When Apple first announced that it would be removing the 3.5mm headphone jack from its phones, the world went crazy. After all, how could you possibly listen to music decently without a cable? A few years later and any form of headset with a cable feels incredibly outdated. It’s not just the quality of sound that has improved, but the battery life which many feared would simply just not last long enough. The technology has seen significant improvements with many headsets easily lasting a full day of listening, with charging cases and fast charging technology meaning that you never really run out of power on these things.
Qualcomm wants to tackle that last slight problem with wireless headphones, with a new chipset that improves the Bluetooth connection to them and adds better noise cancellation for lower-end devices. The company has announced (via The Verge) a pair of new Bluetooth chips designed for wireless earbuds, the Qualcomm QCC514x and QCC304x SoCs. Both chipsets will support Qualcomm’s TrueWireless Mirroring technology for more reliable connections, along with integrated, dedicated hardware for Qualcomm’s hybrid active noise cancellation and onboard support for digital assistants.
According to Qualcomm, its TrueWireless Mirroring handles connections to a phone through a single earbud, which is then mirrored (hence the name) to the other earbud, which cuts down on the amount of synchronisation needed (in theory) for a more reliable connection. If you take out the primary earbud, the system is designed to transition the connection seamlessly over to the mirrored earbud as well. The system also helps make sure that a pair of headphones show up as a single connection to a phone, instead of “two” separate headphones.
The new chipsets will also feature “hybrid ANC,” which promises integrated noise-cancellation technology while also enabling what the company describes as “leak-through” for outside noise. Qualcomm also says that the new chips are more power-efficient, promising better battery life (even with noise-cancellation enabled). They are all features that the more expensive headsets (like Apple AirPods) will already provide, but Qualcomm is hoping these chipsets will now enable all devices to have these features.
As for the difference between the two new earbud chips, the more expensive QCC514x offers always listening wake-word activation for voice assistants while the cheaper QCC304x will require the push of a button to enable this integration.
The wireless headset market is certainly a crowded one with many devices not quite living up to a decent standard. Hopefully, we will see this change with new chipsets designed to level that playing field. At least until the top brands bring even more features to the table. The company did not reveal when these chipsets will be releasing or how much they will set back manufactures to use. Though with them being aimed at lower-end devices, you would expect the cost to not be too prohibitive.
Last Updated: March 26, 2020