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At CES: New Bluetooth LE is the Standard’s Biggest Update in 20 Years

Bluetooth LE, the biggest update to Bluetooth in its nearly 20-year history, incorporates the Low Complexity Communications Codec (LC3).

Las Vegas, NV (January 10, 2020)—The group of companies that sets the Bluetooth standard (Bluetooth SIG) introduced Bluetooth LE Audio at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. LE, which stands for low energy, is an improvement of Bluetooth’s current technology, called Classic.

LE offers several new features, including higher-quality audio, the ability to stream audio to multiple pieces of technology and improvements for hearing aids. The new technology also increases gadgets’ battery life.

Bluetooth LE operates on a newer audio signal compared to its Classic technology. LE Audio will include a new high-quality, low-power audio codec, the Low Complexity Communications Codec (LC3). Providing high quality even at low data rates, LC3 will bring tremendous flexibility to developers, allowing them to make better design tradeoffs between key product attributes such as audio quality and power consumption.

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“Extensive listening tests have shown that LC3 will provide improvements in audio quality over the SBC codec included with Classic Audio, even at a 50% lower bit rate. Developers will be able to leverage this power savings to create products that can provide longer battery life or, in cases where current battery life is enough, reduce the form factor by using a smaller battery,” said Manfred Lutzky, head of Audio for Communications at Fraunhofer IIS

The new version allows LE Audio to implement new features, including support for multi-stream audio. That would make it easier for multiple people to listen to the same audio source at once. It could also enable Bluetooth broadcast, in which a venue like a mall or a concert hall could beam music to anyone who with a set of headphones.

People with hearing aids will also receive improvements because LE Audio will soon support the devices. The new audio “will enable the development of Bluetooth hearing aids that bring all the benefits of Bluetooth audio to the growing number of people with hearing loss,” the company said in a press release.

Your old headphones won’t support the new technology, though. LE Audio can’t be updated through software, and it requires new hardware updates that will be released later this year.

Bluetooth SIG • www.bluetooth.com

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