock, Qualcomm’s Director of aptX Sales and Marketing, said there may be some “hand holding” at first, as it’s the first time Qualcomm has used metadata to drive a technology, but most music files, games, and films should have everything aptX Adaptive needs already.

With its new bundle, Qualcomm has also addressed some problems many have experienced with Bluetooth in the past, saying it’s concentrated on making it more robust in order to deliver a consistent audio experience. The company is also confident about sound quality. In independent tests, carried out by experts at Salford University in Manchester, U.K., there was no significant difference between aptX Adaptive at 420kbit/s and original linear audio at 24bit/96kHz recordings.

Like other aptX technologies, both your source device and your headphones/speakers will need to have aptX Adaptive inside to operate, so manufacturers must choose to use it. At launch, it will support 24bit/48kHz file resolution, with an update to 24bit/96kHz coming in the future.

When is it coming, and what do you need to take advantage of aptX Adaptive? Qualcomm is ready to supply the decoder to companies now, for use in Bluetooth headphones and speakers, and the encoder will be available for Android 9.0 Pie in December. (As with all aptX codecs, iOS devices still don’t support the new bundle.) It will also be part of a future Qualcomm Snapdragon mobile processor.

The first products with aptX Adaptive are slated for release in summer 2019.

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