Sep 1, 2021
Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.
Our latest consumer audio research, the , shows that sound is now more important than ever to consumers, and that audio devices are an integral part of day-to-day life for working, relaxing and staying connected to loved ones. We sat down with Qualcomm Technologies International’s James Chapman, VP of Voice, Music and Wearables to learn more about this year’s audio consumer survey results and our latest Qualcomm aptX Lossless audio technology, which is available as part of our Snapdragon Sound technology offering.
Tell us more about the State of Sound report
We conduct this consumer research annually, and this year we surveyed 6,000 smartphone users in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, China, India, and Japan. The data we collect really helps us to better understand what’s driving audio device purchases, how consumer use of audio devices is changing and provides important insights into emerging trends. This year we looked closely at the true wireless earbud category, gaming and remote working to really understand what matters to consumers who are using earbuds, headphones, speakers, and other audio products. We also looked at how the pandemic has shaped consumer listening behavior amongst those we surveyed.
What’s the biggest takeaway this year?
The biggest takeaway for me is that sound, whether it’s voice or music, has become more important than ever for consumers. The COVID-19 pandemic has driven increased use of and reliance on audio devices. Over 73 percent of respondents said that listening to music, podcasts and other media had a positive effect on their wellbeing during this period. 62 percent said they rely on audio devices in their daily life, 59 percent said they use wireless headphones and earbuds for calls when working from home, and over half said they use headphones or earbuds to stay in touch with friends and family on voice or video calls. This really resonated with me. When we launched Snapdragon Sound earlier this year, I talked about how important sound is from both an emotional and productivity standpoint – and it’s really interesting to see how much it means to consumers, especially in these challenging times.
How are you responding to these evolving needs?
Our Snapdragon Sound technology – an optimized chain of audio software designed to provide a high quality, low-latency, robust sound experience for music, calls, and gaming – continues to gain momentum. This technology was designed to meet evolving consumer demand for premium sound experiences and to provide the ultimate wireless sound experience; however and wherever consumers are using audio. Great sound is vitally important to the overall mobile experience. In fact, our survey showed that over 70 percent of respondents said good audio in their wireless devices allows the best experience when using their smartphone.
The survey shows increasing demand for higher res and even lossless audio. Do you have plans to address that?
Year on year, sound quality remains the highest ranked purchase driver for audio products – and quality-related features such as high-resolution and high-definition audio are increasingly important as differentiators. This year, over half of respondents said they were interested in lossless or high-resolution wireless audio. Our Snapdragon Sound technology already delivers true 24-bit 96kHz audio over Bluetooth, which is designed to help you hear every detail of your music just as the artist intended. We’ve also just announced support for 16-bit 44.1kHz CD lossless audio over Bluetooth – this is a new feature of our proven aptX Adaptive technology and Snapdragon Sound. It is designed to scale up to deliver CD quality 16-bit 44.1kHz lossless audio over Bluetooth for wireless earbuds and helps meet growing demand for lossless audio streaming. If you think about it more simply, this is replicating the original audio –and is mathematically bit-for-bit exact –ensuring you hear the richness of the original performance. With Snapdragon Sound, OEMs will be able to support a range of audio formats including CD lossless, HD 24-bit 48khZ, and high resolution 24-bit 96kHz – all with robust connectivity for a reliable listening experience. This is a world first of completing the ‘last mile’ for CD lossless audio over Bluetooth.
What were the technical challenges you had to overcome to help your customers deliver lossless?
There’s been increasing consumer interest and demand for lossless audio quality, which has been accelerated by Apple’s recent announcement that their entire music catalogue is now available in lossless. Many other streaming services, including Amazon Music, also support lossless. What’s important to point out is that Bluetooth technology wasn’t designed to support lossless audio; it simply doesn’t have the data throughput required. To deliver CD lossless quality over Bluetooth technology we took a systems level approach and optimized a number of our core audio and Bluetooth technologies to work together better and enable aptX to scale to deliver CD lossless quality for real-world use cases. This integrated approach requires aptX Adaptive, which is a variable bit rate codec, working in conjunction with Qualcomm High Speed Link technology that helps deliver bit-rates of over1Mbit/s. These technologies work seamlessly together (and without any input from the user) to scale up and down to provide bit-perfect lossless audio when RF conditions are optimal in congested RF environments to minimize glitching.