Demand for true wireless headphones is increasing rapidly, propelling wire-free earbuds as the fastest-growing segment in the Bluetooth audio market. However, the implementation of true wireless devices is riddled with technical challenges that can result in compromised connection and audio quality in headphones. The new Microchip Bluetooth audio SoC IS2066 implements a wireless connection from an audio source to both earbuds concurrently to reduce latency, while enabling high-quality sound.
The solution works with existing Bluetooth audio sources, such as smartphones and tablets, and comes with reference designs and a suite of evaluation tools to get end products to market faster. Many existing true wireless devices use a relay mechanism in which the audio source (e.g. smartphone) communicates with a primary earbud and then relays audio to the secondary earbud. RF quality deteriorates in this implementation because the signal must pass through the listener's head, resulting in a weakened connection and decreased audio performance. Microchip's Bluetooth 5-compliant IS2066B offers a unique method that connects both earbuds to the audio source at the same time, resulting in a more stable connection and improved battery life.
Measuring just 3.5 x 5 mm, the Bluetooth 5-compliant IS2066 is ideal for small earbud designs and gives developers more space to use larger batteries in devices. It is interoperable with smartphones that support Bluetooth audio and includes unique features that improve the user experience in true wireless earbuds, including:
- Continuous playback and voice call mode: This feature ensures that the device always maintains uninterrupted audio streaming, allowing users to use one bud while charging the other.
- Balanced earbud battery consumption: Balanced power usage more evenly distributes power between earbuds, ensuring that one does not drain at a faster rate. This allows users to enjoy audio playback for longer periods of time.
- Supports Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) and Low-complexity Sub-band (SBC) audio codec technologies: AAC codec enables higher bit rate, delivering premium streaming quality in end products.
"Microchip continues to introduce Bluetooth audio solutions that enable companies of all sizes to develop differentiated, consumer-friendly products," says Steve Caldwell, vice president of Microchip's Wireless Solutions business unit. "The IS2066 SoC extends our Bluetooth audio portfolio to the fast-growing true wireless headphone market, offering developers a reliable solution that is backed by Microchip's comprehensive tools and global technical customer support."
The IS2066 SoC comes in a 5 x 3.5 mm BGA package with two reference designs and a suite of evaluation tools. Reference design packages offer an embedded mode, which provides a full turnkey solution for rapid development, or microcontroller (MCU) mode that allows for creating a custom solution with one of Microchip's MCUs. A charging box interface reference design is also available, enabling automatic charging when the earbuds are stored away.