Qualcomm Introduces aptX HD High Resolution Audio Codec over Bluetooth

January 12 2016, 04:00

Following the conclusion of its CSR acquisition in August 2015, Qualcomm had much more technology to show at CES 2016, including the launch of the new Qualcomm aptX HD enhanced codec, building on the existing aptX audio codec platform, now supporting 24 bit music quality over a Bluetooth wireless connection. Qualcomm states the enhanced audio codec will help manufacturers make wireless high resolution audio a reality.

Qualcomm acquired Cambridge Silicon Radio (CSR) in 2015 and, at CES 2016, already introduced all CSR solutions and technologies as part of its renewed offerings. All of CSR’s engineering, research and development functions and all of the CSR products and services businesses are now integrated in Qualcomm Technologies International, Ltd., a subsidiary of Qualcomm Technologies.

During the CES 2016 show in Las Vegas, Qualcomm announced that its subsidiary is now launching the new Qualcomm aptX HD enhanced codec as another option in its family of aptX codecs, allowing the support of 24 bit audio over Bluetooth. The new codec basically leverages the existing aptX audio codec platform - which already supported 24 bit resolution in previous implementations for the broadcast contribution market, for instance - now adapted to transmit higher quality stereo audio over Bluetooth. According to Qualcomm, aptX HD is designed to enable audio manufacturers to meet the increasing demand for high resolution wireless audio.

“aptX transformed the Bluetooth stereo audio ecosystem, providing near CD-quality audio without the need for wires, and consumers now seek out the quality the aptX brand has come to represent,” says Anthony Murray, senior vice president and general manager, IoE, Qualcomm Technologies International, Ltd. “Today consumers enjoy the benefits and freedom of wireless audio on the wide variety of aptX enabled devices available but demand for higher resolution audio is growing to fulfill the desire for the most premium listening experience possible. With aptX HD, we are helping device manufacturers to reduce development time and quickly meet demand.”

aptX HD is immediately available as part of the CSR8675 Bluetooth audio SoC platform which supports 24 bit audio end-to-end. The CSR8675 provides increased digital signal processing (DSP) performance and more capable I/O subsystems and was designed to be a superior vehicle to bring aptX HD to the Bluetooth headset and speaker space.

As with aptX, aptX HD is designed to address the challenge of sending high quality audio wirelessly over Bluetooth by compressing the large audio files so that they can be transmitted through the wireless pipeline without affecting the listening experience quality. To ensure a seamless consumer experience, and to interact with the millions of aptX enabled devices already available, the enhanced codec retains backward compatibility with all Bluetooth devices containing ‘classic’ aptX.

aptX audio technology has a long history in the pro-audio and broadcast ecosystems. The technology is used to deliver high quality audio in over 30,000 radio stations and 20,000 cinemas across the world. In 2009, aptX was introduced to consumer electronics to provide quality wireless audio – and today, has been adopted by over 320 leading audio brands making it available in millions of headphones, speakers, soundbars, automotive and other Bluetooth audio products worldwide. It’s also widely enabled in mobile devices and is now available in flagship Android smartphones and tablets from Samsung, Sony, HTC, Motorola and LG, as well as in other operating systems including Windows 10, MAC OS X and Blackberry.

“aptX was one of the first technologies to bring pro-audio quality to wireless consumer devices and has become synonymous with superior sound quality. The technology will continue to evolve as we invest in further innovation to ensure it meets the future needs of our customers,” concludes Anthony Murray.

Meeting the need for hi-resolution wireless audio
According to Steve Graham, vice president, product marketing, Qualcomm Technologies International,”Over the last two years, what started as a niche initiative in the high end audio market—the desire for hi-res audio—has gathered momentum across the ecosystem. A quick glance around any consumer electronics trade show or department store will confirm that support for higher resolution audio is now a given across a wide range of products and services.

“With that in mind we decided it was time to build on the existing Qualcomm aptX audio codec platform, which revolutionized the Bluetooth stereo listening experience by supporting CD-like quality audio over a wireless connection, in order to enable audio manufacturers to meet this increasing demand.

“The result is aptX HD, a newly enhanced codec that supports 24-bit music quality over Bluetooth. aptX HD is a further development of the existing classic 16-bit aptX codec. It operates on the same principle; retaining all the key properties of aptX that have seen the codec so widely adopted.

“As well as accepting a 24-bit audio input, 24-bit audio resolution is maintained by using an extra two bits in each of the four sub-bands of processing. This results in lower signal-to-noise ratio (the signal strength signal strength relative to background noise) through the encode/decode cycle and less distortion, making aptX HD ideal for use as part of a high-resolution audio solution.

“The aptX HD source has been initially launched for Android devices such as tablets, personal media players, and smartphones, but during the course of the next year or so it will be deployed more widely.”

Other Qualcomm technologies at CES2016
Apart from the aptX HD announcement and many interesting audio demonstrations using Qualcomm’s platforms, the company also introduced a new Smart Home Reference Platform, based upon the Qualcomm Snapdragon 212 processor, that is designed to provide computing, voice recognition, audio, display, camera, connectivity, and control capabilities for home control hubs and smart speakers, extending to home appliances and multimedia devices as use cases evolve.

The Snapdragon 212 Smart Home Reference Platform combines a Quad-core 1.3 GHz ARM7 CPU, Qualcomm Adreno™ 304 GPU, and Qualcomm Hexagon DSP to provide a comprehensive computing platform for multimedia and acoustic processing with Hi-Fi Smart Audio for streaming music up to 24bit/192KHz playback ande decoder support for formats including mp3, AAC, WMA, Ogg Vorbis, ALAC, FLAC, AIFF, WAV and PCM. The solution supports Fluence Pro voice input technology for command/control functionality, as well as two-way VoIP calling with echo cancellation and noise suppression using three microphones. It also features sound position tracking to determine user location relative to the device and sound focus to capture voice from specific areas.

Connectivity includes 802.11a/b/g/n (1x1 dual band 2.4GHz/5GHz), Bluetooth 4.1, Bluetooth Low Energy, and NFC – as well as full integration with the AllJoyn communication framework from the AllSeen Alliance.

Qualcomm also confirmed a major milestone by enabling a number of new multi-band Wi-Fi products featuring 802.11ad in the 60 GHz band and 2.4/5 GHz 802.11ac with MU-MIMO. These products underscore the importance of the greater capacity and speed that 802.11ad brings to the evolution of Wi-Fi and Qualcomm confirmed that several companies plan to release products in 2016, including TP-LINK with its Talon AD7200, the first wireless 11ad multi-band router.
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