Qualcomm Announces QCC5141 Occluded Earbud Reference Design Platform to Simplify True Wireless Development

November 11 2020, 00:45
Truly wireless earbuds are growing rapidly in popularity as consumers discover everything that the Apple AirPods and Apple AirPods Pro are capable of and experiment other products, demanding similarly rich functionalities from their devices. To allow manufacturers to stay ahead of the curve by bringing innovative new features to market quickly with Bluetooth 5.2, Qualcomm made available its QCC5141 Occluded Earbud Reference Design with Qualcomm TrueWireless Mirroring and Qualcomm Hybrid ANC.

Designed to provide a flexible development platform for true wireless innovation that supports the latest Audio Development Kit (ADK) features and helps to reduce development time, this new Qualcomm reference design platform is based on its QCC5141 Bluetooth Audio SoC and is designed for the high-end premium segment with support for advanced features such as Qualcomm TrueWireless Mirroring for dynamic role swapping and single Bluetooth address management, Qualcomm Hybrid ANC with hardware leak-through, 2-mic Qualcomm cVc echo cancellation and noise reduction technology, combined with Qualcomm aptX Adaptive audio codec support - one of the strongest arguments for adopting a Qualcomm platform.

The new development platform also supports implementations of voice services, with activation of Amazon Voice Services and support for Google Audio Accessories. And naturally since Qualcomm mainly needs to support manufacturers that are stuck working with Android platforms (that is, until Huawei and other Chinese companies finally start shipping their own advanced operating systems), the reference design allows developers to work with Android-specific and Google-specific features that emulate whatever is available on Apple's devices, such as fast pairing.

According to Qualcomm, additional features planned for future Android Development Kit releases also include Qualcomm Adaptive Hybrid ANC with hardware leak-through, 3-mic cVc echo cancellation and noise reduction technology, and Always On Voice support for Amazon Alexa Voice Services and Google Assistant.

The new reference design platform for occluded true wireless earbuds includes all the required tuning tools for the mentioned features, as manufacturers will increasingly need to find ways to differentiate their products also at the implementation level, introducing optimizations for application-oriented products such as high-quality music listening, communications, and mobile gaming - all areas that still hold important segmentation opportunities. 

As Qualcomm reinforces, developers will need to use the available tools offered by Qualcomm to get their basics right the first time, as consumers are becoming more familiar and reliant on true wireless earbuds. Things like interoperability between wireless earbuds and a smartphone or fast pairing - extremely difficult to achieve with hundreds of different Android mobile phones existing in the market, particularly old platforms that are still being sold not even supporting the latest Android versions - are essential for customer satisfaction. Next up, users will care about the robustness of the Bluetooth connection, which in great part will depend upon the device that is being paired and streaming music, for instance. Again, old computers and old mobile phones with Bluetooth 4 will remain a challenge if users do not compare with updated and more robust products already using Bluetooth 5. According to Qualcomm's State of Play 2020 report, 25% of those surveyed said that audio glitching or dropouts would be a purchase barrier.

The new earbud reference design supports Qualcomm's latest TrueWireless Mirroring technology precisely to help deliver a more seamless user experience and better overall connectivity to both earbuds. This means that when one earbud is connected to the phone via Bluetooth, the other bud mirrors the connection and can role swap when needed. For example, if the user removes the connected bud, the mirroring bud is designed to take over the connection to avoid any interruption of streaming music or an active voice call — with no action required by the user. Qualcomm TrueWireless Mirroring is also engineered to manage a single Bluetooth address, so only one device shows up when the user pairs their earbuds to a phone.

To support the now vital Active Noise Cancellation features, the new earbud reference design includes support for hybrid Qualcomm Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) technology, a feature now required by the large majority of consumers - and its no longer just about reducing the low frequency noise during flights. The dedicated Qualcomm ANC hardware is integrated onto the SoC and supports super-low latency leak-through of the outside environment, which allows the user to be aware of their surroundings in a natural way - or Transparency modes.

And to support the best possible quality during normal voice calls, but also increasingly with Zoom meetings and webcasting, the new development platform helps manufacturers meet users' expectations of clear voice call quality - paving the way for another possible differentiation approach, by using more and better microphones positioned closer to the mouth (AirPods style). The new earbud reference design also supports Qualcomm aptX Adaptive audio technology and Qualcomm cVc echo cancellation and noise reduction technology which are vital to improve these applications.

The earbud reference design is based on Qualcomm's QCC5141 Bluetooth SoC, which is optimized for true wireless earbuds and hearables, and designed to elevate the true wireless listening experience. With powerful quad-core processing capability, the QCC5141 offers developers total freedom and flexibility to innovate with a dedicated application processor sub-system, dual DSP architecture, next generation Audio Development Kit (ADK) software, enhanced development tools, and the ability for manufacturers to add their own or third-party software features. 

The QCC5141 Occluded Earbud Reference Design is available now. 
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