(Pocket-lint) – Qualcomm has launched Snapdragon Sound – an initiative which aims to be a benchmark for up to 24-bit 96kHz HD audio.
Essentially, Snapdragon Sound guarantees a certain level of HD audio quality between compatible phones and headphones with low latency and high-quality voice calls, too.
Of course, both those phones and headphones need to use Qualcomm hardware inside and only the latest 800-series Snapdragon phone platforms are supported. The earphones also need to be using one of the QCC514x, QCC515x and QCC3056 chipsets at present.
So yes, Snapdragon Sound is built on top of Bluetooth and yes, it’ll be the preserve of Qualcomm-based Android devices only.
While consumers will see Snapdragon Sound as a label on boxes, it’s likely that many consumers won’t know that they’re experiencing the technology or not.
High-quality audio is set to be a key battleground of the next couple of years though, so the initiative is well-timed. Spotify recently announced it will introduce a HiFi tier later in 2021.
Qualcomm has said that Xiaomi and Audio-Technica are the first customers for the tech, and although Qualcomm hasn’t confirmed this, the recent Xiaomi Mi 11 falls into the category of compatibility since it uses the new Snapdragon 888 platform. It seems that we’ll get new earbuds from Xiaomi as well as Audio-Technica though, probably in the middle of the year.
Qualcomm chipsets also appear in earphones from Bose, Sennheiser, Anker, Jabra and more and so it’s likely this will be fairly widely adopted.
The question is, do people care enough to invest in high-quality audio? Qualcomm’s head of voice, music and wearables James Chapman understandably thinks so: “We think people really want high definition audio for a number of reasons. First of all, they’re really relying on true wireless earbuds.
“It’s no longer true that anyone would, for example, have a high end wired headset, just because they want to listen to great music. People are buying true wireless earbuds, and they’re expecting those to deliver them a great audio experience, whatever they’re doing, wherever they are.
“We’re also seeing a particularly strong rise in HD music streaming, [there have been] a number of announcements recently.”
Qualcomm has teamed up with Amazon Music HD for this launch – the service currently has over 70 million HD tracks. Chapman again: “We’re lucky enough to have them come and talk with us. They are extremely passionate about HD quality music, and they are seeing real engagement and increased uptake from their consumers when they start to stream in HD.
Chapman suggests that the whole reason we had poor quality streams to start with was “we were struggling with storage sizes, we were struggling to get the size [down] and the rates. That’s no longer an issue.”
Writing by Dan Grabham.