What is Bluetooth multipoint? | Digital Trends

Wouldn’t it be great to quickly and easily switch between audio sources with your Bluetooth headphones, without have to manually disconnect them and pair them to one device at a time? As with most consumer tech marvels, the dream has already come true, and in the case of today’s deep dive, we’ll be tackling an impressive audio feature known as Multipoint Bluetooth.

Introduced in 2010 with the rollout of Bluetooth 4.0, Bluetooth multipoint has been a saving grace for every Tom and Jane using a Bluetooth headset in the workplace. Allowing unanswered calls from a second phone line to be instantly put on hold was just the start of Bluetooth multipoint’s range of capabilities and compatible devices.

But how exactly does multipoint work outside of a call center? And why isn’t functionality talked about more by the very brands that incorporate it into their products? Join us, dear reader, for an excursion into the yesterday, today and tomorrow of Bluetooth multipoint.

How does Bluetooth multipoint work?

Person listens to audio on truly wireless Bluetooth headphones similar to Apple AirPods.

To better understand the science behind multipoint audio, it will be helpful to take a quick look at how Bluetooth works as a whole.

Traditionally, a simple wireless network (called a piconet) is the digital wire that connects a single Bluetooth headset to a Bluetooth-enabled source, be it a phone, tablet, computer or laptop. a gaming system. In this handshake from A to B, your headphones (Device A) call all the shots in the piconet, dictating the volume at which your phone plays music, when a voice assistant is called, and so on.

Device B of this piconet (the audio source) has only one task: to listen and follow commands from device A. So far, so good? Now let’s see how multipoint fits into this chain of command.

Normally a Bluetooth piconet is used to connect just two devices together. But when Device A supports multipoint connectivity, you will be able to connect to two or more sources from Device B, allowing you to hear and interact with content from two devices (phone, tablet, etc.). ) at the same time.

And while you can’t switch between two dedicated audio sources at the same time (the second device connected in multipoint is usually limited to notifications such as incoming calls and reminders), multipoint helps simplify the rather tedious process of connecting, disconnection, and reconnection is normal with most Bluetooth headsets and Bluetooth sources.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of a multipoint setup, let’s unpack things a bit further by diving into the different types of multipoint audio.

Simple, Triple, Advanced (and your Apple ID)

AirPods Pro and Pixel Buds Pro.
Apple’s AirPods Pro (left) and Google’s Pixel Buds Pro are two examples of headphones without true multipoint connectivity. Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends

There are three main types of multipoint audio: single, triple, and advanced connectivity. Simple multipoint is overall the type of multipoint used most often by developers of consumer technology products, in which a single headset can be linked to two sources at once.

Less common is triple connectivity, which, as the name suggests, allows up to three audio sources to be linked to a single set of headphones or wireless headphones.

The third type, advanced, has actually been around a bit longer than simple multipoint but is very similar. Most commonly associated with call centers, advanced multipoint adds an additional feature to the piconet, which is the ability for the headset to answer two calls at once and put one on hold, allowing you to easily switch between them.

There is also another version of multipoint used exclusively by certain Apple and Android products, but it is not enough multipoint.

In this configuration, Apple AirPods Pro, Samsung Galaxy Buds, and/or Google Pixel Buds Pro can be automatically recognized by any Apple or Android device, respectively, that shares the same Apple or Google ID as the Bluetooth headphones you’re using. . , allowing you to quickly and easily switch between audio sources.

Billed by Apple as audio switching and by Google as automatic audio switching via Fast Pair, none of these features are actually true multipoint, but more of a first-party way to quickly connect your Bluetooth headphones to all compatible Apple and Google products that are part of your brand ecosystem. When using compatible devices, these headphones will automatically detect the device you’re playing on and switch to it without having to select it in your Bluetooth settings.

What is multipoint used for?

Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless headphones hanging on a wall hook.
The Sony WH-1000XM5 Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

The main benefit of Bluetooth multipoint is the ability to have a single set of Bluetooth headphones or headphones connected to multiple devices at once, allowing you to switch between two different source devices without having to manually disconnect your headphones from a device and reconnect them. to another.

But how exactly does the chain of command work when it comes to determining which media takes precedence? Let’s look at the average multipoint setup to break things down.

In the following scenario, we are going to say that you switch a pair of Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones and they’re connected to both your iPhone (which you always have with you) and your work computer. The typical media hierarchy is as follows: phone and video calls take priority over voice assistants and system sounds, and digital assistants, device alarms and notifications take priority over content audio like Netflix streaming, Spotify tracks and/or any music. or podcasts you have downloaded to your phone or computer. Now, let’s put things into action to see how it all plays out.

Imagine you’re in the office, wearing those glorious Sony XM5s, and they’re simultaneously connected to your iPhone and your work computer.

You’re on a Teams video call on your computer with a coworker, and your wife texts you on your phone, with the notification sound playing on your headphones. But the work is important, so you don’t pay attention to it. Then your phone rings – it’s your wife. Now you’re in trouble. You answer the call and while the Teams video stream remains active on your computer screen, it’s muted in your headphones because the phone call audio is prioritized in your headphones. When the call ends, you return to your Teams call.

Another scenario could be when you are listening to music through a streaming service like Spotify on your computer and sound notifications such as calendar reminders, text messages, WhatsApp messages, etc. come from your phone. Once the alarm is turned off or the notification ends, your Spotify playlist will start playing again. Alternatively, if a phone call or Zoom call were to go through on your phone, the music on your computer would pause while you take the call and resume when your call ends.

In a perfect world, that’s how it should work – an easy, airy back and forth between your devices and your headphones – and in theory, it can. But several factors come into play, such as the capabilities and compatibility of your devices, as well as the configuration of your computer and phone settings. For example, while your music may pause for a notification or a call, it may not always restart automatically. Or when your Teams or Zoom call returns, you may need to unmute the microphone. All the little things, but that’s to say that while Bluetooth multipoint is a technology that offers some incredibly convenient and useful features, it’s still evolving and isn’t perfect…yet.

How to Buy Multipoint Bluetooth Products

A guy with a baseball cap wearing a Bose Quiet Comfort 35 II.

As it stands, Bluetooth multipoint tends to be treated as a less common capability for most wireless headphones, while being a bit more available in the wireless headphones market. This is due to the way Bluetooth headphones are designed compared to wireless buds.

You see, wireless headphones use the same type of connection between the left and right cups, while wireless products like the Apple AirPods require a dedicated wireless connection for each individual bud. And thanks to the continued evolution of multipoint — thanks to developments Qualcomm chipsets and Bluetooth 5.0 standards – we’re now starting to see the feature appear more in wireless headphones.

But doesn’t Bluetooth multipoint sound like a neat feature that every manufacturer of Bluetooth products would be happy to brag about?

Sure, you’ll have brands like Sony and Bose proudly singing the praises of multipoint through the general marketing of their compatible headphones, but that’s more the exception than the norm. Generally speaking, Bluetooth multipoint tends to be a hidden specification of many headphones and earbuds, so here are our tips:

If Bluetooth multipoint is a feature you are interested in, when you have in mind the Bluetooth headphones or headphones you want to buy, dig a little deeper to see if the product is multipoint ready or not.

Outside of marketing copy and product specs, a good way to find out if a pair of headphones is multipoint compatible is to read product reviews – which we bet you do anyway if you’re trying to cut your options.

What are the best Bluetooth multipoint products?

What kind of insightful breakdown would it be if we didn’t recommend a pair of headphones (or three)? As noted, Bluetooth multipoint isn’t a blanket feature for all wireless headphones and earphones, but here are some great products that incorporate the technology. Expect to see a lot more, especially on wireless earbuds, as this once little-known feature becomes standard.

Sony WH-1000XM5

When it comes to unbeatable sound quality, powerful noise cancellation, and extreme comfort, there’s no better Bluetooth headset than the Sony WH-1000XM5. With Sony’s LDAC support for high-end music streaming and a sleek design that matches the price, Sony has really pulled out all the stops with the XM5, and the results are nothing short of stunning.

Bose Quiet Comfort 45

Bose is a staple in the audio world, and the QuietComfort 45 are some of the best performing, best-fitting Bluetooth headphones you’ll find. Boasting an intuitive noise cancellation system, long battery life and easy multipoint connectivity, the QuietComfort 45 has plenty to appeal to. Trust us, you won’t be disappointed.

Jabra Elite 7 Pro

Sleek, stylish and comfortable to wear, the Jabra Elite 7 Pro offers excellent sound and call quality, in addition to adjustable controls, wireless charging and, you guessed it, multipoint connectivity. They even received our five out of five stars, which is a difficult feat for any product to achieve.

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