Following the sound: Qualcomm unveils new Snapdragon platform for wireless audio

The Qualcomm platform tackles audio from the phone to the earbud

Qualcomm is hoping to address consumer wireless audio frustrations with the announcement of Snapdragon Sound, a new end-to-end optimized audio platform. According to the company’s VP & GM, Voice & Music and Wearables James Chapman, the only way to do that is to truly “follow the sound.”

“If you want to get the best possible sound,” Chapman explained at a press pre-briefing, “the way you do it, is not just to look at the earbud or the phone. You have to follow the sound, all the way through the phone, out over the wireless link and all the way through the earbud and into your eardrum and optimize that whole experience.”

This is why Qualcomm went back and looked at its mobile platforms and technologies, its processing and connectivity technologies and its audio and video technologies and asked how the audio experience between all of them could be optimized.

“Snapdragon Sound is an optimized chain of audio technologies and software to enable seamless, immersive audio experience across mobile devices and wireless audio accessories,” Chapman said. “The phone and the earbuds.”

For the phone-side of the equation, Qualcomm paired up the Snapdragon 800-series chips with the FastConnect 6900 connectivity system, and when it comes to headsets and earbuds, there are the QCC514x, QCC515x and QCC3056 series Bluetooth Audio SoCs.

Snapdragon Sound supports high-resolution 24-bit 96 kHz audio, ultra-low latency, improved pairing and crystal-clear voice quality. It has also demonstrated Bluetooth latencies as low as 89 milliseconds, which Chapman claimed is 45% lower than a leading competitor, allowing for more immersive gaming and a better video watching experience.

The system has been designed to be resistant to interference from other Bluetooth or Wi-Fi signals, so that it can provide glitch-free audio even in busy environments. Qualcomm also designed things to make pairing easy after you take your new headset out of its box.

Xiaomi has signed on to be the first to bring Snapdragon Sound to mobile devices, while headphone maker Audio-Technica will be working with Qualcomm on the audio accessory side.  

“The truth of the matter is that wireless audio, though everyone is demanding it, it still has its pain points,” Chapman acknowledged. “People want something that was just like that wired set of headphones. Fantastic audio quality, super low latency, never ever glitches. They want that, but they are insisting on it in a wireless form factor. That’s what we’re trying to deliver.”

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