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Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon Sound certification promises a big wave of hi-fi wireless headphones

Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon Sound certification promises a big wave of hi-fi wireless headphones


As Spotify prepares for lossless audio, Qualcomm aims to make things simpler for consumers

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Image: Qualcomm

Qualcomm today announced Snapdragon Sound, which is what the company describes as “a chain of audio innovations and software” that work together to significantly improve audio quality when listening to music through wireless headphones, earbuds, and other devices. The goal is to deliver “high-resolution, wired quality audio, wirelessly,” according to James Chapman, Qualcomm’s VP of voice, music, and wearables.

Snapdragon Sound takes advantage of the company’s latest processors, Bluetooth audio SoCs, and codecs like aptX Adaptive to achieve playback of hi-fi music up to 24-bit 96kHz.

The concept of high-quality wireless audio isn’t new to Android; Sony has been largely pushing that mission forward with its own LDAC technology, which can transmit up to three times the amount of data that the standard SBC Bluetooth codec is capable of.

But Qualcomm’s components are found in headphones and earbuds from many companies — Bose, Jabra, 1More, Sennheiser, Audio-Technica, Anker, and more — and the Snapdragon Sound badge will appear on the boxes of both audio products and smartphones that support this HD audio chain. Existing devices won’t be updated to support it; the first Snapdragon Sound products are expected in the next few months. Xiaomi and Audio-Technica have been announced as the first two Snapdragon Sound partners.

Aside from making it easier to enjoy hi-res music, Qualcomm says Snapdragon Sound focuses on improved, clearer voice call quality and lower latency when playing games — down to 89 milliseconds. Connection stability is also a priority, with the company promising minimal dropouts and glitches even in the busiest wireless signal environments. Qualcomm claims “Snapdragon Sound optimized devices will be tested for interoperability in Qualcomm Technologies’ dedicated test facility on measures of performance including audio quality, latency, and robust connectivity.”

One thing that Snapdragon Sound doesn’t particularly focus on is multipoint pairing for two simultaneous Bluetooth connections. The feature has become fairly common for wireless headphones, but Jabra is pretty much the lone earbud maker to offer it. We’ll have to see if that changes with this next wave of products.

Today’s announcement of Snapdragon Sound follows Spotify’s recent news that it will offer a lossless streaming tier later this year as an add-on for Premium subscribers. Amazon Music already offers an HD streaming option, as do Tidal, Qobuz, and other music services. Good audio is always heavily dependent on the source, so you’ll need one of those services to get the most from Snapdragon Sound when it begins reaching products.