19 Sep 2018

Stereo Hi-Fi Quality Audio Over Bluetooth Low Energy

Dialog Semiconductor has demonstrated stereo Hi-Fi quality audio streaming over Bluetooth low energy. The technology enables true wireless stereo audio streaming over Bluetooth low energy and this provides some major benefits for users.

Dialog is a mixed signal fabless semiconductor manufacturer founded in 1981 with its headquarters in London, although there are offices around the globe, but with large engineering capability in the UK as well as USA and China, although manufacturing is chiefly in Asia. There are three main business groups: Mobile systems; Advanced Mixed signal and Connectivity. In terms of Bluetooth, Dialog is the second largest Bluetooth manufacturer in the world.

In recent years, Bluetooth has grown in importance with the increase in requirements for short range connectivity. In particular, there is a significant move towards wireless connectivity for high quality audio as companies like Apple are increasingly relying upon wireless solutions for audio connectivity on their phones and other devices and much less on wired solutions.

As demand for wireless audio has increased, True Wireless Stereo, TWS systems, featuring no wires between ear-buds, have emerged as the pinnacle of the technology for consumer and professional use alike.

Latency differences between channels have been an issue which is of key importance and difficult to overcome. Also existing implementations have used of a combination of classic Bluetooth and Bluetooth low energy technology for sound distribution between left and right channels, often resulting in imbalanced battery usage and limited battery life for the products.

To solve this, Dialog has successfully developed an audio over Bluetooth low energy proof of concept running on its widely adopted SmartBond™ SoC’s to make use of Bluetooth low energy only. The implementation allows for very high quality audio synchronization between left and right channels, together with the low power consumption afforded by Bluetooth low energy technology. This has a very low latency of around 1 µs against he value of 100µs where the brain starts to notice the issues. Accordingly this overcomes the issues of latency differences between channels.

The actual chips have not yet been launched - this will occur at CES in January 2019, but it promises to have a major impact on the industry.

“There is a clear demand from end-users for True Wireless Stereo audio, particularly in environments where even a single wire between earbuds can prove cumbersome and frustrating,” said Sean McGrath, Senior VP & GM of Dialog Semiconductor’s Connectivity Business Group. “This proof of concept demonstrates Bluetooth low energy’s potential to deliver the solution developers need, while overcoming the limitations of existing technology that have traditionally held devices back from their true potential.”

“By solving the issues of power consumption and synchronization, we are showing how Bluetooth low energy could address two of the biggest complaints from True Wireless audio users. Manufacturers would have the ability to deliver True Wireless Stereo audio products that can simultaneously stream HiFi quality audio while delivering long lasting battery life for their products in the consumer and professional wireless audio market,” added McGrath.

A further enhancement that is being developed is that of audio broadcast over Bluetooth and this promises to enable multiple listeners to a single smartphone. This will be undertaken within the Bluetooth standard, ensuring that the developments do not use proprietary techniques.

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