Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

Qualcomm’s next chips are for audio AI, wireless hi-res

We already have wireless sound and it’s a pretty great setup, so where do you go next if you make wireless audio chips? Turns out hi-res and AI.

The recent launch of Qualcomm’s next set of high-end chips expected to land in 2024’s flagship phones may have been exciting, but there was another announcement alongside that might have been lost in the mix. And it’s an interesting one if you’re someone who happens to love audio.

We spend a lot of time reviewing earphones, headphones, speakers and such, so that’s definitely us, and the chips announced by Qualcomm in the S7 and S7 Pro Gen 1 definitely count as that.

While the name could get confused with a mildly entertaining pop group from the 90s, the Qualcomm S7 series of chips are something different again, with little pieces of hardware designed for earphones, earbuds, headphones and speakers to use artificial intelligence for sound.

That may seem a little ambiguous, and right now it is, but audio gear makers will effectively be able to use what the company claims is a powerful AI solution to process noise into noise cancellation as you wear your earphones throughout the day, shifting ANC modes so that sound quelling essentially becomes sound blocking.

Consider that the next generation of adaptive noise cancellation, because it basically is, and it’s partly helped by a new generation of Qualcomm ANC built into the hardware, which is also made to be lower power, too.

That’s in the Qualcomm S7, and there’s a little more juice in the S7 Pro Gen 1, a chip that allows a pair of earphones or headphones to jump to WiFi to deal with larger file sizes, the likes of which might be used for high-res audio.

The technology being used is called “XPan” (distinct from the Hasselblad version), and basically jumps from Bluetooth to WiFi seamlessly, made to support high-res audio at up to 24-bit 192kHz over WiFi, all without extreme amounts of power.

The idea might just make high-res more possible in more places, especially since lossless high-res is now available on music services, be it on Tidal’s service, or even the fact that Apple Music includes high-res lossless in its plans, as well.

Gamers won’t miss out on what’s available, either, with support spatial audio in S7 Pro Gen 1 chips, basically turning supported earbuds into latency-free immersive gaming hearables.

As for what will come with these new chips and when it will arrive, the former is more difficult to answer, but with CES popping up in January as it always does, there’s a pretty solid expectation that gear with Qualcomm’s S7 isn’t going to be too far away.

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