Quality of BlueTooth Audio these days? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 23 Old 07-30-2013, 10:01 AM - Thread Starter
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Hello,

I've always read that Bluetooth audio is inferior to direct analog cables. However, looking at the specs of the latest Bluetooth specs (3.0, 4.0) leads me to believe there is plenty of bandwidth for playing 256kbps mp3 music. Has anyone found this to be the case or does anyone have experience with listening to 3.0 or 4.0 Bluethooth audio?
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post #2 of 23 Old 07-30-2013, 10:24 AM
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I have no experience with new specs, but I've auditioned a number of AptX capable bluetooth speakers, and while the codec provides improvement end-to-end over bluetooth alone it's still not an acceptable experience in my opinion. The problem is not exclusive to the transport or compression, the quality of earphones and speakers continues to be subpar.

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post #3 of 23 Old 07-30-2013, 10:42 AM - Thread Starter
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I suspected as much. I suppose the best option would be to use one of those stand-alone Bluetooth dongles that you plug-in your existing headphones, assuming the (de)codec is good enough. The audio port on my Galaxy S4 doesn't ground when the music isn't playing so any direct connection has as much buzz as a floating, unconnected yet amplified cable (when paused or in between songs)--very annoying that a major commercial device is so poorly designed (compared to Apple).
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post #4 of 23 Old 07-30-2013, 01:15 PM
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The next Bluetooth Codec, A2DP, ( which iirc is in some Samsung phones now) is supposedly able to stream at 320 kbps. Being an iPhone owner, I haven't tested this, but in theory that should be good enough that I'd be willing to do it
if Apple ever gets their game together.

http://soundexpert.org/news/-/blogs/bluetooth-audio-quality-a2dp
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post #5 of 23 Old 07-30-2013, 02:29 PM - Thread Starter
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Most all of my songs have been mp3 (Lame) converted to around 180 vbr, so that bandwidth should be plenty to capture all the information in my mp3s. However, it's difficult to find audio quality reviews of BT devices from audiophiles (typically, tech reviewers just say it sounds good). In the meantime, the Chromecast looks like a potentially fine way to play music from my Android phone to my AVR (similar to Apple's Airplay). However, my portable aux-in speakers will just have to wait.
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post #6 of 23 Old 07-31-2013, 09:23 AM
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Forgive my late reply, I've been trying to find frequency response and similar measurements for the popular bluetooth streamers (belkin, logitech, etc...) but have been having trouble finding such information. I think, however that we can safely assume that most of the streamers measure well enough to be of little worry to you- and considering that you are streaming lossy files, I would have little concern over the quality.

I am having some trouble confirming the ability to stream music through a chromecast via Android phone- they don't make it obvious; it looks like it was made more for syncing Google Chrome and using apps such as Netflix- so I guess it would work with online music players, but not necessarily application based players a la iTunes. You'd have to check with whatever music player you have on your phone and whether it will hookup to the Chromecast to confirm the ability to play your music.
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post #7 of 23 Old 07-31-2013, 12:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alexwgoody View Post

The next Bluetooth Codec, A2DP, ( which iirc is in some Samsung phones now) is supposedly able to stream at 320 kbps. Being an iPhone owner, I haven't tested this, but in theory that should be good enough that I'd be willing to do it
if Apple ever gets their game together.

http://soundexpert.org/news/-/blogs/bluetooth-audio-quality-a2dp

A2DP is a streaming transport mechanism rather than a codec. AptX (codec with compression algorithm) contains support for higher bitrate audio (384kbps for 2 channels).
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexwgoody View Post

Forgive my late reply, I've been trying to find frequency response and similar measurements for the popular bluetooth streamers (belkin, logitech, etc...) but have been having trouble finding such information. I think, however that we can safely assume that most of the streamers measure well enough to be of little worry to you- and considering that you are streaming lossy files, I would have little concern over the quality.

I am having some trouble confirming the ability to stream music through a chromecast via Android phone- they don't make it obvious; it looks like it was made more for syncing Google Chrome and using apps such as Netflix- so I guess it would work with online music players, but not necessarily application based players a la iTunes. You'd have to check with whatever music player you have on your phone and whether it will hookup to the Chromecast to confirm the ability to play your music.

Agreed. As stated above the limitation is the tiny speakers and poor boxes provided today. Quality of the stream, at higher bitrates, already exists. I haven't seen any FR charts for bluetooth speakers, I probably don't want to see them smile.gif . From those I've tried, I like Braven Audio 650 (with support for AptX) for sub $200, Beacon Audio Phoenix for $100. I own both. I'd like to hear the Braven 850, but it's larger and more expensive at $300. At this price point I'd rather sink money into my good systems wink.gif

You and me both! My Chromecast arrived but I was away all weekend, need time to play with it. The Chromecast should support Google Play for onboard audio but not sure. I do know that if your phone or tablet contains lossless audio files we're currently out of luck.

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post #8 of 23 Old 07-31-2013, 01:36 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the replies. Just an unfortunate note: the Beacon Audio Phoenix is $50 at Amazon these days. Is it a good speaker for shaving/showering (not IN the shower)?
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post #9 of 23 Old 07-31-2013, 03:36 PM
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^^ for $50 you can't really go wrong. As long as you have low expectations of audio quality, realistically any of the existing speakers will work. The Phoenix provides ample output without the distortion of some of the others I tried.

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post #10 of 23 Old 07-31-2013, 03:49 PM
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I have a JBL Charge portable BT speaker which is ~$80 more ($130). Sounds surprisingly good and loud if needed for it's size. (as is said about all of them) but really it is not tinny, decent 'bass', non fatiguing.
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post #11 of 23 Old 11-06-2013, 01:30 AM
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Even plain old Bluetooth with SBC encoding goes up to 320 kb/s. This must at least be equal to 128 kb/s MP3. I honestly can't tell the difference between wired and using my HS3000 receiver with my Klipsch Image X10i. The iPhone doesn't support aptX and the receiver doesn't support MP3/AAC so it's using SBC.

Even if the receivers supported AAC (the iPhone can stream AAC) I don't know whether phones will still reencode using AAC or stream the original file.
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post #12 of 23 Old 05-05-2014, 04:27 AM
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That's a very good question actually : does anyone here know whether the iOS device reencodes the AAC file for it's bluetooth transmission or does it stream the original file provided the bitrate is compatible ?

 

That said are there many AAC compatible BT receivers out there ? so far I've only found and tested Nokia's BH-610 headset and NuForce S3-BT speakers. Maybe there are more out there but I've always been surprised how little promotion is made over this by equipment manufacturers.

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post #13 of 23 Old 05-22-2014, 05:33 PM
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I have noticed an issue with audio quality. I have 2 Bose Soundlink Minis and an AR Bluetooth speaker. I feed them from a variety of devices (laptop, iPhone, ipad). The other day, I was listening to some classical piano music with a soundlink mini and I noticed a slight distortion on solo notes. I put my ear next to the speaker and heard a background noise that sounded vey like the sound you hear from a poorly shielded sound card in a PC (a kind of modulated hiss). This sound was interacting with single piano notes in quiet passages, making them sound a little like they would through a speaker with a damaged cone. I tried different input devices and different audio sources, but the noise was still there (it is much less noticeable with no classical music and is not obvious from a normal listening distance). I then repeated the procedure with the other Soundlink mini and the AR with the same result. The noise seems to be digital in nature and was pretty much the same on all speakers and for all inputs. Has anyone else noticed this? You need to be close to the speaker to hear it.

One of my test passages was a classical piece by Gerald Finzi, 'Eclogue.' It is available on Spotify and the first few notes of the piece show this effect very well . I'd be interested if others hear this kind of thing on their music (you have to have your ear close to the speaker. The volume does not have to be high). This noise would appear to be a significant, limiting factor in Bluetooth sound quality.

Best,

Brian
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post #14 of 23 Old 05-28-2014, 08:06 AM
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I have been experimenting with the less expensive BT transmitters and receivers on the market.

 

Perhaps some of you will be interested in the conclusions.

 

Built in BT on inexpensive products is still poor.

 

The BT transmitter on my small ASUS Vivobook is slow to connect, maintains a unreliable, short range connection and is prone to stuttering. An add on USB dongle http://en-uk.sennheiser.com/btd-500-usb solves the problems and offers close to perfect audio. My Antec SP1 BT speakers are better but not by much. They get easily confused when there are multiple transmitters, have a short range and the flashing light system used to help in the tuning process stopped working almost immediately.

 

Those generic BT dongles you get on eBay are surprisingly good for the money.

 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bluetooth-Receiver-Speaker-systems-Wirelessly-Black/dp/B00CL9AC0Q They are all the same. If you shop around you can find a pair for as little as $30. Very impressed by these. They seem to work better (i.e almost transparent) with mp3s than full fat audio but I might be making that up. Either way I was amazed how good these are for convenient, casual listening. It's a cheap and easy way to convert virtually any of your existing gear to wireless operation. I have a receiver taped to my headphones. One click instant conversion between wired and wireless operation. A transmitter paired with a Sansa Clip works well too.

 

More expensive semi branded units are better but not by much.

 

This is my favourite. http://www.belkin.com/uk/p/P-G3A2000/ Permanently plugged into an audio interface. The NFC really works. Tap a phone on it and you are connected. Loads of fun when you have company. Grabs any signal and hangs on like a limpet. Be nice if it had aptX but other than that a brilliant little gadget. Both this and the USB transmitter I use http://en-uk.sennheiser.com/btd-500-usb seem to have longer range and stronger pairing than the less expensive ones above but the audio isn't significantly better in any way.

 

Don't know anything about the more expensive stuff.

 

So far haven't felt the need. Started at the bottom of the price range and worked up until I was satisfied. I wouldn't use BT audio as part of my 'main' chain yet but for fun and convenience it's well good enough without breaking the bank or going proprietary.

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post #15 of 23 Old 05-28-2014, 12:42 PM
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I'm just recently reading up on bluetooth audio, and I don't quite understand why BT 3.0/4.0 can't just stream a CD-quality lossless signal? An audio CD contains 1.5Mbit/sec of raw data. Even uncompressed, this seems well within the specification of BT 3.0 (with a maximum 24Mbps data rate), without the need to resort to using a special codecs or compression. Heck, couldn't they just stream it in FLAC? This is something I really don't understand.
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post #16 of 23 Old 08-26-2014, 12:48 PM
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I'm being hard pressed these days to keep my cd-player given the quality I'm getting when streaming my FLACs via aptX.
But only for background music.

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post #17 of 23 Old 10-13-2014, 12:18 AM
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Some interesting BT products on the horizon.

Audioengine has the B1 which is an apt-x receiver.

Peachtree Audio has the DeepBlue2 in the works & from Mass Fidelity the Core.

Mark Conner

Last edited by damon; 10-13-2014 at 12:20 PM.
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post #18 of 23 Old 10-17-2014, 01:12 PM
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It's reached the point where my BT connection is just as good as the AUX jack in my car. I've given up on wires/cables, at least for mp3 type "on the go" sound.

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post #19 of 23 Old 10-17-2014, 10:29 PM
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IMO it's ok if you are playing lossless files non-critically. I have yet to find a blue-tooth receiver that can stream native mp3 even though it is an allowed codec. Ever receiver I have seen requires re-encoding all of the music. So if you are listening to Pandora or mp3s or any other compressed audio, the get compressed again and it just sounds terrible IMO. Lossless is ok as it only gets compressed once.

Greg
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post #20 of 23 Old 10-20-2014, 04:25 PM
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I think in depends on ... Bluetooth WHAT?

You can add Bluetooth capability to a $10,000 Stereo system, or you an buy a Bluetooth speaker of various sizes, or you can buy a tabletop Bluetooth music player. However, those are not equivalents.

When I am out walking around, with wind and traffic and general background noise with plenty of things to distract my attention, MP3 is fine. It has its time and place.

Now inside for serious listening, I'm not playing MP3. However, not all listening is serious listening. If I am busy working on my computer, playing music pretty much fall into the background. In this case, I might use either my main system or my computer system, it really doesn't matter. Computer Audio ~ $300, Main system ~ $2500.

Now if I were they type of person who kept a lot of my music on my Smart Phone, it might be handy to play music from my phone to my audio system. Something to listen to while I check Facebook, or cook a meal, or otherwise engage in assorted activity. Perhaps something in the background while I read a book. In this case, Bluetooth seems perfect. And the newer better Bluetooth, even more perfect.

But there are limits. If I want serious listening, it is not going to be Bluetooth. But how often and I ... or you ... actually engages in truly serious listen. Listening when we are not also distracted by other things?

I have no interest in small self-contained Bluetooth Players. I have better systems than that. But for teenager in their bedroom, a self-contained (BT receiver, amp, speakers) system might be the perfect thing.

For somewhat less than serious listening, Bluetooth might be a way to connect a computer full of music to a fair stereo system. Give the price of BT transmitters and receivers, it is probably the most economical method of wireless streaming. I suspect the quality equals that of Internet Streaming Services.

I think it is a mistake to try to fit all things into one box. Bluetooth can have its time and place. It seem like it would be very convenient to those with busy schedules and lots of Smart Devices in their home.

One size never fits all. But each size can have its place, and I see a very real time and place for Bluetooth Audio in the modern digital home.

Just a few thoughts.

Steve/bluewizard

Last edited by bluewizard; 10-20-2014 at 04:30 PM.
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post #21 of 23 Old 10-22-2014, 03:03 PM
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Core backers initial test reaction:

http://vimeo.com/109520269

Mark Conner
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post #22 of 23 Old 10-22-2014, 03:23 PM
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Bet that an AudioEngine B1 > Wyred4Sound Remedy combo from a good source could change a lot of people's mind about BT. Would not be cheap , but if you get more use from your $10K audio investment ??

Mark Conner
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post #23 of 23 Old 11-13-2014, 11:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by briansxx View Post
I have noticed an issue with audio quality. I have 2 Bose Soundlink Minis and an AR Bluetooth speaker. I feed them from a variety of devices (laptop, iPhone, ipad). The other day, I was listening to some classical piano music with a soundlink mini and I noticed a slight distortion on solo notes. I put my ear next to the speaker and heard a background noise that sounded vey like the sound you hear from a poorly shielded sound card in a PC (a kind of modulated hiss). This sound was interacting with single piano notes in quiet passages, making them sound a little like they would through a speaker with a damaged cone. I tried different input devices and different audio sources, but the noise was still there (it is much less noticeable with no classical music and is not obvious from a normal listening distance). I then repeated the procedure with the other Soundlink mini and the AR with the same result. The noise seems to be digital in nature and was pretty much the same on all speakers and for all inputs. Has anyone else noticed this? You need to be close to the speaker to hear it.

One of my test passages was a classical piece by Gerald Finzi, 'Eclogue.' It is available on Spotify and the first few notes of the piece show this effect very well . I'd be interested if others hear this kind of thing on their music (you have to have your ear close to the speaker. The volume does not have to be high). This noise would appear to be a significant, limiting factor in Bluetooth sound quality.

Best,

Brian
Hey there,

I had the EXACT same issue that i just noticed. That kind of background, digital noise that usually comes with very low encoded sources (128 and less). I currently use the Sony SRSX5 (after literally auditioning every small BT speaker in the $200 range, including the Bose Soundlink Mini) which i found to be the best sound for the $$ but i can hear it on the speaker as well. When i'm using bluetooh and on my iPhone 6 with either the music app (256kpbs) or Rdio (320kbps). I hear it mainly in acoustic tracks which has a lot of silent moments (much like classical) without vocals. Now it's driving me crazy.. did you get any insight.. is it a limitation of the bluetooth? I'm going to try plugging a 1/8 cable into it and listen and see if it's still there, then at least i'll know it's the bluetooth. Now whether that's the iPhone or the speaker, i don't know but it sounds like you're having the exact same problem.

From a distance, you don't really hear it at all, only up close.

Love to hear your thoughts..

Darrin
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