The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) announced a new spin-off Bluetooth standard for audio called LE Audio as CES 2020.
The new LE (low-energy) format is specifically for audio, which differentiates it from other formats like Bluetooth 5, which works for a variety of different uses. LE Audio includes native support for devices like hearing aids.
Interestingly, LE Audio also supports audio sharing thanks to a new ‘broadcast audio’ function. It lets people share what they’re listening to on their phones or other devices with people around them.
While this could be useful for individual users sharing music with family or friends, a more compelling use case is that companies could broadcast audio to everyone in a given space. For example, an airport could broadcast flight change information directly to people’s earbuds or hearing aids.
LE Audio also uses a new codec called Low Complexity Communication Codec (LC3). The new codec should offer up higher sound quality while also using less battery power. That could be a boon for true wireless headphones, which are exceedingly popular despite having middling battery life.
Finally, LE Audio will allow the transmission of multiple audio streams. According to the Bluetooth SIG, that should help improve things like stereo imaging on products like true wireless earbuds.
Bluetooth SIG plans to release the new LE Audio specification in the first half of 2020.
While CES 2020 tends to be about bigger announcements and far-out concepts, smaller things like updated Bluetooth standards like this will probably more real-world impact on people’s lives. If LE Audio accomplished what the Bluetooth SIG says it does, I’d expect to see significant improvements in Bluetooth audio quality on devices like true wireless earbuds. Also, look for interesting new use cases and maybe even high-tech hearing aids too.