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New Bluetooth Standard Unveiled at CES 2020 Promises a World of Improvement

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2020 that is happening right now in Las Vegas, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (Bluetooth SIG) announced a new Blueooth standard that it says will greatly enhance the audio experience in a myriad of ways. Called the LC3 audio codec, or just LE Audio, Bluetooth SIG says it will deliver higher data rates using less energy, improve hearing aids, and allow for multi-stream audio and location-based audio sharing.

But what many people are talking is another feature that could significantly change the consumer listening experience – multi-streaming audio support.

“Extensive listening tests have shown that LC3 will provide improvements in audio quality over the SBC codec included with Classic Audio, even at a 50% lower bit rate. Developers will be able to leverage this power savings to create products that can provide longer battery life or, in cases where current battery life is enough, reduce the form factor by using a smaller battery,” says Manfred Lutzky, head of audio for communications at Fraunhofer IIS.

Multi-stream audio will enable the transmission of multiple, independent, synchronized audio streams between an audio source device, such as a smartphone, and one or more audio sink devices, such as wireless headphones.

“Developers will be able to use the multi-stream audio feature to improve the performance of products like truly wireless earbuds. For example, they can provide a better stereo imaging experience, make the use of voice assistant services more seamless, and make switching between multiple audio source devices smoother,” adds Nick Hunn, CTO of WiFore Consulting and chair of the Bluetooth SIG Hearing Aid Working Group.

The Bluetooth SIG also says that LE Audio adds support for hearing aids. It will enable the development of Bluetooth hearing aids that bring the benefits of Bluetooth audio to people with hearing loss.

“LE Audio will be one of the most significant advances for users of hearing aids and hearing implants. EHIMA engineers have contributed their specialist knowledge to improve the audio experience, especially for hard of hearing people. As a result, within a few years most new phones and TVs will be equally accessible to users with hearing loss,” explains Stefan Zimmer, Secretary General of the European Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association.

Another considerable benefit for the consumer audio industry promised LE Audio is Bluetooth Audio Sharing. With personal audio sharing, people will be able to share their Bluetooth audio experience with others around them; for example, sharing music from a smartphone with family and friends. With location-based audio sharing, public venues such as airports, bars, gyms, cinemas, and conference centres can share Bluetooth audio that augments the visitor experience.

“Location-based Audio Sharing holds the potential to change the way we experience the world around us. For example, people will be able to select the audio being broadcast by silent TVs in public venues, and places like theaters and lecture halls will be able to share audio to assist visitors with hearing loss as well as provide audio in multiple languages,” says Peter Liu of Bose Corporation.

For more information, contact the Bluetooth SIG: 425-691-3535, www.bluetooth.com.

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Michael Raine is the Senior Editor at Professional Sound. He is also a co-host of the popular Canadian Musician Radio weekly podcast.