The next generation of Bluetooth has arrived

Mike Wheatley

Bluetooth Special Interest Group, the organisation responsible for developing the Bluetooth connectivity standard, has announced the next generation of its technology.


Bluetooth Low Energy Audio, or LE Audio, introduces a range of new capabilities for wireless audio delivery including a superior codec, improved power efficiency for longer battery life and more.

The most notable change is that Bluetooth LE Audio is delivered through a new codec called LC3, replacing the older SBC standard. LC3 promises to deliver a similar audio quality to SBC at lower bitrates, or superior quality at higher bitrates.

For instance, Bluetooth SIG said LC3 will provide slightly better audio quality than what we’re used to at a 50% lower bitrate, which at the same time ensures greater power efficiency, resulting in longer battery lives for wireless listening devices. You can visit Bluetooth SIG’s website to listen to the improved sound quality yourself.

The other main update is the introduction of Auracast, which enables multiple users to listen to TVs and other source devices with Bluetooth devices.

One of the major problems with Bluetooth at present is that it only supports point-to-point communications. What this means is that when you connect a Bluetooth headset to a TV, you’re limited to just a single device in most cases, though some TVs do support listening with two devices - albeit with limitations. Bluetooth SIGN acknowledges this disadvantage and said it’s providing a solution with Auracast, which enables TVs and other source devices to broadcast multiple audio streams to as many headsets as necessary. Each headset user will be able to select an audio stream, similar to how they would find a WiFi network. They can also connect using a QR code or NFC tag, Bluetooth SIG said.


“An unlimited number of in-range Auracast receivers will be able to join an Auracast broadcast from a nearby Auracast transmitter,” the group stated in a blog post introducing the feature.

Auracast transmitters, such as TVs, smartphones and PA systems, will broadcast an ‘advertisement’ that notifies Auracast assistants (namely, smartphones and smart watches that are linked to a wireless listening device) when an Auracast transmission is available locally. This advertisement includes a name, states whether the transmission is secure or open, and other information.

The Auracast assistant can scan for these advertisements and when they find one, open a user interface that will enable users to select the transmission, similar to how they would connect to a WiFi network in a public place.


Another update in Bluetooth LE Audio is support for hearing aids, which will be able to seamlessly connect to devices such as TVs, the group said. Also new is Multi-Stream Audio, which separately sends perfectly synchronized audio streams to the left and right earbud in wireless listening devices.

Bluetooth SIG said the first devices that carry support for Bluetooth LE Audio will arrive in the autumn.

"Initial consumer products supporting LE Audio, including those with Auracast broadcast audio, are expected to come to market in the coming months, and the Bluetooth SIG anticipates LE Audio product availability to ramp up as we approach the holiday season and end of the year," it said in a statement.