High-end sound has relied on cords for some time, but a new generation of aptX could mean high-res can go wireless. Kinda.
If you’re one of those people that prefers your sound to be as close to the studio recording as possible with no loss, you probably know all too well that you’re going to be plugged into a device.
It could be a dedicated media player, a nice phone, a tablet or laptop, or even an amplifier, but whatever you pick, if you plan to listen to high-res audio, there’s a good chance you’re using a cord. Even though wireless headphones are everywhere, the problem is one of bandwidth: wireless sound hasn’t really been strong enough to cover the bandwidth needed for bigger music files.
There’s also the fact that most phones can’t drive a big pair of headphones, and is why you might want to turn to a portable DAC such as the Astell & Kern Type C DAC or the THX Onyx and a big pair of corded headphones. That’s less than great news for folks keen to take advantage of the high-res recordings on Tidal HiFi and the recent arrival of lossless high-res bundled into Apple Music with wireless earphones, because they’ll be missing out on the full lossless experience.
However wireless high-res may be within reach as Qualcomm may have cracked the problem with a new chipset. Kinda, sorta.
As part of its Snapdragon Sound chipsets, Qualcomm has built a new variation of its AptX technology, launching AptX Lossless, a feature for its new chips that supports CD quality 16-bit 44.1kHz lossless over wireless with support for a lossy 24-bit 96kHz. It’s still not quite lossless high-res, with the 24-bit audio of high-res audio not as strong as the smaller files from 16-bit, but it is a development in the right direction, and could mean high-res played without any degration is on the cards in the future.
“Currently lossless audio is only supported on client devices such as phones, PCs and tablets,” said James Chapman, Vice President and General Manager of Qualcomm.
“By supporting lossless audio on next-gen earbuds and headphones, we’re providing our customers another way to deliver sound the way the artist intended, as well as a significant opportunity to differentiate and be among the first to develop products with this feature,” he said.
The AptX Lossless technology means that future earphones and headphones can handle lossless CD quality sound, while also scaling up the sound based on Bluetooth signal quality. In theory, that means the closer you are to your phone, the stronger your headphones will perform, with the technology playing a bit-for-bit exact sound for CD quality sound.
That won’t be quite the same for bigger files in 24-bit and higher, but the development does mean higher resolution files — digital vinyl, so to speak — could soon be a lossless wireless experience, as well.
For now, it means folks keen on experience 24-bit lossless on Apple Music, Tidal, Qobuz, and other high-res platforms will still very likely want to bring with the cord for a proper high-res experience. But with lossless being worked on by chipmakers like Qualcomm, it mightn’t be too long before you can leave the cords of big headphones at home and just let the music play.