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The ultimate guide to Bluetooth headphones: LDAC isn’t Hi-res

Sony’s LDAC has risen to popularity as the audiophile-grade Bluetooth codec. But does it actually match the quality of wired 24-bit/96kHz Hi-Res audio?

Sony’s LDAC has risen to popularity as the audiophile-grade Bluetooth codec, owing to its substantially higher 990kbps bit-rate versus other codecs—and the promise of 24-bit/96kHz Hi-Res playback. Unfortunately, Sony has rarely given out much information about exactly how LDAC achieves this. We’re here to see if LDAC really delivers on the hype, or if the industry has been enjoying another audio placebo.

Editor’s note: this article was updated on May 16, 2023, for formatting, timeliness, and data updates.

What is LDAC?

LDAC is a Bluetooth codec that currently is the go-to option for high-end headsets to lean on for higher-bitrate audio over wireless. While it’s not currently possible to completely match CD quality over wireless, LDAC makes a really good effort to provide that by making use of creative compression and higher bitrates than are available with other codecs.

Though the codec is on the “newer” side compared to others like AAC and SBC, it has been a mandatory option on Android phones since Android 8.0. Ever since, the codec has seen its use grow on the back of the success of the WH-1000X-series headphones. However, Apple devices do not support the codec, opting to stick with SBC and AAC instead. If you have an iPhone, you’re not using LDAC.

Sony makes two major claims about LDAC. First, that its 990kbps top speed can maintain the maximum bit depth and frequency of 24-bit/96kHz Hi-Res audio files. Secondly, that the codec can transmit 16-bit/44.1kHz CD quality files completely untouched.

The company also makes smaller statements about LDAC’s lower bit rate settings, namely that its 330kbps setting “achieves the higher sound quality than conventional codecs, even in a bad connection environment.” All are claims that are worthy of some scrutiny beyond blind acceptance. Our testing found that:

  • LDAC, like all Bluetooth codecs, simply isn’t capable of passing Hi-Res content unaltered, and falls short of wired 24/96 equivalents—but it still does pretty well.
  • The 990 and 660kbps bit rates are roughly as good as CD quality, but quickly lose fidelity above 20kHz.
  • Smartphones rarely pick the 990kbps option when connecting to LDAC equipment.
  • For a highly stable connection, aptX and even SBC are better choices than LDAC 330kbps.

Frequency response up to 96kHz?

The first item we put to the test is LDAC’s frequency response. In Hi-Res mode, the codec should pass audio data up to 48kHz, and in CD mode should reach 20kHz untouched. If you want to configure these settings yourself, you can find them in the Developer Settings of your Android smartphone.

First the good news: The 990kbps setting works as advertised. The codec transmits audio right up to 47kHz before slowly rolling off, granting it Hi-Res status. The 660kbps mode rolls off incredibly steeply at 30kHz, making it an odd middle ground between CD and Hi-Res—but that’s more than enough for most people. Both codecs roll-off at 21.5kHz when in CD mode, which is pretty much bang on the money.

�� Лучший Bluetooth кодек без маркетинговой чуши! APTX, LDAC, AAC и SBC.

However, LDAC’s 330kbps setting falls short of CD quality regardless of which modes it’s in. With a very steep, high ripple filter occurring just before 18kHz. There’s isn’t much audible content above this frequency and most people’s ears can’t go any higher, but some concessions have clearly been made to make LDAC work at this low bit rate.

The two major takeaways so far: only LDAC 990kbps matches the frequency criteria for Hi-Res and LDAC 330kbps is worse than CD quality.

Sony’s claims that LDAC achieves better sound than conventional codecs is suspect based on this objective data point. When testing aptX and regular SBC we found that these codecs extend right the way up to 19kHz before beginning a smooth roll-off, reaching just.6dB at 20kHz.

The two major takeaways so far: only LDAC 990kbps matches the frequency criteria for Hi-Res and LDAC 330kbps is worse than CD quality in terms of the measured frequency spectrum.

Noise floor and distortion

Frequency response is just one part of the quality equation and technically anything around 20kHz is good enough to match human perception. Codecs also mess with noise floor and bit depth to save on bit rate, and compressing files too much can lead to distortions and objectionable artifacts. Needless to say, any Hi-Res claims won’t match up if LDAC takes shortcuts here.

When someone says “CD quality,” usually what they mean is that it meets certain thresholds of performance. For example, a CD contains 16 bits of data. This gives us a theoretical noise floor of.96dB, while adding something called “dithering” improves the noise floor to somewhere around.112dB in the audible spectrum. Hi-Res 24-bit offers far less noise, and.124dB is the practical limit for even the best recording devices. We’ve marked these limits on our graphs for clarity. If noise exceeds these limits, the codec technically cannot claim “CD-quality.”

First, let’s look at how the three LDAC quality options compare when tackling Hi-Res content.

For starters, 990kbps clearly does raise the noise floor compared with the full 24-bit Hi-Res.144dB target, but not linearly. The noise floor appears to go as low as.130dB below 500Hz before clocking in at around a very respectable.116dB right up until about 15kHz, making this better than what we might expect from even a dithered CD. We can also note that the noise floor increases at high frequencies above 15kHz, reaching highs of.98dB. Certainly not what you would see with wired Hi-Res playback, but this isn’t going to be an issue in the real world. Did you spot that the noise floor seems to fall again after the last spike? We’ll explore this a little more in a minute.

The 660kbps encoded signal is clearly noisier at low frequencies and the noise floor starts to increase a little sooner. The result hits about.110dB at 2kHz, rising to.102kHz above 5kHz and then scaling up to.74dB at around 15kHz. Again this is very decent for the most sensitive parts of human hearing (below 8kHz), but there’s a risk that higher frequency details may start to be masked by the noise. LDAC employs a similar noise floor scaling idea to aptX and regular SBC, but this isn’t really a true Hi-Res option.

The noise floor for LDAC’s 330kbps setting is substantially worse than CD quality and most other Bluetooth codecs. Data collected by Robert Triggs.

Unfortunately, LDAC’s 330kbps setting has noticeably worse quality. The noise floor increases substantially to a not-unreasonable.90dB at low frequencies, hitting.80dB between 1kHz and 5kHz.72dB around 10kHz. At 15kHz the result peaks at.35dB, which will definitely interfere with the high-frequency presentation. Regular Bluetooth SBC is nowhere near this bad, and this is by far the worst high-frequency performance I have seen from any Bluetooth codec.

Speaking of high-frequency content, let’s loop back to the point about noise floor. A second test throwing more high-frequency harmonics into the mix seems to stimulate LDAC into action above 20kHz. In other words, the codec appears to save on bandwidth by ignoring frequency bands that don’t contain any content, much like MP3 and AAC. It makes sense: why on Earth would you care about stuff that isn’t getting sent over anyway?

We see that the noise floor increases even further at higher frequencies. By 15kHz, the results are notably worse than CD quality, let alone Hi-Res. The graph above compares the result to the ESS SABRE 9218P DAC output from the LG V30 smartphone. Although the V30 suffers from some notable harmonic distortion, we can clearly see a constant noise floor that’s substantially quieter than Sony’s LDAC. Even at 990kbps, LDAC is a long way off matching the capabilities of 24-bit/96kHz wired equivalents.

For 660kbps, the results again appear very similar. The noise floor creeps up more much noticeably for high frequencies above 15kHz, and is certainly worse than CD quality here. With 300kbps there’s generally high noise overall, and again we can see the setting’s steep roll-off at 18kHz.

Hi-Res offers content above 20kHz, yet LDAC suffers from diminishing fidelity at these high frequencies. It’s much better as a CD quality codec—except for the 330kbps setting which is poor by all measured criteria.

Finally, here’s the performance when the codec is set into CD quality mode.

The story is much the same as with Hi-Res, but the noise floors for 990 and 660kbps are slightly worse here because of the limits of our 16-bit test files. Both 990 and 660kbps offer a noise floor of about.112dB (within a margin of error), right around what we’d expect for a properly-dithered CD track. There’s a slight uptick in noise 990kbps’ noise floor above 15kHz, but at.100dB it’s not an issue. Again the 660kbps shows a notable increase in the noise floor above 10kHz, starting at.85dB and reaching.65dB near cut-off.

660kbps LDAC is a close match to aptX HD. LDAC 660kbps comes out ahead at most frequencies tested, but the latter manages to keep its very high-frequency noise floor lower. 990kbps does the best overall, but high-frequency content up to 8kHz is unlikely to be perceptibly different at real-world listening volumes.

At CD quality, LDAC 990kbps and 660kbps are a touch better than aptX HD, yet both require even more bandwidth.

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When set to CD quality, 330kbps LDAC is much the same as before. The noise floor profile fits into the same margin of error, stuck in the region of.83dB for low frequencies.75dB in the mids, and as high as.33dB near the cut-off frequency. It performs worse than aptX and regular Bluetooth SBC at all frequencies, yet all use similar bandwidths.

LDAC is only as good as its connection strength

A quality Bluetooth codec is only as good as its connection strength. We’ve all experienced those irritating skips, and the risk of missed packages increases substantially as bandwidth requirements increase. Hence why Sony’s codec scales between 990 and 330kbps, to either prioritize quality or a stable connection. The important question is what can consumers actually experience in the real world.

Out of the box, LDAC defaults to its “Best Effort (Adaptive Bit Rate)” option, which will pick 330, 660, or 990kbps based on the strength of your connection. For starters, let’s test which mode a number of smartphones default to when connecting to our LDAC test gear at just an arm’s length away.

Out of the phones we tested, only the LG V30 defaulted to 990kbps. Other phones tend to start at the 600kbps option, lowering their quality if the connection worsens. The new Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL review units were stuck on 330kbps, so perhaps better support is coming in the future. The bottom line is: it’s quite unlikely that your phone will opt for 990kbps LDAC unless you manually force the settings via the developer options.

660kbps appears to be LDAC’s most common ‘Best Effort’ setting. Many phones have to manually force 990kbps.

This graph plots a rough guide to the seconds of audio dropped (or skipped) as the Bluetooth signal quality worsens. As a ballpark, a Received Signal Strength Indication ( RSSI) of higher than.60dBm guarantees real-time high bandwidth data transfer.70dBm requires a lower bandwidth, and a connection weaker than.80dBm isn’t enough for real-time data. These are reflected quite nicely in our results.

Most codecs (including SBC, AAC, and LDAC 330) only begin to drop packets at around.80dBm, meaning that some significant interference or distance is required before they drop out. LDAC’s 990 and 660kbps settings cut it very fine, requiring a very strong connection to avoid the occasional stutter. It’s no wonder why the 990kbps setting is rarely used, as there’s a chance of stuttering just below.60dBm, making a reliable connection difficult. Qualcomm’s aptX HD offers a little more headroom, but it’s still susceptible to interference.

The graph also plots the best, worst, and average RSSI for a selection of Bluetooth headphones, measured from the to ear. Unsurprisingly, our worst performers are true wireless earbuds that hit.63dB. Radio waves struggle to traverse across the body, so even putting your hand in your can reduce signal quality.

We also took a look at the Sony WH1000XM2 and WH1000XM3, both LDAC wireless Bluetooth headphones. The average connection strength is about.51 and.49dBm respectively, with lows ending up closer to.60dBm when arms and hands get in the way. In other words: Sony headphones sport connections fast enough for LDAC’s highest quality settings, but don’t offer a lot of headroom to guarantee a stutter-free experience in less-than-ideal environments. In those situations, the codec will always fall back to its 330kbps setting.

Sony’s LDAC is not really Hi-Res, but that’s okay

That’s a lot of data to take in, but the bottom line is that Sony’s LDAC technology doesn’t really provide true Hi-Res audio over Bluetooth. Technically, the 990kbps version of the codec reaches all the way to 48kHz (and is the only codec able to do so). However, its resolution and noise floor are nowhere near 24 bits, and are worse than 16 bits above 15kHz.

Compared to the capabilities of a wired connection, LDAC is certainly not Hi-Res. But whether you’ll hear the difference is another matter.

Actually using LDAC’s highest quality settings can be tough depending on your setup and listening environment. Most smartphones I tested default to 660kbps or lower in good conditions, but that’s not a guarantee. The only way for consumers to change this is to dive into Android’s developer settings, hidden away in the operating system’s menus. Furthermore, the codec pushes Bluetooth’s data speeds to such limits that reliable connections for “Hi-Res” are far from guaranteed. Even 660kbps will struggle in less than ideal environments.

Ultimately, LDAC users are likely to spend a fair bit of time listening to the 330kbps version. Unfortunately, the available resolution and 18kHz cut-off frequency are objectively inferior to CD quality, Qualcomm’s aptX, and SBC.

Frequently asked questions

if you stream CD FLAC/ALAC (16,44.1) over LDAC (16, 44.1, 990kbps) is that considered lossless, since the file is under 990kbps, (700-990Kbps)?

A CD (or equivalent FLAC / lossless file) is 2 channels of 16 bit samples at a sampling frequency of 44.1 kHz, producing a data rate of 2 x 16 x 44100= 1,411 kbps, which is is higher than LDAC’s highest data rate, which you correctly state is 990kbps.

Therefore some data (almost a third) must be thrown away, and LDAC cannot be considered lossless, although it is the closest you can currently get over over a Bluetooth connection.

No. The Apple iPhone does not support LDAC.

aptX: Everything you need to know about the wireless Bluetooth enhancement

Can the aptX codec help your Bluetooth headphones and speakers sound better? Maybe. Here’s how.

Geoffrey Morrison is a writer/photographer about tech and travel for CNET, The New York Times, and other web and print publications. He’s also the Editor-at-Large for The Wirecutter. He has written for SoundVision magazine, Home Theater magazine, and was the Editor-in-Chief of Home Entertainment magazine. He is NIST and ISF trained, and has a degree in Television/Radio from Ithaca College. His bestselling novel, Undersea, and its sequel, Undersea Atrophia, are available in paperback and digitally on Amazon. He spends most of the year as a digital nomad, living and working while traveling around the world. You can follow his travels at BaldNomad.com and on his YouTube channel.

If you’re the type of person who loves to scrutinize speaker and headphone feature lists, you’ve likely come across aptX hyped as an improvement in quality for the audio transmission between your source, like a phone or tablet, and your headphones or speakers. In the early days of Bluetooth, aptX got a lot of attention due to its potential for far higher quality compared to the stock Bluetooth transmission.

intel, wireless, bluetooth, aptx, need

Bluetooth technology has come a long way in the last decade or so.- it’s currently in its version 5 iteration.- and as such, aptX isn’t the panacea it once seemed. That doesn’t mean it’s not potentially useful, just that it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s much, if any, audible improvement. It can have other benefits, though, so it’s definitely worth learning about.

But before we can explain aptX, we need to talk about Bluetooth itself.

Bluetooth audio: A quick primer

Digital audio is a collection of samples of what a sound wave looks like at a specific moment in time. Instead of a steady wave of sound, it’s a series of snapshots.

intel, wireless, bluetooth, aptx, need

With enough of these snapshots, or samples, a playback device (an iPhone, say) can convert them back into a smooth sound wave. Take good old-fashioned CD. The audio on a CD has 44,100 samples every second, and each sample has a value of somewhere between 0 and 65,535 (also called 16-bit). So in other words, there are 44,100 snapshots per second, and each snapshot has one of 65,536 potential values.

That 16-bit/44kHz rate of CD equates to about 10 megabytes per minute for stereo, or over a megabit per second. While that isn’t a lot of data these days, it’s still a lot more than what’s easily transmittable between a portable device and Bluetooth headphones. It’d also chew through your mobile data if you were to stream it.

Hence the ubiquity of compressed audio, like AAC and MP3. These codecs, a portmanteau of compression/decompression, remove what you theoretically can’t hear using a method called psychoacoustic modeling. This lets them reduce the size of the audio files or streams significantly. MP3s, for instance, are often around 1MB per minute. That’s a 10x decrease, with a corresponding decrease in file size.

The trade-off for convenience is quality. These codecs are called lossy, as the sound removed is lost, and can’t be recovered. Compressed audio, in theory, sounds worse than the uncompressed version of the same song. This isn’t as noticeable now as it was in the early days of the format, thanks to better encoders, higher bit rates and more, but sometimes you can still tell the difference even on the cheapest headphones.

Which brings us back to Bluetooth. Bluetooth is a low-power wireless transmission designed to allow two devices to easily transfer data over short range. It’s shorter range, lower power and transfers less data than Wi-Fi. As the Bluetooth standard has advanced so has the size of its limited wireless pipe. Which is to say, far more data can be transmitted over Bluetooth than when it first came out.

In the early days of Bluetooth, audio had to be compressed significantly to work at all. This was done using a codec called SBC or low complexity subband codec. It wasn’t designed with perfect audio fidelity in mind. It was designed to use as little processing power as possible, given the lower power devices for which it was intended. It has gotten better over the years, and on most devices runs at a bit rate of up to 345 kilobits per second. For reference, if you pay for a Spotify Premium account. you can get up to 320 Kbps, but more on that in a moment. This isn’t to say that any two codecs at the same bit rate will sound the same, but it gives us something simple to compare.

There’s no guarantee SBC will run at 345 Kbps, however. It’s possible a device will use a lower bit rate, which means that’s the max you’ll get, regardless of the capabilities of what you pair it with. At its best, SBC isn’t radically different in audio quality to MP3 or AAC. It’s not necessarily always at its best, though.

It was into this lossy compression miasma that aptX was born.

Enter aptX

aptX is still compression; it’s just a different kind of compression. Where MP3 uses psychoacoustic modeling to take out data, aptX uses time domain ADPCM, which is a whole rabbit hole of fun research for any of the technically inclined readers out there. The oversimplified version is that ADPCM uses fewer bits per sample, so the files are smaller.

Qualcomm, the company that currently owns the aptX patents, makes big claims about its technology. aptX audio is a bit rate efficient technology that ensures you receive high quality audio from your Bluetooth device, so you have a better listening experience.

The trick is, both products.- the phone and the headphones, for example.- must have aptX to get any benefit. If only one has it, you don’t get aptX.

The initial version of aptX is still around, and fairly common. The biggest improvement over SBC is that it requires a bit rate of 384 Kbps. There won’t be much, if any, audible difference between aptX at 384 and SBC at 345. If one or more of your devices doesn’t run SBC at its best bit rate, but does offer aptX, then you might hear an improvement.

aptX HD goes a step further, offering 24-bit audio at a bit rate of up to 576 kbps, while the new aptX Adaptive theoretically offers the sound quality of aptX HD at a lower bit rate and has the option of a 96kHz sampling rate.

Here’s a list of products that have aptX. Of note, there are no Apple products on the list. But plenty of Samsung, LG, Google and other phones have it, as well as numerous speakers and headphones. The list doesn’t seem to be updated regularly, so if you don’t see your current device or one you’re considering, it’s worth checking the specs page of the respective manufacturer.

Is aptX worth it now?

In a word: maybe. SBC isn’t the quality-smashing issue it was in the early days of Bluetooth. Done correctly, it’s on par with other lossy codecs. aptX will, potentially, give you a better guarantee that the transmission isn’t the weakest link in your audio chain, but there’s a lot more to it than finding the aptX logo and assuming the device will give you great sound. Some devices, for instance, will play the codec from the source directly. So if you’ve got AAC files on your phone, and your headphones support it.- and yes, most Apple hardware does.- you’ll listen to that without a conversion to SBC, so aptX isn’t necessary.

Also, and perhaps more importantly, consider what you’re listening to. On paper, aptX HD seems great, with a high sample and bit rate. Unless you have a high-quality source, however, this additional capability isn’t important. A better transmission won’t make your audio sound better unless it had been constricted by a lesser transmission type. To put it another way, if you’re listening to a low-quality audio stream, on inexpensive headphones, changing to aptX HD isn’t going to magically give you better sound. As mentioned above, even SBC can have a higher bit rate than Spotify Premium, most other music streaming services or most commercially available MP3s. The free version of Spotify is half that bit rate, and on mobile it’s even less. So there’s no point in aptX HD if your content isn’t going to take advantage of it. The stock SBC that comes with all Bluetooth devices might be fine. Again, comparing bit rates isn’t the whole story, but the difference isn’t likely to be dramatic.

Now, if you’re downloading high-resolution, uncompressed audio, the story is a bit different. This isn’t something most people do, however, and can only be done on specialized services and sites. The step-up HiFi option on Tidal. for instance, offers lossless, CD and Master Quality Authenticated quality (1,411 kbps versus 320 kbps for standard streaming). There’s also the step-up, additional-cost Amazon Music HD and others. Unless you’ve knowingly sought out high-res audio, it’s highly unlikely your music is high-res enough to require anything other than a standard Bluetooth connection.

There are also other players in the game. Sony, for instance, has its own take on high-quality Bluetooth audio, called LDAC. It’s not available in as many devices, though.

It’s important to keep in mind that the transmission codec is only one part of how the music sounds, and honestly, not a big part. The quality of the speakers and where they are in your room, the quality of the headphones and how well they fit, the quality of the source material.- they all have a much bigger effect on the overall sound quality than how it’s transmitted from your phone to your speakers or headphones. That can be a weak link, but it is just a link.

That is perhaps a controversial statement, since aptX is discussed and praised extensively in audiophile circles. So instead of taking my word for it, test it for yourself. Long-time audio reviewer Brent Butterworth created a Bluetooth Blind Test so you can download files with different codecs to find out if you can hear a difference. Make sure you use wired speakers or headphones; don’t add an additional level of Bluetooth to the test.

The future of aptX and Bluetooth

There are some new versions of aptX starting to show up in products that have the potential to be far more interesting. I discussed Adaptive above, which expands in the audio quality direction. What I’m interested in is aptX Low Latency.

You may have noticed when using Bluetooth headphones a lip-sync error. where the voices don’t match up with mouth movement. This is caused by the additional processing required to get the audio to your ears via Bluetooth. Low Latency reduces the time from SBC’s 200-300 milliseconds to around 40 ms. This should effectively eliminate lip-sync issues. The aptX Adaptive codec will have a similarly low latency as well, of around 80 ms.

What’s also on the horizon is an update to Bluetooth’s audio, in the form of the Low Complexity Communication Codec, or LC3. This codec should, in theory, allow for lower bit rates that maintain audio quality. It was announced at CES 2020, so don’t expect it in products just yet.

The final word (for now)

Can aptX offer better sound quality? Yes, better compression is usually a good thing.- but it’s not a guarantee of good sound quality. It’s one link in a chain, and on most devices, the current link (SBC) works perfectly well. If you listen to all your music on YouTube and you’re happy with your free Spotify account, the higher quality potential with aptX isn’t likely to be audible. If you’re trying to eke out the most performance possible on some high-end gear you already own, and you seek out new audiophile tracks and new download solutions, aptX and especially aptX HD and Adaptive might give you a slight bump over SBC. But if you’re that much of a stickler for audio quality, I’m guessing that you’re listening to everything wired anyway.

For the most part, though, it’s far more important to just get good sounding gear.

You can follow his exploits on Instagram and. and on his travel blog, BaldNomad. He also wrote a bestselling sci-fi novel about city-sized submarines, along with a sequel.

How to Enable Bluetooth aptX on a Dell Windows 10 System

The trend of Bluetooth devices is only growing with time. Bluetooth speakers and Bluetooth headphones are some of the most useful inventions of modern technology characterized by easy access and hands-free use.

However, there are some complications with Bluetooth devices. They require special audio codecs that support the Bluetooth format. The default audio codecs simply aren’t built for it, so you need to install additional software.

On Dell systems, you need a codec for Bluetooth aptX support. This article will guide you through the process of downloading, installing, and making the codec work.

When Will You Need Bluetooth aptX on Dell Computers?

You are about to learn how to install the right codec for enabling Bluetooth aptX support. In case you don’t use Bluetooth headphones or speakers, you don’t have any need for this codec. This codec will only help out with the Bluetooth support and nothing else.

There will be no difference in audio quality or anything similar after you install this codec on your Dell computer. Wired audio devices like speakers and headphones do not benefit from this codec.

How to Enable Bluetooth aptX Support on Dell Windows 10 System

While on this site, you need to scroll down and click on Download File. That will download the EXE file. Click on it and the installation window will appear. Click on Yes to allow this app to make changes to your device.

Next, click on Install. Follow the installation with Next, then accept the terms in License Agreement, specify the installation folder, and click on Install. Click on Finish when complete. After that, it would be Smart to restart your computer just in case.

Then, disconnect your Bluetooth and turn it on again. Now connect your Bluetooth device (headphones or speaker). There should be a window to notify you that you’re using aptX. You can easily disable this codec using the Bluetooth Device properties in the Custom tab.

Does This Work on Other Laptops with Windows 10?

The support for aptX is available for all Windows 10 system, but Intel is the one which needs to release the drivers. Neither HP nor Intel has such a driver at the time.

You can try the Dell version on other laptops like this if Bluetooth is already set up on your laptop. You just need the driver, which was previously downloaded. Click on the EXE file and instead of clicking install, select the Extract option.

Doing so will get the Intel Bluetooth Audio.MSI file extracted. Click on that file and use the same installation instructions mentioned above. There is no guarantee that this will work for other laptop brands, but you can test it.

Some people confirm that the codec is working on their Windows 10 laptops from other manufacturers, but these are unofficial results.

What Do You Get?

If you followed the installation tutorial carefully and did all the steps right, Bluetooth aptX support on your Dell Windows 10 system should start working. The difference will be clearly visible. Try using any music or video player and see for yourself.

For example, play your favorite song on YouTube and see what happens. You should get much clearer sound on your Bluetooth device, depending on the source quality. The opinions about audio quality of different codecs are very mixed.

Either way, aptX is a little better than SBC at the maximum bitrate. The sound latency is also minimal.

Audio on the Go

and more people are opting for Bluetooth speakers and headphones and they are not wrong. Bluetooth devices offer convenience and have a solid edge over wired ones. When you are going somewhere, you don’t want the wires getting in your way.

Is this audio codec working on your Dell Windows 10 system? Have you tried installing it on a laptop from other manufacturer? Was the installation successful? Let us know in the Комментарии и мнения владельцев below.

How to Install and Fix Bluetooth Drivers in Windows 10

This article is about how to install Bluetooth drivers in Windows 10 and how to fix Bluetooth errors if they occur in Windows 10.

  • Why Bluetooth drivers are important
  • Methods to fix Bluetooth drivers errors
  • Fix Bluetooth not working
  • Fix Bluetooth not detecting devices on Windows 10

You can Jump To:

  • Why is Windows 10 Bluetooth driver missing
  • How To Download and Install Bluetooth Drivers in Windows 10
  • Step 1. Check Your System Information
  • Step 2. Download the Bluetooth Driver That Matches Your System
  • Step 3. Install the Bluetooth Driver
  • How To Check Bluetooth Version on Windows 10
  • How To Fix Bluetooth Driver in Windows 10
  • Method 1. Enable or Restart Bluetooth on Your Computer
  • Method 2. Run the System File Checker (SFC Scan) to repair system files
  • Method 3. Update Your Bluetooth Drivers to the Latest Version
  • Method 4. Run the Windows 10 Bluetooth Troubleshooter
  • Method 5. Make Sure You Have the Latest Windows 10 Installed
  • How to Connect Bluetooth Speaker to PC

Drivers in Windows 10

Drivers are important parts of your system. They establish a connection between your system and a device and make functionality possible. Naturally, Microsoft can’t include native support for every type of existing hardware. often than not, you need to acquire and install drivers yourself to provide functionality for a device.

Wireless technology is becoming more and more popular with each passing day. Many Windows 10 users are looking to ditch wires, and switch to more convenient wireless peripherals. As Bluetooth devices are selling out faster than ever, take the Airpods Pro, for example, more and more people are struggling to turn on Bluetooth and use it on Windows 10.

In this guide, you can find out how to download and install Bluetooth driver Windows 10. and fix common issues with them such as Bluetooth not working, or Bluetooth not detecting devices on Windows 10.

Why is Windows 10 Bluetooth driver missing

You may want to use Bluetooth headphones or a microphone on your Windows 10, or you may want to transfer the files on your mobile phone to Windows 10 via Bluetooth then you find Windows 10 Bluetooth driver missing. But the problem is now you can’t find the Bluetooth anymore in the Settings window.

There are many reasons to this:

  • Corrupted driver
  • Malware
  • Outdated Windows system
  • Missing system files

These steps to fix these problems are discussed in the methods below!

How do I fix Windows 10 Bluetooth missing?

Here we list the solutions for you to try to fix the Bluetooth driver missing. Work your way down the list until your problem is solved.

Solution 1: Check the status of the Bluetooth driver for Windows 10Solution 2: Re-enable your Bluetooth driver software in Device ManagerSolution 3: Reinstall your Bluetooth driver. reinstall bluetooth driver Windows 10

Before you start to Fix Windows 10 Bluetooth Drivers

Make sure Bluetooth is turned on, and airplane mode is turned off. If you’re using a laptop with a physical Bluetooth switch on the body, make sure it’s switched on. In Windows 10, there are two ways to check if Bluetooth is turned on. Here’s how:

  • Check in the taskbar. Select action center. If you don’t see Bluetooth, select Expand to reveal Bluetooth, then select Bluetooth to turn it on. You’ll see “Not connected” if your Windows 10 device isn’t paired to any Bluetooth accessories.
  • Check in Settings. Select Select the Start button, then select Settings Devices Bluetooth other devices. Make sure Bluetooth is turned on.
  • Make sure airplane mode is off: Select Start. then select Settings Network Internet Airplane mode. Make sure Airplane mode is turned off.
  • Turn Bluetooth on and off: Select Start. then select Settings Devices Bluetooth other devices. Turn off Bluetooth, wait a few seconds, then turn it back on.
  • Remove the Bluetooth device, then add it again: Select Start. then select Settings Devices Bluetooth other devices. In Bluetooth, select the device you’re having problems connecting to, and then select Remove device Yes. To learn more about pairing your Bluetooth device again, see Connect a Bluetooth device.

How To Download and Install Bluetooth Drivers in Windows 10

If you don’t have your Bluetooth drivers yet, you first need to acquire them and properly install them onto your computer. This can be done quite easily, and our guide is here to make sure you take the quickest route to use Bluetooth technology.

Install Bluetooth driver manually summary

  • Open Settings.
  • Click on Update Security.
  • Click on Windows Update.
  • Click the Check for updates button (if applicable).
  • Click the View optional updates option.
  • Click the Driver updates tab.
  • Select the driver you want to update.
  • Click the Download and install button

Let’s discuss these in the methods below!

If you have a Bluetooth laptop, you most likely already have drivers pre-installed by the device manufacturer. In this case, you might want to check Bluetooth driver updates instead of completely reinstalling them.

Step 1. Check Your System Information

Before downloading a Bluetooth driver, you need to get information about your system and note important details. This will ensure that you download the correct Bluetooth drivers compatible with your setup and Bluetooth devices. You may run into wireless connection issues if you download the incorrect drivers.

  • Press the Windows R keys on your keyboard to bring up a utility called Run.
  • Here, simply type in “ control ” and click on the OK button.
  • This will open up the classic Control Panel application.
  • Make sure that your view mode is set to Category. and then click on the System and Security heading.
  • Next, click on the System link. This is where you can view general information about your device.
  • Check and note the brand of your processor in the System section. The most common brands are Intel and AMD. Make sure to also note down your System type. which is either 64-bit or 32-bit.
  • After checking your system information, you can accurately determine what kind of Bluetooth driver is required for your device. Proceed to the next step.

Step 2. Download the Bluetooth Driver That Matches Your System

Knowing your system details, you can proceed to finding and downloading the appropriate Bluetooth driver software that matches your device. Bluetooth download can be confusing if you haven’t done it before, so follow the steps below to get a detailed walkthrough.

  • Open a web browser. Microsoft Edge comes pre-installed on every Windows 10 device, allowing you to browse the internet immediately.
  • Navigate to a search engine and type in your processor type, and then add “ Bluetooth driver download ” next to it, then hit search.
  • Locate the website that takes you to the official download links. Make sure to only download files from the official source to avoid viruses and malware infection.
  • Download the latest version of the appropriate Bluetooth driver for your system. Pay attention to the architecture version, and download the driver that matches your system.
  • Now that you have the correct device drivers, the last step is installing them.

Step 3. Install the Bluetooth Driver

To install the Bluetooth driver, simply open the file you downloaded in the previous step and follow any on-screen instructions. This process is different for each manufacturer, which means we can’t provide an accurate step-by-step guide.

Note that you might require access to a local administrator account to be able to install the driver on your device. This is a security measure in Windows 10 to ensure no incorrect or infected drivers are installed on the computer.

After the installation is complete, you may need to restart your device then check if you can connect and use Bluetooth wireless devices on your Windows 10 computer.

How To Check Bluetooth Version on Windows 10

Your Bluetooth version may be important to determine whether or not your drivers are outdated or a version with known bugs, lacking features, or frequent error messages. To check what version of Bluetooth is currently installed on your device, follow the instructions below.

  • Press the Windows X keys on your keyboard.
  • Form the context menu, click on the Device Manager option.
  • Expand the Bluetooth menu by clicking on the arrow next to it.
  • Right-click on the Bluetooth radio listing (yours might be listed as a wireless device) and choose Properties.
  • Switch to the Advanced tab, then look for the LMP (Link Manager Protocol) listing in the Firmware area.
  • That number tells you what version you currently have on your device.
  • How To Fix Bluetooth Driver in Windows 10

    Are you currently dealing with a Bluetooth driver issue? We’re here to help you resolve it.

    The most common issues with wireless connections include problems such as Bluetooth not working at all, inability to connect Bluetooth headphones to PC, or Bluetooth not detecting devices on Windows 10. We understand that these issues are frustrating, and we’re here to help you resolve them in a timely manner.

    Below are several methods to help you troubleshoot problems related to your Bluetooth drivers. These methods are safe to perform and easy to follow, so let’s get right into it.

    Method 1. Enable or Restart Bluetooth on Your Computer

    You may not realize that after installing the correct drivers, Bluetooth itself may still be disabled on your computer. If Bluetooth is already enabled on your device, follow the same steps to restart it in order to get it to work properly.

    • Click on the Windows icon in the bottom left of your screen to bring up the Start menu.
    • Choose Settings. or alternatively use the Windows I shortcut.
    • Click on the Devices tile.
    • Switch to the Bluetooth other devices tab using the left side panel of the Settings window. Make sure that the Bluetooth toggle is set to On. If it isn’t, click on it once to enable it.

    Method 2. Run the System File Checker (SFC Scan) to repair system files

    The System File Checker (SFC) is a troubleshooting tool available in Windows 10 by default. It’s able to automatically detect corrupted system files, and repair them to working order. You can use the SFC scan to potentially fix any problems with your Bluetooth driver software.

    • Open the search bar in your taskbar by clicking on the magnifying glass icon. You can also bring it up with the Windows S keyboard shortcut.
    • Type Command Prompt in the search box. When you see it in the results, right-click on it and choose Run as Administrator.If you need help, check out our How to make a local user an administrator in Windows 10 guide.
  • When prompted by the User Account Control (UAC), click Yes to allow the app to launch with administrative permissions.
  • Once the Command Prompt window is open, type in the following command and press Enter to execute it: sfc /scannow
  • Wait for the System File Checker to finish scanning your computer. If it finds any errors, you’ll be able to fix them automatically through the SFC command itself, which may also fix related errors.
  • Method 3. Update Your Bluetooth Drivers to the Latest Version

    You may need to update bluetooth driver Windows 10.

    Just like your system itself, your drivers can become outdated as well. You might have installed Bluetooth drivers in the past and forgot to update them, or your computer came with built-in drivers when you first got it. Here’s what you need to do to update your Bluetooth drivers quickly and efficiently.

    • Press the Windows X keys on your keyboard.
    • From the context menu, click on the Device Manager option.
    • Expand the Bluetooth menu by clicking on the arrow next to it.
  • Right-click on your Bluetooth adapter listed in the menu, and then choose Update Driver.
  • Select the method of updating your driver. You can either let Windows 10 search for a driver automatically or manually locate a new driver file already on your computer.
  • Wait for the driver installation to complete. Repeat this for any other Bluetooth adapter drivers you use, and see if the issue has been fixed.
  • Method 4. Run the Windows 10 Bluetooth Troubleshooter

    Windows 10 comes with a variety of troubleshooters that aim to automatically solve issues on your computer. This makes solutions more accessible to users. Users have found that the Bluetooth troubleshooter is able to address and fix issues related to wireless issues.

    The next steps describe how you can reach and run this troubleshooter to fix a potential Bluetooth driver issue.

      Click on the Windows icon in the bottom left of your screen to bring up the Start menu.

  • Choose Settings.
  • Click on the Update Security tile. This is where you can find most of your built-in troubleshooters.
  • Switch to the Troubleshoot tab using the left-side pane. Here, you should be able to see a troubleshooter titled Bluetooth.
  • If you don’t share full diagnostic data to Microsoft, click on the Additional troubleshooters link and locate the Bluetooth troubleshooter there.
  • Click on the Run the troubleshooter button. Wait for the troubleshooter to scan your device and identify any issues.
  • Bear in mind that this troubleshooter is not perfect, which is why we suggest trying it last. It might not detect any issues, but that doesn’t mean our other methods can’t fix your Bluetooth driver.

    Method 5. Make Sure You Have the Latest Windows 10 Installed

    Some users report that simply updating to the newest version release of Windows 10 made any present Bluetooth errors go away. As a bonus, you might even get access to new and exciting features, improved security, and better optimization.

      Click on the Windows icon in the bottom left of your screen to bring up the Start menu.

  • Choose Settings.
  • Click on the Update Security tile.
  • This is where you can find most of your Windows Update settings and choose when to receive updates.
  • Make sure to stay on the default Windows Update tab. Click on the Check for updates option and wait for Windows 10 to find available updates. If you see any updates already displayed, click on the View all optional updates link to see and install them.
  • If an update is found, click on the Install option and wait for Windows 10 to download and apply the necessary updates.
  • Your Bluetooth should be working fine now.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Here are some FAQ that can help you understand this article better

    Q: How to turn on Bluetooth? How do I connect Bluetooth devices to Windows 10?

    First, you need to turn on Bluetooth on your computer and then pair your wireless device. Desktop PCs may require a Bluetooth adapter in order to support this functionality.

    Q: How can I connect Bluetooth headphones and other audio devices to a PC?

    Wireless headphones usually need to be paired and connected to your PC. After turning Bluetooth on, navigate to Settings → Devices → Bluetooth other devices. and then select your wireless headphones. Click Pair. and then Connect. Q: How to determine Bluetooth devices’ battery level on Windows 10?

    Navigate to Settings → Devices → Bluetooth other devices. and then select your Bluetooth device. You should see a battery percentage indicator beside your device.

    Q: What are the alternatives if my PC doesn’t have a Bluetooth adapter?

    In order to connect wireless audio devices to your PC, you require a Bluetooth adapter or an AUX cord if you’re using speakers.

    Final Thoughts

    Bluetooth is a powerful tool, and you can take full advantage of it now. We hope this piece answered all your questions about installing and fixing your Bluetooth drivers. If you ever suspect that a device isn’t working because of your drivers, return here to solve the issue again.

    What Are Bluetooth Codecs? A Guide to Everything From AAC to SBC

    I’ve been a contributing editor for PCMag since 2011. Before that, I was PCMag’s lead audio analyst from 2006 to 2011. Even though I’m a freelancer now, PCMag has been my home for well over a decade, and audio gear reviews are still my primary FOCUS. Prior to my career in reviewing tech, I worked as an audio engineer—my love of recording audio eventually led me to writing about audio gear.

    (Illustration: Rene Ramos, Photoongraphy/Shutterstock)

    In the beginning, Bluetooth audio was lousy—the connection standard simply wasn’t capable of accurately transmitting sound the way a pair of wired headphones could via a 3.5mm connection. But the situation has improved dramatically since those days, likely accelerated in part when Apple (and subsequently most Android phone manufacturers) removed the headphone jack from its phones several years ago. Wireless earphones and headphones are now the norm, and we hardly ever even review wired models any longer.

    Audio quality improvements over Bluetooth are mostly because of the development of far superior codecs that enable near-lossless streaming. Before we run through the basics of each of these codecs below, the main thing to understand is that they largely determine the quality of your streaming audio. Also keep in mind that in order to use a codec, both your source device (phone, PC, or tablet) and headphones must support the same one.

    Understanding Bluetooth Technology: It’s Like Delivering a Package

    Understanding codecs first requires understanding how Bluetooth technology works.

    Bluetooth 5.2 is the current standard for the wireless technology, and defines how devices like phones and headphones connect to each other. Each new version adds capabilities or features, with more recent Bluetooth iterations enabling faster connections, better performance over longer ranges, and more. Older devices might have previous Bluetooth versions like 5.1 or 4.2, and since these versions are backward compatible, you’re able to connect your Bluetooth 4.2-equipped iPhone 6 to your shiny new 5.1-equipped Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones (though performance and sound quality might not be as good as with a new phone). Think of the Bluetooth version as the road a delivery truck is driving down, and the higher the number means the road is smoother and wider, with a higher speed limit.

    While the Bluetooth version determines how devices connect to each other, it doesn’t define the type of data that is sent between them—that’s what profiles are for. Bluetooth profiles are the standards and protocols for transmitting stereo audio, phone calls, photos, printer jobs, and even faxes over Bluetooth. A2DP, the Advanced Audio Distribution Profile, is the specification for sending high-quality sound over Bluetooth. Think of the Bluetooth profile as the truck itself, which is driving down the road of the Bluetooth connection.

    The Most Common Bluetooth Codecs

    Codecs encode and decode audio using different types of file compression to send as much information as possible using the available speed and bandwidth. Much of what distinguishes a codec comes down to bit depth (bits), bitrate (Kbps), and sampling rate (kHz), with higher numbers indicating higher quality in nearly all scenarios.

    Even if you store the highest-quality files on your device, how they sound through your Bluetooth headphones depends in part on the transmission codec. In most, cases, the bitrate is what holds back even the high-end codecs from reaching CD quality (16-bit; 44.1kHz; 1,411Kbps) or better. Higher-end audio codecs like LDAC can support up to 32-bit and 96kHz sound, but even they can only hit about two-thirds the bitrate at best (LDAC is 990Kbps), which means that less data is coming through.

    In brief, SBC is the most basic codec with the lowest bitrate and, therefore, the lowest sound quality. AAC and AptX are both steps up from SBC and are generally mainstream, though different devices might support either or both (AAC is most common on Apple phones and tablets, while AptX is the preferred standard for Android).

    LDAC and LHDC enable even higher quality sound than those codecs, and are currently the only ones to which the Japan Audio Society extends its Hi-Res Audio Wireless certification (that’s the gold and black Hi-Fi logo you see on high-end audio products).

    Below are all the codecs you may encounter (in order of prevalence) when streaming audio over Bluetooth. We mention a couple of emerging codecs in this article, but you likely don’t need to worry too much about them unless you seek out devices and headphones that specifically support them.

    Note that the specs we list are those that apply to mainline applications; variations of each codec may be capable of different specs, but the implementation ultimately depends on the manufacturer.

    SBC

    SBC doesn’t stand for Sorta Basic Codec, but maybe it should. SBC, or subband codec, is the default (and only) codec most lower-cost audio gear supports, and what devices often fall back on when higher-quality codecs aren’t available. SBC isn;t terrible—it’s capable of better-than-CD quality audio in terms of bit depth and sampling rate (16-bit and 48kHz, respectively), but that’s only under the most ideal circumstances. Latency with SBC is also high, which means the codec isn’t very suitable for gaming. All Bluetooth devices must at least support SBC.

    On good headphones and with good source material, you can likely easily hear the difference between playing audio over SBC and a higher-end codec, so we recommend that you use SBC only when you have no other choice.

    intel, wireless, bluetooth, aptx, need

    The codec itself isn’t necessarily the limitation here, but rather how it’s usually implemented. A deep dive from the Lineage OS Project (Opens in a new window) details how the combination of SBC’s Dual Channel mode and eXtreme quality profile (SBC XQ) can produce results that rival AptX HD. A successor to SBC, LC3 (Opens in a new window) (Low Complexity Communication Codec), is also in development, and promises to be more efficient, support more bit depths (up to 32-bit), and work at a broader range of bitrates.

    AAC

    AAC (Advanced Audio Codec) is a Bluetooth codec Apple uses, but confusingly, it’s also the name of the file compression scheme Apple uses for transmitting audio between its products and for storing music files as an alternative to MP3s.

    SBC offers a (slightly) better sampling rate and maximum bitrate than AAC, though it performs worse, especially on Apple devices. This is because AAC uses a superior compression algorithm, and Apple’s phones, tablets, and headphones can run this potentially battery-guzzling codec so efficiently. As a result, AAC sounds less lossy than SBC. It isn’t particularly low-latency, though, so like SBC it’s not ideal for gaming.

    You can use AAC on Android phones, but that OS doesn’t process it as effectively, which leads to a loss in audio quality.

    AptX

    Qualcomm’s AptX codec is actually a number of codecs with different purposes. There’s standard AptX, AptX LL (low latency) for gaming, AptX HD for high-quality audio, and AptX Adaptive, which uses adaptive bitrate to offer a combination of lower latency and higher quality. AptX HD is the best option for audiophiles out of the bunch, because its bitrate locks in at a high level.

    Another AptX variant to keep an eye on is AptX Lossless, because it combines some of the best qualities of AptX Adaptive and AptX HD. It uses an adaptive bitrate that scales from 140Kbps up to 1Mbps, which is even higher than LDAC. We don’t know when headphones that support that technology will hit the market, however.

    Qualcomm has a helpful resource (Opens in a new window) for finding various products that support each of these standards, though AptX Lossless is not currently an option in the drop-down menu.

    LDAC

    If you want to max out specs while streaming over Bluetooth, Sony’s LDAC codec offers gaudy capabilities. It streams at up to 990Kbps, with a sampling rate of up to 96kHz. It enables some of the highest-quality audio when it’s at its best, but its fallback modes are pretty much in line with the other codecs, as low as 16-bit and 330Kbps. You can force LDAC to always play at the highest bitrate (we explain how in a later section), but doing so can affect playback if streaming conditions aren’t ideal. In contrast, AptX HD stays at a constant bitrate, so it might provide more consistency to your listening experience.

    Apple’s iOS devices don’t support LDAC, but because it’s part of the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), the vast majority of Android devices should. And, like most other codecs on this list, latency is also an issue on LDAC, so once again it’s not suitable for gaming.

    LHDC

    LHDC (Opens in a new window) is a relatively new codec from Savitech and supported by Huawei, and primarily competes with LDAC. The codec appears to, like LDAC, scale dynamically between bitrates, but the maximum rate is just a bit lower than LDAC at its best. An additional variant called LLAC offers better latency, but limits audio quality to 24-bit, 48kHz, and 600Kbps. Details about LHDC and LLAC are scarce and not easy to confirm, so these specs may not be exact.

    The codec benefits from Huawei’s adoption, and you can search for devices (Opens in a new window) and headphones (Opens in a new window) that support it on the codec’s website. LHDC is a part of the AOSP, too.

    Matching Phones, Tablets, and Computers With Codec Support

    AAC is the highest-quality codec that Apple products support, but they default to transmitting over SBC when paired headphones don’t support that codec. So if you use an iPhone (or just about any Bluetooth-capable Apple product), you should make sure your headphones support AAC. You can often (but not always) find this information on the product’s specs page or on the box itself, and we strive to provide this information in our reviews. For reference, AAC also seems to be the most common codec that headphones support apart from SBC based on those we have reviewed.

    Android users need to pay even closer attention to codec support on headphones; if they only have AAC and SBC, they won’t provide the best audio quality possible, but that’s just the start. Look for at least aptX, but you should also consider whether your headphones use aptX HD, LDAC, and LHDC as well, depending on what your phone supports.

    While Android phones aren’t usually capable of efficient AAC playback, they can work with different combinations of SBC, AptX (in various forms), LDAC, and LHDC, depending on both the processor in the device and whims of the manufacturer. For example, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 (Opens in a new window) chip is one of the few so far that supports the AptX Lossless codec, and should enable all other AptX formats, though the Samsung Galaxy S22 has that chip and only supports AptX, not even AptX HD

    Meanwhile, while LDAC and LHDC are technically part of AOSP, individual manufacturers can still choose whether to enable them on their devices, and LDAC seems to be supported more broadly than LHDC.

    Recommended by Our Editors

    You can change the Bluetooth codec in the Settings menu of your Android phone (tap System Developer Options Bluetooth Audio Codec). With the LDAC codec specifically, you can specify a streaming preference: Optimized for Audio Quality; Balanced Audio and Connection Quality; or Optimized for Connection Quality. That first option gets you to the highest 990Kbps bitrate. You can further control the codec, and prevent your choice from resetting to the default Best Effort setting, by downloading the Sony Music Center app. In the app, open the three-dot menu and tap Music Center Settings Bluetooth Output Settings LDAC Playback Quality, and select the Priority on Sound Quality option.

    Some manufacturers helpfully equip headphones and speakers with both AAC and AptX or LDAC, which saves you from having to think about sticking with a single platform for listening to music. But you still may need to manually switch between the two codecs in an app, your phone’s settings menu, or on your computer depending on your sound source.

    Even if your device doesn’t support a specific codec, some software or hardware workaround likely exists. For example, it’s possible with some Macs to stream via AptX instead of AAC, but you have to manually set this up and the process is more involved than we have room to describe here. Similarly, you can buy external gear that you can use with iPhones and iPads to force support for other codecs, but again, this isn’t an ideal (or Apple-approved) solution. Windows 11 devices support AAC, but you must turn to alternative methods to use any of the other high-end codecs.

    What About Apple Lossless and Other High-Res Streaming Audio?

    Apple and other streaming services have joined Tidal to offer lossless streaming, but if you’re listening via Bluetooth, you’re not hearing it. Virtually all Bluetooth codecs are lossy, which means some data is lost in the compression and decompression process that lets the audio be transmitted wirelessly. In fact, the only lossless Bluetooth codec, aptX lossless, is less than a year old and hasn’t actually been implemented in anything yet. That means the sound you get through your Bluetooth headphones won’t technically have as much detail as if you used a wired pair of headphones or a different wireless connection that’s fast and wide enough to send all of that data without encoding.

    Apple Music uses the company’s own lossless audio compression technology, called Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC). So what happens when you listen to ALAC over Bluetooth headphones that only support AAC or SBC? The short answer is that you eliminate the lossless quality—the source device encodes the ALAC files to the AAC codec before transmission. Even on Airpods.

    This isn’t really Apple’s fault, and is more a result of the current limitations of Bluetooth. For instance, the most popular non-Apple lossless compression codec, Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC), still loses some data when sent over Bluetooth, at least until aptX Lossless becomes readily available. Apple Lossless being unavailable (at its highest fidelity, at least) on Airpods is somewhat ironic, but until Bluetooth upgrades to truly hi-res specs, no Bluetooth headphones or speakers can output ALAC or FLAC at its best.

    This goes for every music streaming service out there, Apple or otherwise—no matter how lossless the stream may be, it becomes lossy once the source encodes the stream for Bluetooth transmission. Exactly how lossy depends on the codec.

    When Codecs Don’t Matter (as Much)

    Let’s be reasonable: The goal of a budget-friendly pair of headphones isn’t to produce superb audio. Most of these models stick with the SBC codec, and that’s fine because most of the drivers in these models are unable to produce crystal-clear, audiophile-grade audio anyway. This holds true for most headphones and speakers under about 100. Manufacturers also have to pay to license AAC or AptX support on their devices, which likely contributes to the decision to omit the codecs.

    Bluetooth speakers are even less generous with high-end codec support—plenty of portable models that cost over 200 (and that we recommend enthusiastically) support only SBC. The reality is that pristine audio quality often takes a backseat to a list of other features in this category, like booming bass or a waterproof design. That doesn’t mean you can’t find quality codec support in Bluetooth speakers, but SBC-only portable speakers are the most common.

    How to Install aptX Bluetooth codec on Windows 10 with Download links

    There’s Still a Long Way to Go to Lossless

    When televisions made the leap from CRT to flat-panel, letterbox-shaped screens, it was pure magic. But if you were to go back and watch a Blu-ray on an early LCD TV, you might find the resolution lacking and the color-banding problematic. Once you get used to something good (4K resolution, for example), it’s easier to see the flaws in older gear.

    Bluetooth codecs are like that—they enable far better sound than early Bluetooth technologies, but there is still room for improvement. Latency remains an issue with most codecs, some of the better ones aren’t very energy efficient, and frequency response can vary greatly. And, of course, all are lossy to a degree.

    Even if you load your phone with lossless uncompressed WAV files, no Bluetooth codec can currently transmit them without some level of compression. Until truly lossless codecs become the norm, you need to pay close attention to which ones your source device and headphones support—it’s a matter of ensuring that you get the least compressed audio quality possible.

    Of couse, you can also consider using one of our favorite pairs of audiophile headphones with a DAC/AMP combo, and bypass the whole issue of not having a headphone jack.

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