There’s no doubt that Bluetooth headphones are convenient to use, but when it comes to sound quality, they are no match to wired ones. This is why buyers always have to choose between convenience and sound quality.
Luckily, you can tweak the audio quality of your Bluetooth headphones by changing the default audio codec on your device. In this guide, we’ll see the different codecs available on Android devices, discuss which is better, and how to change them.
Why You Should Change Your Bluetooth Codec
Different purposes require different features. If you want to listen to Hi-Fi music, you need a codec that offers superior audio quality. Similarly, for calls, you expect consistency in the audio. While watching a movie, you want the audio and video to sync perfectly, which requires low latency.
Since Bluetooth technology is still pretty new (compared to wired), there is no perfect codec that can offer high audio quality and low latency consistently at all times. This is why you should consider changing the default Bluetooth codec as per your usage and signal strength.
Changing the default codec can help you get the most out of your Bluetooth headphones. However, do keep in mind that a codec will work only if your headphones are compatible with it. If they are not compatible, your phone defaults to a compatible codec.
5 Commonly Found Bluetooth Codecs on Android
Before learning how to change the default codec on your device, it’s important to know which codec is best for which purpose, so you can get the most out of them based on your use.
SBC, an acronym for Low Complexity Sub-band Coding, is the most commonly found codec on the list. Every Android device that supports A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile)—a set of standard specifications for transmissions over Bluetooth—has this codec.
You can think of it as the vanilla version of Bluetooth codecs. It offers mediocre audio quality and consumes less power. However, it fails to transmit high-fidelity audio and has a higher latency than other codecs.
This codec is suitable for casual listening if you’re not too keen on high-definition or lossless audio. It also helps save your battery for longer. But it isn’t an ideal fit for gaming or watching movies because of its high latency.
Qualcomm’s aptX is a family of codecs. Alongside the oldest one, aptX, there are six other variants. Each variant was designed to address different problems of Bluetooth audio. aptX uses an encoding and decoding technique called ADPCM (Adaptive Differential Pulse Code Modulation) which makes its sound quality better than SBC.
These are the three commonly found aptX variants on Android:
- aptX: It’s a better alternative to SBC, but it still doesn’t work well if you want to listen to lossless audio.
- aptX HD: It’s a significant improvement from the original as the sound quality is better and can transfer audio with minimum loss of data. It’s a good choice for listening to Hi-Fi audio and watching movies.
- aptX Adaptive: This codec adjusts its bitrate according to the signal strength to avoid jittery sound and deliver a seamless experience despite a fluctuating signal strength. It works well for almost all purposes, from gaming to calling to watching videos. But aptX HD still has the best audio quality out of the three variants.
Some devices also have a new version called aptX TWS+. Although Qualcomm doesn’t provide much info on this, the primary purpose of this codec is to enable a seamless switch between stereo audio to mono when you’re using only one earbud while the other is charging in the Bluetooth case.
AAC, short for Advanced Audio Codec, is quite similar to SBC. It consumes more power despite delivering only lossy audio. AAC is commonly found in Apple devices since iOS is optimized to take full advantage of it, but such is not the case for Android.
AAC should be your last resort as an Android user if all other codecs are incompatible with your headphones. Regardless, it’s not a great choice for gaming and high-res listening, but you can make do with it if you’re using it for casual listening.
Developed by Sony, LDAC is similar to aptX Adaptive. While the latter adjusts freely as per the signal strength, the former switches between three preset bitrates—a factor that determines audio quality.
Even though LDAC performs better when the signal strength is good, the switch between the preset bitrates is bothersome when the connection deteriorates. For this reason, LDAC is ideal only if the signal strength is strong, and you want to listen to high-res audio. Due to its low latency, it’s also great for gaming and watching videos.
LHDC, short for Low-Latency and High-Definition Audio Codec, is developed by the Hi-Res Wireless Audio (HWA) Union and Savitech. It offers high-res audio quality while also minimizing the latency. It’s a good choice for listening to high-fidelity audio and watching videos.
Enhancing the low latency features, HWA released a new variant of LHDC called LLAC (Low-Latency Audio Codec). Apart from significantly lowering the latency, LLAC retains great audio quality—making it a good pick for mobile gaming.
How to Change Bluetooth Codec on Android
Once you decide which codec you want to use, and which is compatible with your headphones and supported on your phone, you can set about changing it.
- Go to your device Settings.
- Tap on System.
- Navigate to Developer options (you may need to turn on the Developer options first).
- Find the Bluetooth audio codec menu.
- Select your preferred option.
On top of choosing a codec from the given ones, you can also install new ones on your device. To enable and disable them, you can use the Enable optional codecs and Disable optional codecs options.
Tweak Your Bluetooth Settings to Improve Audio Quality
Even though wireless is yet to reach its apex to compete with wired technology, you can still get a slightly better audio quality and lower latency by simply switching your Bluetooth codec. No one codec is the absolute best at everything, but aptX Adaptive and LDAC work well enough for almost all purposes.
Wireless headphones are convenient, but wired headphones have them beat in all other areas, hands down.
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