Qualcomm aptX – What Is This Obscure Feature?
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First off, it’s not developed by Qualcomm to begin with. It’s actually by Dr. Stephen Smyth who did it for his PhD research, and eventually formed a company called CSR, then acquired by Qualcomm as of 13th August 2015. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll just call it the Qualcomm aptX in this article.
To learn more about it, I of course went on over to Qualcomm’s page to learn more. That didn’t help much actually, as the website just go about and briefly explained what it is, and then listed out what it is most suitable applications. Surprisingly, aptX algorithm had been around for 25 years, but I’m very sure that a majority of us have just heard of this feature – including me.
To take advantage of Qualcomm aptX, I’ll definitely need a compatible device first. Heading over to their Products page doesn’t help either – as it’s not updated.
That aside though, I find it rather intriguing to know that there are actually a lot of smartphones out there that supports Qualcomm aptX, but never advertised it on every single advertisement they put out – particularly the ASUS ZenFone series. The ASUS ZenFone 3 that we’ve reviewed here supports aptX actually.
What does it do?
From what I can find, the Qualcomm aptX is an algorithm made specifically for Bluetooth transmitted audio. There are 3 different variants – the general Qualcomm aptX, the aptX-HD, and aptX Low Latency.
I suppose the one we’re handling on the Beyerdynamic Byron BT is the basic Qualcomm aptX variant of the algorithm, as there is no mention of it being the Low Latency or the word “HD” anywhere.
Through out my research though, I found out that the benefits it gives is said to be significant. In case you haven’t realize already, Bluetooth headphones and earphones generally have a one-word description – they suck. That’s because CD-like quality over Bluetooth can choke the entire connection, causing the connection to have a non-continuous audio stream from the source device.
aptX however focuses to fix this through their audio codec. How well it works however, is a completely different question.
How to use it?
To know if your device will take full advantage of Qualcomm aptX or not is simple. Just pair it via Bluetooth. If it supports aptX, then it’ll have a special notification telling you that it’s paired with Qualcomm aptX. If it doesn’t display Qualcomm aptX, that means the device does not support it.
Pretty straight forward and simple, if you ask me.
Is it any different from basic Bluetooth?
Qualcomm claims that the aptX gives off a “consistent, high-quality audio over Bluetooth“. I completely agree with Qualcomm on this statement. Keep in mind – the Qualcomm aptX that I’ve tested with the Beyerdynamic Byron BT isn’t the HD version, as only the HD version will bring high-res audio capability.
I then tried the Byron BT on MP3 and FLAC format music with aptX – and there were definitely no connection dropping. And that’s the point of this technology – it’s meant to do one sole purpose of “bit rate reduction and achieved significant bit rate efficiencies while preserving audio quality“.
It should be noted that there should be some battery drainage difference between aptX and non-aptX technology. Through my test however, it seems to be insignificant
Should you care about Qualcomm aptX?
I didn’t even mention about the sheer cost to get into Qualcomm’s aptX ecosystem. You’ll need two parts – a compatible receiver, and a compatible sender. As Qualcomm’s very own website is not up to date anyway, it’s pretty difficult to find out if your smartphone supports Qualcomm aptX. It’s better if you get a compatible audio device first, then bring your audio device over and pair with the smartphone and see if the message “Qualcomm aptX” comes out or not.
I personally think that Qualcomm aptX is definitely a value-added feature. It’s not a feature that will tip the choice between buying or not. Getting a piece of audio equipment that sounds fantastic without Qualcomm aptX is a better path, in my opinion. If it does come with Qualcomm aptX however, it’s definitely a welcomed added bonus.
For me who listens to music through Spotify’s high-quality streams (which is essentially ~320kbps), the sound isn’t much different – if there is any difference.
One thing I have to note however is the audio latency – or lack thereof. I have no idea what magic aptX is based on, but since it’s a technology that minimizes delay in Bluetooth audio, it has my full support. Have you ever imagined watching a video via Bluetooth speakers with the audio being out of sync with whatever image is showing?
So, here’s the final conclusion I can make about this technology. Qualcomm aptX is an audio codec algorithm that minimizes its bitrate while preserving its audio quality. It’s not an algorithm or any technology that enhances your audio quality. If the source audio quality sucks, then even a $1,000 speaker will sound bad.
For simplicity’s sake, I shall list out everything noteworthy that we’ve talked about in this little guide.
- Qualcomm aptX is an algorithm.
- Does not enhance the audio quality. Your low-quality recording will still sound bad, but higher quality ones can have its quality maintained through Bluetooth transmission.
- It essentially lowers bitrate while preserving audio quality.
- Doesn’t strain the Bluetooth connection’s bandwidth.
- Needs compatible receiver and sender.
- Qualcomm aptX’s product page isn’t equipped with the latest information. Best to do your own separate research.
- Presumably saves some battery.