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LDAC vs Snapdragon Sound: How do they compare?

It’s an issue that’s plagued Bluetooth streaming and music lovers from the beginning. How do you get enough bandwidth to be able to listen to a high quality file over Bluetooth?

Bluetooth is great for many things, it’s a wireless transmission technology that unites and links a range of devices together. It’s unlikely that there’s not a device in your home or in your pocket that doesn’t use Bluetooth.

But when it comes to audio it has struggled in presenting audio at a high enough quality. So, various audio brands and tech companies have been devising solutions to extract as performance as they can with a Bluetooth connection. That’s led to the creation of LDAC and Snapdragon Sound.

LDAC was created by Sony, while Snapdragon Sound is a solution devised by Qualcomm. They both aim to do the same thing, which is improve audio quality over a Bluetooth connection. Here are the ways they do it, and the ways they compare with one another.

Both aim for 24bit streaming

Both companies would claim their technologies enable lossless streaming, or at the very least, you can listen to Hi-Res Audio.

It rather depends on what you consider to be lossless/High-Res audio quality. LDAC satisifes the requirement of the Japan Audio Society’s High-Res Audio Wireless with a transfer rate of 990kbps. You could, in theory, listen to a file at 24-bit/96kHz.

Sony LDAC chart
credit: Sony

The same is true for Snapdragon Sound, and both utilise scaling bitrates. LDAC can hit as low as 330kpbs if you’re on a particularly busy connection. Snapdragon Sound uses the aptX Adaptive codec, which can fall to as low as 279kbps and hit as high as 860kbps.

That would suggest that at their highest level of performance, LDAC ekes out a better performance; but both at their lowest level aren’t streaming in lossless but transmitting at lossy quality (compressed files with data lost during streaming).

Both are Android based

Are you an iPhone or iOS user? You’re out of luck as far as these two audio technologies are only implemented on Android.

Sony’s LDAC is embedded within the Android platform, so technically all an audio manufacturer would need to do is buy the licence and flick the LDAC switch on (at least that’s how we imagine the process looks like) and they can support the streaming tech.

Realme 9 home screen
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Snapdragon Sound is supported by Android, but as far as we can tell, it’s not embedded into the platform and requires testing and certification to have the Snapdragon Sound badge.

And in order to listen at highest possible quality (aptX Lossless), you’d need a source and device that supports the codec. But as Snapdragon Sound isn’t built into the Android ecosystem in the manner LDAC is, you’d still need specific smartphones as not every Android phone supports aptX Lossless.

There is some brand crossover

Perhaps we need to look a little closer, but as far as we can tell, brands offer a choice of either LDAC or Snapdragon Sound. There aren’t too many brands that conveniently support both, though ironically Sony Mobile does.

On the LDAC side you have the likes of:

1More, Anker, Audeze, Audio-Technica, Astell&Kern, ASUS, Cayin, Edifier, FiiO, Fujitsu, Google, Hidizs, HiFiMan, HTC, Huawei, InterAction, iFi, iRiver, JVC Kenwood, LG, miniDSP, Oppo, Panasonic, Pioneer, Realme, Shanling, Shure (original Aonic 50), Sharp, TEAC, Technics, Vivo, Xiaomi, and of course Sony.

Sony WH-1000XM5 red and blue
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

That list includes a variety of devices including smartphones, DACs, soundbars, headphones, wireless speakers, and portable music players.

On the Snapdragon Sound side there is:

Bowers & Wilkins, Shure, Denon, FiiO, Asus, Yamaha, Final, Master & Dynamic, Cleer Audio, Sony Mobile, Edifier, Motorola, Cambridge Audio, Asus, Vivo, Sennheiser, Bose, iFi, SoundPeats, Nubia, Nothing, Sharp, Xiaomi, Audio-Technica, Nura, LG, Noble Audio, and EarFun.

There are more brands besides the ones we’ve mentioned, but perhaps the most interesting takeaway is that is neither is restricted to being available on premium products. There are headphones for less than £100 that support either LDAC and Snapdragon Sound.

Bowers Wilkins Px8 Burgundy hanging
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

LDAC is on smartphones and portable music players

If there’s an area we haven’t seen Snapdragon Sound make as much of a stride into, it’s the portable music player market. Snapdragon appears to preocuppied with covering the smartphone base, while LDAC covers both, notably FiiO, Astell&Kern, iRiver, and Hidizs portable players.

Astell Kern SR35 Fiio compare
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Considering these players have Android’s global SRC turned off, a feature that actually restricts the quality of audio on the platform, there’s more potential on a portable music player to hear music in the way it was intended (over a Bluetooth connection).

Snapdragon Sound offers more benefits than just audio

LDAC is primarily for transmission of audio over Bluetooth, but Snapdragon Sound is made up of a number of technologies brought together.

QualcommEarBuds Qualcomm Sound Platform
credit: Qualcomm

Benefits of Snapdragon Sound include ultra-low latency for audio, video, and gaming so audio/video remains in sync. Qualcomm also states that pairing between devices is improved and voice quality is clearer (presumably this is for calls rather than dialogue).

Other benefits include longer battery life by using less power, while with the adaptive performance (like LDAC) it can ensure the best possible performance in areas where there is a weak signal or interference.

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