With UWB, Wireless Earphones Are (Finally) Going to Sound Great

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You don’t have to be an audiophile to be disappointed in the sound quality of your wireless earphones or earbuds.

If you haven’t done it lately – or perhaps you’ve never tried it at all – strap a pair of any modern mainstream wired headphones to your ears and then compare that sound experience with pretty much any Bluetooth wireless earbuds/earphones available today, even the premium variety. Regardless of the sound source, the wired headphone sound quality is noticeably superior and it’s not even close.

We as consumers made a major compromise many years ago with the arrival of Bluetooth-connected wireless earphones. By and large we were willing to look past the obvious shortcomings in audio quality because we were – for the very first time! – free to listen to music and other audio entertainment utterly unencumbered by wires. No longer physically tethered to a sound source, we were finally free to enjoy music on the go. It was a new level of entertainment mobility.

This was the state of the art in 1999, at the turn of the century. The RF technology innovations we’ve achieved since then are staggering in their ambition and scope, giving us the ability to connect with almost any person or device anywhere in the world in an instant.

And yet we still can’t beam great sounding music to our ears without wires?

WE CAN DO BETTER

Our appetite for high-quality audio hasn’t ebbed an inch since the dawn of Bluetooth – it’s only grown stronger. Witness the skyrocketing popularity of vinyl records, for example, and what that says about our pent-up demand for richer, more detailed music experiences that go well beyond the thin, digitally compressed audio we’ve been forced to get by on.

And this isn’t just nostalgia for some bygone era – the majority of the record-buying public is comprised of millennials who never experienced vinyl in its heyday – they just intuitively know they’ve been missing out on great sounding music.

This also speaks to our desire for more feature-length listening experiences that command our full attention, delivered the way our favorite music artists intended them to be heard.  This trend has manifested with major online streaming services as well, where customers can now choose premium, high-resolution music delivery services available in lossless and even master formats – like you were right there in the recording booth.

Apple is watching these trends closely as well, and recently launched a high-fidelity music service available with Apple Music. It includes options for lossless (24-bit/48 kHz, or CD quality), and high-resolution lossless (192 kHz) audio quality…with one important caveat, as noted by the team at Apple Insider: “All users can enjoy lossless music without additional hardware, but the connected headphones or speakers must support lossless playback.”

A REVOLUTION IN TECHNOLOGY AND MUSIC

Bluetooth wireless technology is inherently inadequate for delivering rich sounding, high quality music and audio. It’s limited to a very narrow bandwidth, so audio data compression must be applied in order to squeeze an otherwise bulky audio signal through a narrow pipe, degrading the signal. Bluetooth codecs are ‘lossy’ in that a lot of source audio data is stripped away – whereas CD-quality audio is achieved with a 1,411 kbps (kilobits-per-second) data rate, a Bluetooth codec renders that down to about 300 kbps.

UWB enables 10X more data throughput than BLE, and as a result, there’s no need to compress the audio signal for wireless delivery to our UWB earphones or earbuds. In other words, we can finally have wired-like sound quality without any of the wires.

If you think hardcore gamers are enthusiastic about UWB, music fans of all stripes are beside themselves at the prospect of experiencing pristine, immersive sound quality, delivered wirelessly. We’ve never had this before.

Whether you’re a superfan who lives and breathes music, or maybe you just need that full audio rush to propel you like adrenaline for that last mile or hill while you’re out jogging – we’ve been waiting for something better and it’s finally here.

This in itself is cause for genuine celebration, but the benefits don’t stop here. The new generation of high-performance UWB headsets powered by SPARK transceivers will be as much as 5 to 10X more power efficient that Bluetooth wireless earphones/earbuds. So we’ll get significantly better sound quality and significantly longer battery life.

There’s even more to look forward to. In a subsequent blog post, we’ll address other areas where UWB-enabled wireless earphones/earbuds will outperform what’s possible with Bluetooth today.

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