Aside from having to keep track of battery life, there are very few downsides to Bluetooth audio. Audiophiles could make the argument that the inherent quality loss that comes with a Bluetooth connection can’t be made up for with the freedom of wireless – although that’s of course a matter of opinion.
I’m someone who’s always sought out lossless audio when I’ve been able to, always ripping my own CDs to FLAC, and (recently) only buying albums that are available in a lossless format. I used to be someone who couldn’t ever imagine ditching wired headphones in lieu of wireless, because I’ve always cared about the quality. However, once I started using Bluetooth headphones more and more, the sheer convenience of not being tethered by a cable made me accept the tradeoff of a degradation in sound.
This week, we learn of a new Qualcomm technology that tries to negate the sound quality caveat, as it’s introduced aptX Lossless, as a new capability for aptX Adaptive, technologies that fall under Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Sound portfolio. The promise is 16-bit 44.1kHz lossless wireless audio that will convince you that you’re listening to a CD.
This kind of promise seems a little too good to be true, but Qualcomm is covering its bases, and painting a picture of what many have been anxious to see for a while. Lossless audio files can hover around the 1Mbps bitrate mark, and that’s the target Qualcomm has in mind.
Because Bluetooth connectivity can be so finicky at times, that’s the reason aptX Lossless is tied to aptX Adaptive – the better the connection, the better the quality delivered. If you have a pristine connection, you could expect the highest quality level. aptX Lossless won’t kick in if you’re listening to lossy audio, although capabilities there are also good, with support for 24-bit 96kHz.
As great as aptX Lossless sounds (no pun, of course), the biggest gotcha is the fact that you will need new hardware to experience it – from the phone to the ear buds / headphones. So for many, this update will be something to be enjoyed the next time you need to upgrade your entire kit. Qualcomm expects aptX Lossless gear to become available later this year.