The best Bluetooth headphones can be ruined by a simple, elusive setting

Sony WH 1000MX3 Bluetooth pairing

Credit: Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Opinion post by
Thomas Triggs

While the majority of us are well acquainted with Bluetooth audio, not so many of us are aware of Bluetooth audio codecs. They dictate the quality, connection stability, and power usage of the data conversation between any two wireless devices. All A2DP-enabled devices — i.e. any modern phone or headphones — host the SBC audio codec by default. However, LC3 / LE Audio looks to replace this imminently and some Bluetooth 5.2-capable devices already offer LE (Low Energy) audio. While this relatively new technology takes time to roll out en masse, there are a plethora of high-quality audio codecs users can already take advantage of today.

Audio codecs dictate the quality, stability, and power use of a headphone’s Bluetooth connection. But they’re hide-and-seek champions on Android.

That said, we’re not always shown our audio codec choices in a user-friendly way. For example, I recently paired my Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro earbuds with my OnePlus 9 Pro. Without receiving any notifications, I assumed my devices would pair via the highest-quality connection available. After digging around in my phone’s settings, I realized they were in fact paired over the basic SBC codec. This connection offers up to 320Kbps of transfer speeds, but it loses a lot of audio data and quality in the process. Considering Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro are capable of streaming 250Kbps of AAC quality audio, this isn’t what I’d hoped for.

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