Quick: Count how many Bluetooth devices you own. Chances are, it’s a lot more than you thought.
With Bluetooth functionality built into billions of devices, from wearables to smart household appliances, it’s easy to take this ubiquitous technology for granted. But the spec has vastly improved since it was introduced two decades ago, incorporating better speed, range, security and data capacity with each iteration.
When it comes to audio quality, it used to be a no brainer: Because of low data speeds and the severe file compression needed to transmit audio over Bluetooth, wired sound was always the better-sounding option. But as codecs have evolved with each generation, the difference in fidelity between wired and wireless connections has grown harder and harder to distinguish.
What makes Bluetooth 5 so much more robust when it comes to audio than its predecessor, Bluetooth 4.2? In short, it can transmit eight times more data, at twice the speed, across four times the range. Let’s look at how those key advantages impact sound. (Note: Although Bluetooth 5 is backward compatible, all connected devices must feature Bluetooth 5 technology to reap these benefits.)
Efficient Energy Consumption
To move data efficiently, Bluetooth operates in Classic and Low Energy modes: Bluetooth Classic was designed to support devices like wireless keyboards, mice, headsets and speakers. Bluetooth Low Energy, or BLE, minimizes the energy usage of peripherals like beacons, wearable sensors and low-power Internet of Things (IoT) devices. In previous versions of Bluetooth, BLE operated with significant restrictions: Wireless headphones and speakers couldn’t communicate over BLE, and had to rely on the more power-hungry Bluetooth Classic. The good news is, Bluetooth 5 allows audio devices to communicate over Bluetooth Low Energy, which means reduced power usage and longer battery life for your gear. For example, AKG K371-BT headphones, which support Bluetooth 5, can operate up to 40 hours on its internal battery.
Bluetooth 5 has four times the operating range of Bluetooth 4.2, boasting a maximum reach of up to 800 feet/240 meters with direct line of sight, or about 40 meters/131 feet in typical indoor use. This means you can transmit audio to speakers over greater distances, with fewer dropouts. Performing live? Stream audio to Bluetooth 5 P.A.s like the JBL IRX series from virtually anywhere in a venue. JBL EON ONE Compact portable P.A. users can even adjust their mixes remotely over Bluetooth 5. (Remember that walls and other physical obstacles will weaken the signal, as they do with wi-fi.)
Better Speed and Data Throughput
Bluetooth 5 offers data transfer speeds of up to 2 Mbps—double the rate supported by Bluetooth 4.2—with eight times the capacity. Remember that Bluetooth technology compresses audio data so it can be transferred more efficiently, and higher-resolution audio requires more data; these improvements translate to higher bitrate streaming, with less delay, for handling the highest quality wireless audio available. These advances, paired with the professional-grade audio quality of devices like AKG K361-BT and K371-BT headphones or JBL 104-BT desktop monitors, make critical listening or just enjoying high-fidelity music over Bluetooth a reality.
Dual Audio Broadcasts
Bluetooth 5’s increased bandwidth allows broadcasting to two devices at once. This means you can you can stream a second audio program, transmit audio to multiple rooms, create a stereo effect, or share audio between two sets of headphones. Referencing mixes in different listening environments just got a lot easier.