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What is LDAC and how does it affect wireless audio quality?

If you’ve bought a pair of Sony wireless headphones in recent years, you may have noticed that they claim to be LDAC compliant. So what exactly is LDAC and what benefits does it confer?

LDAC is a wireless audio codec

LDAC is a proprietary wireless audio codec developed by Sony. It is unclear exactly what the acronym stands for, as Sony has never defined it. The codec is different from older Bluetooth streaming technologies in that it uses a combination of lossy (when possible) and lossy compression to deliver high-resolution audio.

Sony LDAC codec
Sony

The codec uses 330/660/990 kbps bit rates at 96 and 48 kHz sample rates or 303/606/909 kbps for 88.2 and 44.1 kHz sample rates. This exceeds the bit rates seen in older technologies like Bluetooth Special Interest Group SBC (345 kbps at 48 kHz) or Qualcomm aptX (384 kbps at 48 kHz), which it should result in better sounding audio.

Despite the marketing, only the higher bit rate of 990 kbps qualifies the codec as a truly wireless Hi-Res Audio solution. An in-depth look at technology by SoundGuys examines why this is the case in great detail and concludes that LDAC falls short when it comes to 24-bit / 96kHz studio-quality recordings.

LDAC is not the only attempt to bring high resolution audio to the world of wireless headphones. Qualcomm introduced aptX HD (also known as aptX Lossless) in 2016 to enable higher bit rate transmission of 576 kbps on compatible Bluetooth headsets.

How can LDAC be used?

While Sony developed the technology and continues to push it forward in its own products, the LDAC encoder is of Open Source . This has led to it being included in many more products, including the Android 8.0 “Oreo” released in 2017. If you have an Android device running Oreo, you can probably use LDAC with compatible wireless products.

Sony WF-1000XM4
Sony

Since the technology was developed by Sony, you will mainly find LDAC support in Sony products. This includes your best earphones wireless WF-1000XM4 and also headphones to put on over ear WH-1000XM4 . Anker Life has adopted LDAC support for some headphones (such as Soundcore Q35 ), while gaming headset Audeze Mobius they can use LDAC to listen to music.

You can also use LDAC with select active wireless speakers, home theater setups and sound bars, dedicated portable audio players in the Walkman range, Bluetooth headphone amplifiers such as the BTR3 by FiiO and even car receivers like the Kenwood KKX9020DABS .

There is no LDAC support in any Apple product at present, so you cannot use the higher bit rates that LDAC supports with an iPhone, iPad, or AirPods. Other popular wireless headphones like the Jabra Elite 75t they lack LDAC support in favor of SBC and AAC.

How to enable LDAC on Android

Many Android devices support LDAC, but the feature must be enabled through a developer menu. To do this, first, enable developer options on your android phone. Then head to Settings> Developer Options> Bluetooth Audio Codec, where you should be able to select LDAC from the list.

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