Qualcomm has developed a USB to Bluetooth dongle system to connect wireless headphones and earphones with low latency to a PC, smartphone or portable console.
If we mainly know Qualcomm for its chips embedded in smartphones or on certain laptops, the American firm is also a major player in the world of wireless audio with its components for Bluetooth headphones and earphones.
However, Qualcomm does not intend to be satisfied with only classic wireless headphones and earphones and, in order to offer more solutions for end users and manufacturers, the firm announced on Wednesday a new solution for listening to headphones and wireless headphones.
This solution is actually based on the Qualcomm S3 Gen 2 platform already launched by the firm. Only, rather than integrating it on headphones or earphones that would be connected to a smartphone, a PC or a console not compatible with the various assets of Snapdragon Sound, Qualcomm has decided to also integrate it on USB dongles.
Bluetooth dongles that masquerade as USB headsets
In concrete terms, this should make it possible to see more wireless headphones or earphones associated with a small USB-A or USB-C key to be connected directly to a computer, smartphone or console on the market. Only, unlike all the headphones or earphones currently on the market with this type of dongle, the Qualcomm platform is not based on 2.4 GHz waves, but on Bluetooth. More specifically, Qualcomm is using Bluetooth 5.4 here associated with the Bluetooth LE Audio standard and its own in-house Snapdragon Sound solution.
According to the American brand, this solution would have the advantage of allowing a gain in autonomy compared to current solutions, as well as greater compatibility, since it suffices that the device to which the dongle is connected is compatible with audio by USB to recognize the dongle. This is in fact passed off as a simple USB headset with Android, Windows or macOS. Another advantage compared to a classic Bluetooth connection: lower latency. According to Qualcomm, we can expect with this solution a Bluetooth audio latency of only 20 ms, against around 200 ms currently on Bluetooth headphones or earphones. A drastic reduction which is explained by the fact that the wireless signal is generated directly by the dongle and not by the OS.
Obviously, such a low latency will mainly be aimed at players, on PC as well as on smartphone or portable console, with a dedicated mode. However, Qualcomm’s solution will also allow you to enjoy high quality sound thanks to Snapdragon Sound compatibility or the aptX Adaptive codec.
Headphones and earphones planned in the coming months
As usual, Qualcomm will not sell dongles directly to the general public, but will offer its platform to third-party manufacturers so that they can equip their own dongles. According to the supplier, the vast majority of solutions will be offered automatically with pairs of headphones or Bluetooth headsets launched on the market and pre-paired with a dongle. Remember that, for some time now, several manufacturers have been offering headphones or earphones supplied with a 2.4 GHz dongle. Qualcomm’s solution could thus be an alternative to these generally low-autonomy solutions. However, it will be possible to connect the dongles to other Bluetooth headphones or earphones if the user wishes, in particular to take advantage of the Auracast function available with Bluetooth LE Audio.
It is not yet known when the first Bluetooth headsets and headphones will be released, supplied with a dongle of this type. Qualcomm, however, indicated that several brands were already working on such products, without giving the name of its partners.
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