Nearly 2 Years Later, How Has Bluetooth® LE Audio Impacted Wireless Listening?

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By David Ball | 2Q 2024 | IN-7291

Bluetooth® LE Audio has heralded novel wireless listening experiences, new market opportunities, and a palpable response from chipset vendors and consumers. Nonetheless, challenges for the technology remain and there is still progress to be made in establishing an ecosystem around the new standard.

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Novel Features Bring New Opportunities for LE Audio


Only halfway through 2022 did the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) make available the complete suite of Bluetooth® Low Energy (LE) Audio specifications first announced in 2020. In 2023, ABI Research published “An Elaborate Rundown on Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) Audio,” emphasizing how features such as the Low Complexity Communication Codec (LC3) and Auracast™ broadcast audio can help reduce power consumption, latency, and enhance audio quality, while enabling multiple audio streams for innovative personal and public audio sharing use cases. Since then, LE Audio support has been announced from leading chipset vendors such as Qualcomm, Broadcom, MediaTek, Airoha, Nordic Semiconductor, NXP, Realtek, and Telink, among others. There are now nearly 700 products that have undergone—or are in the process of undergoing—Bluetooth SIG qualification that supports the LC3 codec, including chipsets, modules, smartphones, Personal Computers (PCs), tablets, headsets and earbuds, Televisions (TVs), speakers, hearing aids, and transmitter and receiver devices. More than 300 of these products already support the Public Broadcast Profile that will provide Auracast™ broadcast audio functionality.

The advent of LE Audio has the potential to usher in novel, and enhanced, audio use cases. Auracast™ broadcast audio is arguably the most compelling emergent feature, which enables audio streaming to an unlimited number of devices (e.g., speakers, headphones, and earbuds) from a single LE Audio-enabled transmitter. This is particularly relevant for hearing assistance: those who are hard of hearing can seamlessly tune into broadcasted announcements in public venues, such as transport hubs, sports stadiums, and airports, using more compact and longer-lasting LE Audio-enabled hearing aids or true wireless headsets. According to ABI Research, there are more than 60 million venues globally that could potentially benefit from assistive listening or augmented audio experiences.

Auracast™ broadcast audio also offers practical benefits beyond assistive listening applications. Users can draw upon LE Audio to listen to muted TVs, museum tours, and conferences. Devices such as smartphones, PCs, and true wireless headsets and earbuds, will also be able to leverage the battery-saving potential and improved audio quality offered by LE Audio, alongside taking advantage of Auracast™ broadcast audio-related use cases. New opportunities could also emerge in appliances or sensor-related applications, providing an audio readout via Auracast™ broadcast audio as a new method of interacting with the environment. Growing device support and the emergence of new applications hint at a bright future for LE Audio. However, challenges for the technology remain.

Consumers Are Braced for LE Audio Innovation


Chipset manufacturers and device Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) alike have been quick to respond to this new market opportunity. In partnership with ReSound, Nordic Semiconductor unveiled a TV streamer that employs Bluetooth® LE Audio connectivity for hearing aids. Many existing LE Audio-capable devices are now receiving firmware updates to support LE Audio and Auracast™ broadcast audio capabilities, further adding to the growing number of source devices that support the technology. Headsets and true-wireless earbuds such as the Samsung Galaxy Buds2 Pro, and smart TVs, including the 2023 Samsung Neo QLED 8K and MICRO LED series, are now LE Audio-enabled after receiving such updates. While the mass market transition to Auracast™ broadcast audio support may take some time, both from hardware and software perspectives, encouraging signs for adoption include LE Audio support in Android 13, support within Samsung’s Galaxy S23 series via its One UI 6.0 update, and recent announcements that Windows 11 will add support for LE Audio and Auracast™ broadcast audio.

In December 2023, Listen Technologies, a provider of wireless listening technology, and Ampetronic, a leading provider of induction loop systems, announced they were partnering to develop the first complete installed assistive listening system that will utilize Auracast™ broadcast audio technology. The solution will include networked transmitters capable of supporting any size space, alongside multi-channel broadcast capabilities and the option for both secure and open transmission. To meet local accessibility requirements, this solution will also include dedicated receivers and charging solutions to enable venues to provide users without Auracast™ broadcast audio devices to use the system. This announcement marks a critical moment in the development of an Auracast™ broadcast audio ecosystem within public venues. However, as ABI Research argued in its recent Auracast™ Broadcast Audio Retrofit Solutions and Opportunities report, there is much more that can and needs to be done to accelerate adoption and make it a widely deployed technology over the next 5 to 10 years.

From the consumer perspective, one-third of respondents to Qualcomm’s 2022 State of Sound Report listed new features offered by LE Audio as a key factor in determining their next wireless audio device purchase. In Qualcomm’s 2023 State of Sound Report, the alignment of consumer needs with LE Audio offerings has continued, with longer battery life and improved sound quality maintaining their importance in the minds of consumers. Furthermore, as hybrid work patterns first instituted by the pandemic remain, multifunctional and assistive audio devices remain high on consumers’ wish lists. The ability to connect to audio streams in public settings, share music with friends on multiple devices, and improve hearing in professional and social situations, are also high on the list of priorities for consumers. LE Audio is, therefore, particularly attuned to these evolving market demands. Reflecting this, ABI Research forecasts a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 50% between 2023 and 2028 for LE Audio-enabled device shipments.

Alongside attracting customers through new use cases, LE Audio also holds the potential to attract customers when accompanied by complementary wireless audio innovations. Qualcomm’s S7 Sound Platform, which combines Bluetooth® and low-power Wi-Fi capabilities in a single chipset, enabling the ability to switch between Bluetooth® and Wi-Fi streaming to stay connected even when out of the range of Bluetooth®, as well as higher quality audio over Wi-Fi, is one such example. Meanwhile, LE Audio will continue to evolve as Bluetooth® itself targets higher data rates and new frequency bands over time.

Trends, Timing, and Integration Are Key for LE Audio


  1. Lean Into the Needs of Consumers: As discussed, LE Audio aligns closely with the mores of the modern consumer: mobile, eager for elevated experiences, and increasingly connected. Improved audio quality, extended battery life, and new audio streaming functionality offered by LE Audio offer compelling solutions to meet consumer demands. These can potentially help provide new innovations in crowded markets such as true-wireless headsets and foster more accelerated upgrade cycles.
  2. Timing Is Key for the Transition to Single-Mode LE Audio: The vast majority of leading Bluetooth® wireless chipset vendors in the audio market are continuing to offer dual-mode solutions: supporting both Bluetooth® LE and Bluetooth® Basic Rate/Enhanced Data Rate (BR/EDR). In the current Bluetooth® audio landscape, this is a sensible strategy. Because LE Audio is still in its infancy, there will be a lag in the presence of the technology in consumer products. Without Bluetooth® BR/EDR support, LE Audio-enabled sink devices would be rendered useless when attempting to pair to a source device without LE Audio support (of which there are many). Dual-mode chipsets will therefore lead the market for the foreseeable future. Only until an inflection point is reached for the presence of LE Audio in source devices will this dynamic shift. However, there may be some innovative ecosystem-based approaches where vendors differentiate via LE Audio-only solutions, and LE Audio will open up opportunities for new chipset vendors to enter the market that do not have an existing portfolio of Classic solutions.
  3. Watch Out for Wi-Fi and UWB in the Wireless Audio Arena: In a bid to subvert the proximity-based limitations of Bluetooth®, some chipset providers are integrating Wi-Fi capabilities into their wireless audio solutions. This will allow users to continue streaming audio across Wi-Fi networks, beyond the range of a Bluetooth® host device. Qualcomm’s S7 Sound Platform is one such example. It is set to enter earbuds, headphones, and speakers of Snapdragon Sound partners such as Audio-Technica, Bose, and LG this year. A Wi-Fi revolution for wireless audio devices will not sound the death knell for Bluetooth® audio: quite the contrary. Rather, it signals a move to greater integration between wireless protocols in a bid to enhance user experience. Chipset vendors and OEMs should, therefore, regard it an as opportunity to be integrated into certain chipset solutions and consumer applications. Some vendors are also now investigating Ultra-Wideband (UWB) for audio-related purposes, and may present an additional opportunity for vendors to differentiate on low-latency, high-quality audio devices in areas such as gaming headsets or other premium segments.
  4. Accelerate Adoption of Auracast™ Broadcast Audio via Retrofit Solutions: As ABI Research argued in its Auracast™ Broadcast Audio Retrofit Solutions And Opportunities report, dedicated USB-C, HDMI, auxiliary dongles, transmitter, and receiver devices can help enable Auracast™ broadcast audio and LE Audio connectivity within existing devices such as smartphones, PCs, games consoles, TVs, and other sources. Long replacement cycles mean that it will be several years before public audio systems, silent TVs, and other public audio sources are also embedded with Auracast™ broadcast audio capabilities as standard. Retrofit transmitter solutions can, therefore, help enable swifter rollouts of new consumer-facing and assistive listening experiences without the need to wait to replace existing audio systems with those embedded with Auracast™ broadcast audio technology as standard.