Bluetooth® LE Audio - Better Audio Quality, Longer Playtime and New Features

LE Audio is the next generation of Bluetooth Audio, making audio streaming over Bluetooth Low Energy possible. It enables new use cases and significantly reduces power consumption compared to Classic (BR/EDR) Audio. LE Audio will have a wider set of features, lower power consumption, and better perceived audio quality. The new Bluetooth LE Audio, allows for more flexible processing of audio signals, evolutionizing existing applications such as headphones and hearing aids, and creating new applications and markets for audio streaming.

LE Audio is based on Bluetooth LE and the power-saving Low Complexity Communications Codec (LC3) developed by the Fraunhofer Institute. This combines higher audio quality than Classic Audio with low data rates which enable developers enormous flexibility. In addition, various product features can be matched better, for example energy savings can be used to either extend battery life or to use smaller batteries.

LE Audio offers three new interesting features and opportunities:

Multi-Stream Audio allows for multiple audio streams between an audio source and different sinks. These streams can be highly synchronized to ~10µs. Coordinated device sets can be created where multiple devices are treated as one device. This allows for example truly wireless earbuds to be connected to an audio source with no need to use one of the earbuds to relay the data.

Auracast™ broadcast audio is a new Bluetooth® capability that will deliver life-changing audio experiences. It will let you share your audio, unmute your world, and hear your best, enhancing the way you engage with others and the world around you. The Auracast™ function allows one or more audio streams to be sent to many audio sink devices from one audio source device. However, the number of audio sink devices is unlimited here. This opens up completely new use cases for sharing audio experiences.

When an Auracast™ transmitter, such as a TV, smartphone, laptop or similar, starts a broadcast, it contains one or more audio streams as well as information about the broadcast, such as name, content, codec configuration, etc. Corresponding assistants, i.e. Auracast™-enabled smartphones, smartwatches or hearing aids, search for this alert. Then, users can select the broadcast via their user interface - just as one connects to a WiFi network today. Once a broadcast is selected, the Auracast™ assistant relays to the receiver (e.g., headphones or earbuds) the information it needs to join the broadcast. 

For example, people can use personal audio sharing to enjoy music or podcasts via their smartphone with family or friends within Bluetooth range. In the public sector, for example, airports or train stations, bars, gyms, cinemas or conference centers can share Bluetooth audio and in this way pass on information or music to their visitors.

The SBC, Low Complexity Subband Codec, that is used in Classic Audio as a well-established Codec works well but is quite old. The new LC3 uses about half the data for even higher perceived audio quality. It's possible to reduce the bitrate even lower without losing much perceived audio quality. This low data rate is a key factor in minimizing the power consumption of your products. The LC3 will also be available at a later date as an optional Codec for Bluetooth Classic Audio.

nRF5340 Audio DK

The nRF5340 Audio Development Kit (DK) is the recommended platform for Bluetooth LE Audio products and contains everything needed to start development. The kit is configurable and can function as a USB dongle to send or receive audio data from a PC. It can also function as a Business Headset, a broadcast receiver, or a True Wireless Stereo (TWS) Earbud. For most use-cases, recommend using two or more DKs.


The three main components of this DK are the nRF5340 SoC, nPM1100 power management IC, and Cirrus Logic’s CS47L63 Audio DSP. The CS47L63 is a high-performance low-power audio DSP for earbud headphones and other portable audio devices. The CS47L63 combines a programmable Halo Core DSP with a variety of power-efficient fixed-function audio processors. The high-performance DAC and differential output driver are optimized for direct connection to an external headphone load. It is perfect for earbuds with mono-only and direct speaker output.



The DK Includes:

  • Two 3.5 mm audio jacks for analog in and headphones out
  • Five user-programmable buttons and LEDs
  • SD-Card holder for extra storage if needed
  • SEGGER J-Link debugger for programming and debugging
  • Connectors to access the analog/digital interfaces, and GPIOs

Key Features:

  • Bluetooth LE Audio support ­
  • Based on our nRF5340 SoC ­
  • 2.4 GHz antenna ­
  • Two 3.5 mm audio jacks ­
  • Cirrus Logic Audio DSP CS47L63 ­
  • SWF RF connector for direct RF measurements ­
  • 5 user-programmable buttons ­
  • 4 user-programmable LEDs ­
  • SEGGER J-Link debugger on board ­
  • Pins for measuring power consumption ­
  • SD-Card holder for additional storage

Applications:

  • LE Audio
  • Headphones ­
  • Hearing Aids ­
  • Audio Guidles ­
  • Office Headsets ­
  • Audio Broadcast Solutions ­
  • Conference Speakerphones

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Introduction to Bluetooth LE Audio

Nordic is the market leader in Bluetooth Low Energy and a frontrunner when it comes to developing LE Audio solutions. Bluetooth LE Audio is the next generation of Bluetooth Audio. Join in this webinar to learn more about LE Audio, how it was developed, what features and advancements it will bring to the wireless audio market, and what Nordic has to offer you in developing your Bluetooth LE Audio products and prototypes.
 


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