Robert Triggs / Android Authority
- aptX Lossless is the first Bluetooth audio codec to boast bit-exact CD-quality music support.
- The technology will be part of Qualcomm’s aptX Adaptive and Snapdragon Sound ecosystems.
- Expect the first aptX Lossless products to appear in 2022.
Prick up your ears audiophiles; you’ll finally be able to listen to lossless-quality audio through your Bluetooth headphones. Qualcomm has lifted the lid on the latest version of its Bluetooth audio codec: aptX Lossless.
Diving straight into the core details, aptX Lossless is the first Bluetooth audio codec to claim bit-exact transfer of CD-quality (16-bit, 44.1kHz) audio over Bluetooth. Finally, your wireless headphones can support lossless sound. Compression is still used to fit CD’s 1.4Mbps bit-rate into Qualcomm’s more limited 1Mbps maximum bandwidth, but the company notes it’s using entirely lossless compression. Unlike existing lossy Bluetooth codecs, the audio stream at the output is an exact match with the input when listening via aptX Lossless.
With the move to aptX Lossless, Qualcomm is greatly improving the data rate over its existing aptX (352kbps) and aptX HD (576kbps) codecs. In fact, it can even exceed Sony LDAC’s 990kbps data rate. Although, sustaining this high bandwidth is the key problem and one that Qualcomm says it has addressed thanks to end-to-end control and optimization of its radio stack via its Snapdragon Sound ecosystem. As such, Qualcomm notes Snapdragon Sound is a requirement for sustainable aptX Lossless and that it intends for all branded products to support the new codec going forward. Sadly, the new hardware requirements mean existing products are unlikely to be backwards compatible.
See also: Everything you need to know about Bluetooth codecs
Fortunately, aptX Lossless isn’t another standalone codec in an ever-growing list. Instead, it falls under the aptX Adaptive tool suite, meaning devices will also benefit from Qualcomm’s other codec features. For example, audio bit-rate scales from lossless right down to 140kbps without interruption if you wander into an area with high radio interference. That means you shouldn’t experience glitches or dropouts. aptX Adaptive also supports 24-bit 96kHz playback, albeit with lossy compression, and a dynamic low-latency mode for gamers and voice calls.
Qualcomm’s decision to support lossless audio via Bluetooth is partly due to the growing list of music streaming platforms that now support lossless formats. Apple Music, Amazon Music, Tidal, and others offer high-resolution and/or lossless tracks to stream and download. But to make maximum use of this audio quality via Bluetooth requires new codecs and impeccable wireless hardware and software implementation. Qualcomm’s latest Bluetooth audio codec could become the preferred way to listen for audiophiles who also want to enjoy the benefits of Bluetooth headphones and earbuds.
aptX Lossless products, complete with Snapdragon Sound branding and interoperability testing, are expected to arrive sometime in 2022.