Qualcomm’s new audio chips could make cheaper headphones sound costlier

Qualcomm’s new audio chips could make cheaper headphones sound costlier

Jada Jones/ZDNET

Qualcomm introduced two new sound platforms for wi-fi mid-tier and premium earbuds, headphones, and audio system that enable producers to incorporate audiophile-level sound high quality, enhanced ANC, improved name high quality, and decrease energy consumption throughout a broader vary of Bluetooth audio merchandise.

Manufacturers use Qualcomm’s chipsets and audio platforms in a few of our favourite wi-fi audio merchandise and promote them underneath manufacturers like Bose, Sennheiser, Anker, Jabra, and extra. The new audio platforms are divided into two tiers and are available simply 5 months after Qualcomm up to date its ultra-premium tier, the Snapdragon S7 and S7 Pro.

Also: Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 cellular chip brings generative AI to smartphones

The Snapdragon S3 Gen 3 and S5 Gen 3 audio platforms will quickly be out there to producers, so let’s break down how they might change our Bluetooth audio experiences.

Qualcomm S5 Gen 3 Sound Platform

Like many tech improvements this yr, Qualcomm’s new audio chips embrace new AI-powered options, and the S5 Gen 3 platform debuts with an AI-powered neural processing unit (NPU). In idea, utilizing AI within the NPU ought to enable headphones to course of options like noise-canceling, transparency, and exterior noise administration quicker, extra effectively, and with much less energy consumption.

These new chips present extra on-device AI that may take heed to your surrounding noise ranges and "perceive and adapt to consumer wants all through the day," in keeping with Qualcomm. In this sense, on-device AI ought to make the brand new chips’ adaptive ANC extra intuitive and beneficial.


Compared to the S5 Gen 2, the brand new era audio platform will help 50% extra reminiscence and may have double the computing energy to course of audio indicators. This enchancment signifies that headphones with this audio chip ought to enhance voice recognition, spatial audio, EQ settings, and noise cancellation.

The tiny chips in your headphones use machine-learning algorithms to course of the noises round you and supply adaptive noise-canceling primarily based in your surroundings’s noise ranges. Qualcomm’s new chips ought to enable these algorithms to work smarter and quicker, because the chipmaker says this era’s ANC is its strongest but.

The S5 Gen 3 platform additionally guarantees ultra-low energy consumption, which ought to extend the battery lifetime of its headphones and earbuds. The new chips may maintain as much as 5MB of RAM, in comparison with the earlier era’s 2.64MB.

Increased RAM ought to enable for decrease latency and better throughput. The new chips can course of audio quicker and with much less lag, so your on a regular basis earbuds and headphones can double as on-the-go gaming headphones.

Of course, the S5 Gen 3 platform helps a set of Snapdragon AptX Bluetooth codecs to ship lossless audio. Headphones with these chips will help LE audio for enhanced bandwidth, and Bluetooth Auracast will enable entry to a number of streams of Bluetooth audio.

Also: Expecting lossless audio out of your new earbuds? It’s not occurring and here is why

The S5 Gen 3 platform is reserved for premium headphones and earbuds, like Bose QuietComfort Ultra headphones that function on the S5 Gen 2 platform launched in 2022.

Qualcomm S3 Gen 3 Sound Platform

The new era of the Qualcomm S3 Sound Platform is devoted to mid-tier headphones, earbuds, and audio system, bringing higher-quality audio options to extra inexpensive wi-fi audio merchandise.

There aren’t many variations between this yr’s Gen 3 and the earlier Gen 2 platforms, however the Gen 3 chips combine all the newest options in a single chip, which ought to burden producers much less. 

For shoppers, this implies your favourite wi-fi audio manufacturers can provide gadgets that devour much less energy, help lossless audio, and provide extra seamless software program updates and upgraded software program options with out paying lots of greater than you probably did for earlier fashions.

Also: Two new AirPods fashions anticipated this fall – here is all the things we all know thus far

The newest S3 platform provides upgraded inner digital-to-analog converters, permitting mid-range wi-fi earbuds, headphones, and audio system to help as much as 24-bit/48kHz lossless music streaming. 

Audio high quality this excessive was as soon as reserved for high-end merchandise, however these audio chips enable Bluetooth audio system just like the Soundcore Motion X500 to realize high-resolution audio for lower than $200.

How can I entry Aptx codecs?

There are important caveats to notice with Qualcomm’s new audio chips. Although new wi-fi headphones, earbuds, and audio system are geared up with future-forward know-how, they’re solely as succesful as their related gadgets.

Many folks take heed to music on their smartphones, however audio merchandise powered by Qualcomm’s chips work greatest with smartphones powered by Qualcomm’s chips. Most smartphones within the US both use non-Qualcomm smartphone chips or go for proprietary audio know-how to keep away from licensing AptX codecs.

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Qualcomm advertises AptX Adaptive as its most intuitive and future-proof codec. However, accessing this codec requires your smartphone and headphones to make use of a Qualcomm chip.

Apple’s smartphones use in-house chips and proprietary Bluetooth tech, Samsung telephones use Qualcomm smartphone chips however a proprietary Bluetooth codec, and Google’s telephones help different AptX codecs that are not AptX Adaptive.

Still, you possibly can depend on upcoming headphones powered by Qualcomm’s new chips to work smarter and have improved noise-canceling, battery life, and connection stability. Unfortunately, you will need to search for different methods to hear losslessly over Bluetooth.

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March 26, 2024 at 12:09AM

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