Hands on with AptX Lossless, the new tech promising CD-quality audio over Bluetooth

Hands on with AptX Lossless, the new tech promising CD-quality audio over Bluetooth

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CD-quality euphony is inactive the benchmark for decent audio; it’s not rather hi-res, but it’s noticeably amended than the lossy, compressed euphony recovered connected Spotify and your aged MP3 library. But really listening to uncompressed CD-quality euphony connected a telephone tin inactive beryllium tricky if convenience is besides important. The root worldly needs to beryllium precocious capable prime successful the archetypal place, and erstwhile it reaches your telephone you request a mode to get it to your headphones without that other audio prime being compressed away. Easy capable successful an epoch of wired headphones, but a small much hard with wireless earbuds.

Qualcomm’s caller AptX Lossless modular is expected to yet adjacent the spread betwixt the fidelity of CD-quality audio and the imperfect compression of Bluetooth. Accessing it is inactive harder than it should be, but aft having spent an day comparing it against its predecessor, the quality successful prime is precise overmuch there. 

The NuraTrue Pro earbuds, extracurricular  of their case.

8 hours of complaint from the earbuds themselves.

NuraTrue Pro charging case.

The charging lawsuit offers an other 24 hours of artillery life.

It’s taken a spot of clip for hardware to look that really supports the caller modular since it was archetypal announced implicit a twelvemonth ago. In June, audio institution Nura announced the archetypal brace of earbuds with enactment for AptX Lossless, but lone a fistful of smartphones connected the marketplace are really compatible with the caller codec. That’s yet starting to change, though, with phones specified arsenic the Asus Zenfone 9 shipping with built-in enactment AptX Lossless. Nura provided maine with a illustration of the telephone to beryllium capable to decently enactment its caller earbuds done their paces.

The NuraTrue Pro themselves are a reasonably emblematic looking acceptable of existent wireless earbuds. They connection 8 hours of complaint from the earbuds themselves, an other 24 hours from the case, and travel with 4 microphones connected each earbud to grip calls and noise-canceling. These microphones are besides liable for Nura’s trademark personalized dependable technology, which it claims measures your ears to optimize audio for them. Nura is presently backing the earbuds through a Kickstarter campaign, which says that the earbuds are expected to motorboat successful the 4th fourth of this year.

So what’s AptX Lossless?

Critically, Nura’s wireless buds enactment Qualcomm’s AptX Lossless standard. The spot shaper says the caller Bluetooth exertion is capable to transmit CD-quality audio (16-bit / 44.1kHz), without immoderate nonaccomplishment of item (hence “Lossless”). That’s successful opposition to its erstwhile highest-resolution codec, AptX HD, which is inactive heavy compressed contempt claims of it transmitting audio that sounds connected a par with 24-bit / 48kHz oregon adjacent 24-bit / 96kHz. 

Despite its lossless branding, AptX Lossless isn’t entirely compression-free. There’s inactive immoderate compression astatine enactment present to bring 1.4Mbps CD-quality audio down to the 1Mbps bit-rate that AptX Lossless is susceptible of transmitting. But the quality present is that the compression being utilized shouldn’t effect successful immoderate nonaccomplishment of data, and is “bit-for-bit” exact. “After it’s uncompressed it’s precisely the aforesaid arsenic the original,” Nura CEO Luke Campbell says, “Think of a ZIP file. It gets smaller, but it’s precisely what it was erstwhile it comes out.”

The investigating methodology

For my tests I made usage of Apple Music’s Lossless audio streaming. I verified that I had each audio prime settings acceptable to their highest disposable option, and checked the circumstantial audio resolutions listed for each track. In immoderate cases these tracks were really higher-resolution than the CD-quality audio that AptX Lossless is susceptible of transmitting, but that shouldn’t substance for the purposes of my comparative test.

In mentation the trial should beryllium comparatively simple, but Qualcomm’s bundle doesn’t marque it peculiarly casual to spot erstwhile you’re streaming via AptX Lossless. The caller codec is technically an hold of AptX Adaptive, the company’s preexisting codec that dynamically scales your audio’s bitrate depending connected your environment. So erstwhile I connected the NuraTrue Pro earbuds to the Asus Zenfone 9, a Qualcomm tooltip popped up to enactment that I was connected via “Snapdragon Sound” and “AptX Adaptive” without specifically mentioning lossless. But betwixt Nura’s confirmation, maine listening successful an uncrowded location, and Qualcomm’s AptX tract specifically mentioning that the instrumentality supports AptX Lossless, I’m assured that I’m proceeding lossless audio. 

Neither Qualcomm’s bundle nor Android springiness you an casual mode to toggle betwixt antithetic versions of AptX to bash an AB test. Instead, connected Campbell’s suggestion, I took vantage of the NuraTrue Pro’s multipoint connectivity to straight comparison listening via an AptX Lossless-compatible handset (the Asus Zenfone 9) with a regular AptX HD-compatible telephone (the Honor 70). With this setup, I could person Apple Music streaming losslessly to some phones, and past person the NuraTrue Pro connected to each 1 successful crook to spot what, if any, quality successful audio prime I could discern.

The results

To my ears, AptX Lossless appeared to supply a small-yet-noticeable interaction connected audio quality. It wasn’t a nighttime and time quality (turns retired Bluetooth audio compression truly has gotten beauteous damn bully successful caller years), but they were the benignant of insignificant differences that are enjoyable to prime retired successful acquainted tracks. A small other clarity here, a small other extent there.

Turning to “Hotel California” by Eagles (which Apple Music reports was streaming astatine a hi-res 24-bit / 192kHz), the benefits of Lossless seemed astir evident successful the precocious frequencies. The plucked guitar notes successful the song’s intro had much brightness and sparkle with the Bluetooth prime cranked up to lossless, and each instrumentality passim the way felt much contiguous and audible. It ne'er sounded bad erstwhile listening connected the Honor 70, but the Zenfone 9 conscionable had that small other spot of detail.

That’s not to accidental the differences were stark, and intelligibly the prime of the mastering of the way has a large portion to play. I tried listening to “Lithium” by Nirvana (24-bit / 44.1kHz, a smaller measurement up from CD-quality) and it was overmuch harder to archer the quality betwixt the 2 audio codecs. Maybe Cobain’s opening guitar riff and vocals had somewhat much abstraction astir them with AptX Lossless enabled, but I uncertainty I’d beryllium capable to archer the quality successful a unsighted test. The differences were somewhat much evident successful a busier instrumentality similar “Territorial Pissings,” which sounded muddier connected the non-AptX Lossless device, but the quality was minor.

Next up I tried immoderate techno with “Elliptic” by Vessels (16-bit / 44.1kHz, aka CD-quality). While the non-AptX Lossless handset felt similar it was getting a small overwhelmed by the track’s thumping bass, the Zenfone 9 gave it a overmuch much balanced sound, with higher pitched audio sounding overmuch much salient successful the mix, and fixed much abstraction to breathe. It astir felt similar AptX Lossless was helping to un-bury the opus from a oversea of bass.

Finally I gave “Maps” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs a perceive (24-bit / 44.1 kHz). Here, each of the instruments felt much three-dimensional erstwhile streamed via AptX Lossless. They sounded little similar parts of a euphony track, and much similar carnal instruments that had been recorded successful a studio. 

NuraTrue Pro earbuds, 1  successful  the charging case, 1  outside.

Nura’s trademark dependable personalization tech is inactive present.

In each lawsuit I’d conflict to telephone the improvements offered by AptX Lossless transformative. But it felt similar it added that small other spot of item that I often didn’t recognize I was missing. It’s astir similar that infinitesimal erstwhile you commencement streaming a video, and it looks good close up until that infinitesimal erstwhile it buffers decently and pops into focus. It didn’t look “bad” before, but the 2nd you spot it successful its highest prime you go alert of the deficiencies. 

There are ever tons of variables erstwhile investigating audio gear, and I wouldn’t privation to gully immoderate last conclusions astir AptX Lossless from the clip I spent with the NuraTrue Pro. The codec could person a much pronounced interaction connected higher-end and/or over-ear headphones oregon with antithetic songs, for example. But, based connected my listening, the interaction AptX Lossless had was subtle capable that I personally wouldn’t unreserved retired to bargain a caller brace of headphones based connected the audio codec unsocial (sorry Nura), and I definitely wouldn’t bargain a caller telephone to get support. Even fixed the prime betwixt 2 pairs of headphones, I’d astir apt prime based connected subjective audio prime alternatively than which exemplary has the much precocious audio codec connected its spec sheet. 

Ideally, AptX Lossless would conscionable go 1 of those audio features supported by capable smartphones and headphones that you payment from it without realizing. But portion AptX is broadly supported crossed galore wireless headphones and Android phones, it’s remained absent from iPhones and AirPods. Lossless Bluetooth streaming mightiness beryllium a large upgrade for immoderate audiophiles who hatred the thought of listening to lossy audio, but its subtle benefits mightiness beryllium a harder merchantability for much mainstream listeners.

A enactment connected crowdfunding:

Crowdfunding is simply a chaotic tract by nature: companies looking for backing thin to marque large promises. According to a study tally by Kickstarter successful 2015, astir 1 successful 10 “successful” products that scope their backing goals neglect to really present rewards. Of the ones that bash deliver, delays, missed deadlines, oregon overpromised ideas mean that there’s often disappointment successful store for those products that bash get done.

The champion defence is to usage your champion judgment. Ask yourself: does the merchandise look legitimate? Is the institution making outlandish claims? Is determination a moving prototype? Does the institution notation existing plans to manufacture and vessel finished products? Has it completed a Kickstarter before? And remember: you’re not needfully buying a merchandise erstwhile you backmost it connected a crowdfunding site.

Photography by Jon Porter / The Verge

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