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Bluetooth's LE Audio allows better audio quality, hearing aid support

The latest version of Bluetooth, called LE Audio, enables enhanced wireless performance, support for hearing aids and unlimited users.

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This story is part of CES 2020, our complete coverage of the showroom floor and the hottest new tech gadgets around.

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group on Monday announced at CES the latest version of Bluetooth. It's called LE Audio and it offers improved audio quality and lower battery use.

Bluetooth audio will soon support two operation modes: LE Audio, which operates on the Bluetooth Low Energy radio; and Classic Audio, which operates on the Bluetooth Classic radio (aka BR/EDR).

In addition to enhancing the performance of wireless audio, LE Audio also adds support for hearing aids and enables multiple users through Audio Sharing.

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SIG

Part of LE Audio, the new Low Complexity Communications Codec is designed to compete with the existing SBC by offering comparable audio quality at a 50% lower bit rate. This means less power consumption by compatible devices.

Meanwhile, multistream audio enables "transmission of multiple, independent, synchronized audio streams between an audio source device, such as a smartphone, and one or more audio sink devices." Translation: better audio quality than existing headphones.

The combination of low power, high quality audio and multistream capabilities also lets LE Audio add support for hearing aids.

Lastly, LE Audio also allows multiple users to share a single stream with broadcast audio for audio sharing. It lets a device broadcast to an unlimited number of nearby audio sink devices. It will likely be used for contained broadcast environments such as airports and airplanes, or bars with multiple TVs.

The SIG is expected to release the LE Audio Bluetooth specifications throughout the first half of 2020, which means we likely won't see compatible devices before 2021.