Bluetooth LE Audio

Next generation Bluetooth audio

The Overview

Lower power, better quality

LE Audio is the next generation of Bluetooth Audio, making audio streaming over Bluetooth Low Energy possible. It enables new use cases and significantly reduces power consumption compared to Classic (BR/EDR) Audio. Bluetooth is by far the most recognized wireless standard for audio streaming, with an estimated 1.1 billion devices shipped in 2020. LE Audio is expected to boost this number, with earbuds as the main contributor.

There have been many innovations and new use cases for audio solutions. Developers have stretched the Bluetooth standard to its limits for the best user experiences. We have seen a need for applications that were not possible or very complicated to implement with Classic Bluetooth. Bluetooth LE Audio was developed to enhance the performance in power consumption, latency, and bandwidth. It also and introduces new features. Both LE Audio and Classic Audio standards will coexist and have features that will be supported by both. LE Audio will have a wider set of features, lower power consumption and better perceived audio quality.

We ship more than 1 million Bluetooth LE System-On-Chips (SoCs) every day and are the Bluetooth LE market leader. As soon as the required specifications are adopted, we will offer complete solutions for building LE Audio products. Our nRF5340 is a powerful dual-core SoC designed to meet all requirements of LE Audio. If you are planning to build a LE Audio product or have questions, do not hesitate to contact us.

Explore the new LE Audio features below!

 

Multi-Stream Audio

Synchronized audio streams between a source and multiple sink devices

LE Audio was developed with isochronous channels as a design requirement. Some applications were hard to implement with Classic Audio, like truly wireless earbuds. Those are typically designed to relay the information from the source to one earbud. The stereo stream will be split into mono and transmitted from one earbud to the next. In many cases, this led to higher latency and ever higher power consumption. What is hard to implement with Classic Audio is built into LE Audio from the start. LE Audio brings a huge improvement to this and similar use-cases. 

funnel chart

Multi-Stream Audio allows for multiple audio streams between an audio source and different sinks. These streams can be highly synchronized to ~10µs. Coordinated device sets can be created where multiple devices are treated as one device. This allows for example truly wireless earbuds to be connected to an audio source with no need to use one of the earbuds to relay the data.

 

Broadcast Audio and Audio Sharing

Allow an audio source to broadcast its audio stream to an unlimited number of audio sink devices.

Broadcast Audio allows for one or multiple audio streams to be broadcast to an unlimited number of devices. It enables applications like Personal Audio Sharing where a user can share their audio stream, for example from a phone or tablet, with other user’s headphones in the vicinity.   

On a bigger scale Location-Based Audio Sharing can be used. Example applications include a cinema where visitors can watch the same movie with different languages enabled on their headphones. It can be used in a gym with multiple TVs to select the audio from the channel that you want to watch. Further examples are be airports, conferences, museums etc.

Low Complexity Communications Codec (LC3)

High quality at low data rates

The SBC, Low Complexity Subband Codec, that is used in Classic Audio as a well-established Codec works well but is quite old.

The new LC3 uses about half the data for even higher perceived audio quality. The low complexity of the Codec leads to low latency and minimal storage requirements.
It's possible to reduce the bitrate even lower without losing much perceived audio quality. The LC3 will also be available at a later date as an optional Codec for Bluetooth Classic Audio.

 

Hearing Aids

The application that initialized the development of Bluetooth LE Audio

Hearing AidThe introduction of Bluetooth in hearing aids in 2014 was one of the biggest advancements in hearing aids. This allows users of hearing aids to stream a Bluetooth Audio signal from a device like a smartphone or tablet directly to their hearing aids. Despite the incredible benefits this gives to users, actively using Bluetooth on hearing aids drastically reduces the battery life of those devices.

In the development of Bluetooth LE Audio the Bluetooth SIG worked closely with the hearing aid industry. LE Audio cuts the power consumption in half while improving the perceived audio quality. This in addition to the new features like being able to connect multiple devices to one set of hearing aids makes Bluetooth LE Audio another giant advancement in the hearing aids industry.

Introduction to Bluetooth Low Energy

Our Flagship SoC

Build to meet all Bluetooth LE Audio requirements and more

nRF5340 SoC

Dual-core Bluetooth 5.2 SoC supporting Bluetooth Low Energy, Bluetooth mesh, NFC, Thread and Zigbee

128 MHz Arm Cortex-M33 CPU with
1 MB Flash + 512 KB RAM
64 MHz Arm Cortex-M33 CPU with
256 KB Flash + 64 KB RAM
Bluetooth Low Energy
Bluetooth Direction Finding
Bluetooth mesh
Thread, Zigbee
NFC
Advanced security
USB, QSPI, HS-SPI
105 °C extended operating temperature
1.7-5.5 V supply voltage range

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