Chipmaker Qualcomm is launching a new end-to-end audio solution called Snapdragon Sound to deliver high-quality wireless sound to phones.
Smartphone sound is not always at its best when listening to music or playing games through wireless headphones. You may experience quality drops, issues, or latency issues.
Snapdragon Sound aims to solve all of these problems with a series of existing and new hardware and software solutions, including processors, DACs (digital to analog converters) and codecs.
Now, we can’t really figure out what “best” audio means until we talk about a few numbers. Snapdragon Sound claims to achieve three things: 24-bit 96kHz signal support for music, 32kHz sample rate support for calls, and 89ms latency for videos and games.
For consumers, this mainly means that you can listen to high fidelity music on your smartphone, take calls without any audio drop, and play games or watch movies without sound lag.
If you don’t understand what this kHz means, please read this explanation of audio sample rate by my colleague Callum. DO IT.
The road to obtain these figures or these performances is not easy. Your smartphone must have a Snapdragon 8-series processor, a Fastconnect 6900 chip for connectivity and Qualcomm Aqstic DAC; your bluetooth enabled headphones must have a special Qualcomm SoC listed below in the picture. In addition, these two devices must support an array of Qualcomm codecs and standards such as AptX.
So hardware designers will need to take care of all of this while making their gadgets Snapdragon Sound compatible.
Qualcomm says that even if you don’t use wireless headphones, the Aqstic DAC does support audio formats with 32-bit 384 kHz frequency sampling. Which doesn’t mean much if you don’t have high quality audio files on your phone, but you can still rest assured that you will get good output from your phone.
The first three companies to sign up for the Snapdragon Sound program are phone maker Xiaomi, audio hardware company Audio-Technica, and Amazon Music HD. Xiaomi has promised to support high-quality sound through Qualcomm components in its flagship phones. Audio-Technica has promised to distribute certified material in the near future, and Amazon Prime HD has created a special playlist for Snapdragon Sound.
Qualcomm said the program involved rigorous testing for the devices to be Snapdragon Sound certified. We won’t see devices with this tag until later this year to see if they really offer high fidelity sound. Hopefully, this will be a way to ensure that the phones or audio equipment you buy offer decent sound quality.
The chipmaker says that while the current program includes smartphones and Bluetooth headphones, it wants to expand it to PCs, smartwatches and mixed reality glasses.
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Published March 4, 2021 – 16:00 UTC