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Sony 'donation' improves Bluetooth audio in Android O — but there’s a catch



Google released the first developer preview of Android O today, and we’ve got a round-up of all the newly-announced features ready for your consumption. Although we touched upon all of the big hitters, we felt one in particular deserved a special mention.

Audio beamed to Bluetooth headphones and speakers will sound a lot better on Android O, thanks to Sony. The company has ‘donated’ (Google’s word) its proprietary LDAC wireless audio encoding format.

Why is this so significant? Well it sends three-times more data through Bluetooth than competing standards.

Sony describes the tech as follows: "LDAC is an audio coding technology developed by Sony that enables the transmission of High-Resolution (Hi-Res) Audio content, even over a Bluetooth connection."


This could mean far superior audio, especially for hi-res tracks, through wireless headphones on smartphones and tablets upgraded to Android N.

Great news, right?

But before you go congratulating Sony and dishing out some kind of humanitarian award for the gesture, the firm isn’t doing it out of the kindness of its heart.

As you may have guessed, the LDAC format is currently limited to headphones built by Sony, such as the £330 MDR-1000X and other compatible products.

Related: Sony MDC-1000X review

Whether Sony will be kind enough to cheaply license LDAC to other headphone and audio accessory manufacturers remains to be seen, but we won’t be holding our breath (via Engadget).

Elsewhere, Google says, Sony Mobile has contributed other 30 feature enhancements and 250 bug fixes to Android O.

Would this be a reason for you to invest in a new set of wireless headphones? Or will it encourage you to buy your first pair, full of hope your hi-res tracks will actually sound decent now? Share your thoughts below.


March 21, 2017, 10:49 pm

The funny thing is bluetooth 5.0 which was released last year (and has been largely designed for high res audio) and will now be filtering into devices (such as the S8) has 800% more bandwidth than BT 4.2 at twice the speed and 4x the range, and won't need ldac at all. So adding ldac to 'O' might provide very short term benefit to users with older devices that have ldac, but to anyone else it will shortly make no difference as any newer device that has bt 5.0 will not need ldac anyway.


March 22, 2017, 1:15 pm

The problem is that Bluetooth's native audio codec, SBC, has not been advancing along with Bluetooth itself. So while Bluetooth gets greater bandwidth and range with the new versions, the audio quality remains the same as it has been since around version 2. Sure, you get much better audio quality with AptX or LDAC, but both of these are proprietary technologies that manufacturers have to license. What we need is for Bluetooth's SBC codec to be improved or replaced.

Michael Simmons

May 19, 2017, 12:47 am

Sorry, this is incorrect. The BLE channels of BT5.0 improved 800% in capacity for advertising packets over BT4.2, but audio is streamed over the BT Classic channels, which are effectively unchanged in BT5.0. There is an upcoming Audio over BLE spec, but this is 2 years away, and LDAC (or similar codecs) will actually allow decent quality audio to be streamed over BLE channels when that happens (whereas SBC will not be able to). So, LDAC is quite useful for BT audio devices as it turns out...

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