At this point in time, I’ll say that the world of wireless audio is still at its infancy. We have a slew of wireless audio codecs in the world right now. Two of the most prominent ones right now are Sony’s proprietary LDAC and also Qualcomm’s aptX standard.
As the 3.5mm audio jack is going away permanently, we’re forced to use wireless audio most of the time. We play our games and listen to music on wireless earphones or headphones now – so which one has the least audio latency? We’ll be answering that question today.
Our tests for today
It’s simple – since we have the Sony WH-1000XM3, we decided to do the test entirely using the Sony WH-1000XM3 alone. This headphone has Bluetooth for both aptX and LDAC codecs, alongside a 3.5mm audio jack. We have a true apples to apples comparison here.
Hence, we did all of these tests, using the Samsung Galaxy S10+ (review) as our smartphone of the day:
- Using the audio jack on the Sony WH-1000XM3 (turned off)
- aptX LL with the GuliKit Route+ Pro (review) and the Ugreen Wireless Audio Receiver connected to the Sony WH-1000XM3 via audio jack
- Basic aptX via Bluetooth
- LDAC using Bluetooth
We also turned off any Sony-specific sound quality enhancements, optimizations, or ANC, or ambient sound listening. With these 4 tests laid out, we decided to do our test.
Audio latency results
The results are intriguing, actually. Take a look here.
Since the test is done entirely with the Sony WH-1000XM3 alone, we can say with confidence that this is a solid reference on audio latency comparison between direct audio jack, aptX, aptX Low Latency, and also LDAC.
This test is also completely separated from other true wireless earbuds audio latency test because the Bluetooth connection is only between the phone and the headphone itself. True wireless earbuds require connection to both earbuds and to be synchronized perfectly between the two earbuds.
We didn’t get to test SBC codec here because the Sony WH-1000XM3 seems to force itself back to aptX when we selected SBC. That’s unfortunate as SBC is the most common Bluetooth audio codec, but we think it’s okay since Qualcomm’s aptX is getting widespread support nowadays.
A few key takeaway points here regarding this test
- LDAC is created to transmit “high-resolution audio content” (high bitrate audio) through Bluetooth, as described here.
- LDAC is not optimized for gaming, only for Hi-Res audio.
- The audio latency between LDAC and aptX didn’t differ much.
- The audio latency of aptX and LDAC is still more than double of aptX LL.
- Wired headphones/earphones is still the best when it comes to audio latency.
And think we’re at a splitting point now since high-end smartphones are killing the audio jack, and we need dongles to use the headphone jack. Or, like the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 series and the Galaxy S20 series, including a USB-C earphone instead.
If you want to charge and game on your earphone/headphone at the same time, there are dongles like the Black Shark 2-in-1 dongle as shown here.
Either way, I think we’re at the point where the audio jack is getting killed way too prematurely, and Bluetooth audio is struggling to catch up. there are too many misleading product descriptions that say “ultra-low latency” but turned out to have a horrendous audio delay.
Here’s our playlist of videos covering the topic regarding Bluetooth audio latency.
Since we’ve pretty much covered all there is to test about Bluetooth audio latency as of now, we can safely say that if you’re using Bluetooth headphones/earphones on your Android phone, there will be audio delay. It’s unavoidable at this state of technology despite what the other brands claim to have.
The best wireless audio with the least audio delay is aptX LL – but that doesn’t work with true wireless earbuds. Also, microphone doesn’t work. We could also lower the audio quality for lower latency – but it’s annoying to have to toggle between modes.