Snapdragon Sound is a Qualcomm project that aims to be a benchmark for up to 24-bit 96kHz HD audio.
Snapdragon Sound essentially ensures a certain level of HD audio quality with low latency and high-quality voice calls between compatible phones and headphones.
Of course, Qualcomm hardware is required for both the phones and the headphones, and only the latest Snapdragon 800-series phone platforms are supported. Currently, the earphones must use one of the QCC514x, QCC515x, or QCC3056 chipsets.
Yes, Snapdragon Sound is based on Bluetooth, and yes, it will only be available on Qualcomm-based Android devices.
Although Snapdragon Sound will be labelled on boxes, it’s likely that many customers will have no idea whether they’re using the technology or not.
However, high-quality audio is expected to be a major battleground in the coming years, so the initiative is well-timed. Spotify recently announced that a HiFi tier would be available later in 2021.
Xiaomi and Audio-Technica are the first customers for the technology, and while Qualcomm hasn’t confirmed it, the new Xiaomi Mi 11 falls into the compatibility category because it runs on the Snapdragon 888 platform. However, it appears that both Xiaomi and Audio-Technica will release new earbuds in the middle of the year.
Qualcomm chipsets are also found in earphones from Bose, Sennheiser, Anker, Jabra, and others, so this is likely to be widely adopted.
Do people care enough about high-quality audio to invest in it? “We believe people really want high definition audio for a number of reasons,” Qualcomm’s head of voice, music, and wearables James Chapman says. First and foremost, they’re using true wireless earbuds.
“It’s no longer true that anyone will buy a high-end wired headset simply because they want to listen to great music.” People are buying true wireless earbuds in the hopes of getting a great audio experience no matter what they’re doing or where they are.
“We’re also seeing a particularly strong rise in HD music streaming, [there have been] a number of announcements recently.”
For this launch, Qualcomm has partnered with Amazon Music HD, which currently has over 70 million HD songs. “We’re fortunate enough to have them come and speak with us,” Chapman says again. They are incredibly enthusiastic about high-definition music, and when they begin to stream in HD, they see real interest and increased adoption from their customers.
“We were struggling with storage capacities, we were struggling to get the size [down] and the prices,” Chapman claims, explaining why we had low quality streams to begin with. That is no longer an issue.”