iPhone 14 and New AirPods Pro Support Bluetooth 5.3, Status of LE Audio Unclear

All four new iPhone 14 models and the second-generation AirPods Pro include support for Bluetooth 5.3, according to Apple's tech specs for each device, but the status of LE Audio support for the devices remains unclear at this time.

airpods pro 2
LE Audio, which can be supported on any device with Bluetooth 5.2 or higher, is a low-power audio streaming specification that would have several benefits for devices within the Apple ecosystem. Earlier this week, we outlined five benefits that LE Audio could have for AirPods Pro in particular should Apple support the specification:

  • Improved audio quality: LE Audio includes a new low-power audio codec called LC3 that provides improved audio quality compared to the classic SBC codec, even at a 50% lower bit rate, according to the Bluetooth SIG.
  • Longer battery life: With the low-power LC3 audio codec, AirPods Pro would have longer battery life for audio playback.
  • Multi-stream audio: LE Audio would enable the transmission of multiple synchronized audio streams between a source device like an iPhone or Mac and the AirPods Pro. This would allow for an individual left and right AirPod to each have its own Bluetooth audio connection with a device supporting LE Audio for improved reliability.
  • Connect many pairs of AirPods to an iPhone at once: LE Audio would allow for many pairs of AirPods to simultaneously connect to an iPhone, iPad, Mac, or other device with Bluetooth 5.2 or higher. Apple already has a feature that allows an iPhone or iPad user with AirPods to share audio with another person with AirPods, but the feature does not work with more than two pairs of AirPods.
  • No switching between iPhone and Mac required: LE Audio would allow AirPods to connect to multiple source devices like an iPhone and Mac simultaneously, eliminating the need to switch the AirPods between devices.

Apple's press releases and tech specs pages for the iPhone 14 and new AirPods Pro do not appear to make any mention of LE Audio or the benefits listed above, leading us to believe that LE Audio might not be supported on the devices currently, but we've reached out to Apple for confirmation. In July, the organization behind Bluetooth said it anticipated availability of products with support for LE Audio to ramp up by the end of 2022.

Given that iPhone 14 models and the new AirPods Pro have Bluetooth 5.3 chipsets, it is possible that Apple could enable LE Audio with a software/firmware update in the future should the devices not currently support the specification.

Related Roundups: AirPods Pro, iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Pro
Related Forums: AirPods, iPhone

Top Rated Comments

BBCWatcher Avatar
4 weeks ago
My understanding is that Bluetooth 5.2 (or higher) requires implementation of LE Audio with the LC3 codec — that they're mandatory parts of Bluetooth 5.2+ conformance, at least for audio-related devices. (For Bluetooth keyboards and mice, no.) Implementation of the LC3plus codec is optional. So when Apple declares "Bluetooth 5.3" in earphones and iPhones that means they support LE Audio with LC3. Otherwise they couldn't be labeled "Bluetooth 5.3."

Apple presumably doesn't want to shout about LC3 from the rooftops because the net real-world impact is that Apple's new AirPods Pro 2s are improved mostly for non-Apple devices that support Bluetooth 5.2 or higher, i.e. mostly Android devices. With these devices Apple is providing an upgrade from SBC to LC3, a big jump in quality. AAC and LC3 are much more similar in terms of sound quality, with diminishing returns thereafter (LDAC, LC3plus, etc.) So does Apple want to say, "Our new AirPods Pro 2 are more significantly improved for the latest Android smartphones because we finally upgraded the base codec from SBC for non-Apple devices (that don't support AAC)"? No, not directly.?

It remains to be seen whether AirPods Pro 2s use LC3 or AAC (or something else?) with iPhone 14s. With non-Apple Bluetooth 5.2+ devices the AirPods Pro 2 should use LC3. AirPods Pro 2 reviewers should be able to confirm all this fairly quickly. We'll see!
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
gtg465x Avatar
4 weeks ago

My understanding is that Bluetooth 5.2 (or higher) requires implementation of LE Audio with the LC3 codec — that they're mandatory parts of Bluetooth 5.2+ conformance, at least for audio-related devices. (For Bluetooth keyboards and mice, no.) Implementation of the LC3plus codec is optional. So when Apple declares "Bluetooth 5.3" in earphones and iPhones that means they support LE Audio with LC3. Otherwise they couldn't be labeled "Bluetooth 5.3."

Apple presumably doesn't want to shout about LC3 from the rooftops because the net real-world impact is that Apple's new AirPods Pro 2s are improved mostly for non-Apple devices that support Bluetooth 5.2 or higher, i.e. mostly Android devices. With these devices Apple is providing an upgrade from SBC to LC3, a big jump in quality. AAC and LC3 are much more similar in terms of sound quality, with diminishing returns thereafter (LDAC, LC3plus, etc.) So does Apple want to say, "Our new AirPods Pro 2 are more significantly improved for the latest Android smartphones because we finally upgraded the base codec from SBC for non-Apple devices (that don't support AAC)"? No, not directly.?

It remains to be seen whether AirPods Pro 2s use LC3 or AAC (or something else?) with iPhone 14s. With non-Apple Bluetooth 5.2+ devices the AirPods Pro 2 should use LC3. AirPods Pro 2 reviewers should be able to confirm all this fairly quickly. We'll see!
Since Apple Music uses AAC by default, switching to LC3 could actually reduce audio quality when using AirPods with Apple Music, since it would require the stream to be re-encoded, which always reduces quality. Maybe if you set Apple Music to stream lossless, then the lossless re-encoded to LC3 might surpass the quality of AAC without re-encode.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
zerolight Avatar
4 weeks ago
Macrumors keeps going on about LE being better than SBC. But they ignore it being worse than AAC and Aptx. It’s not the magic bullet they think. SBC is ****. Even with 5.3, you will be better on AAC, etc.

https://www.whathifi.com/features/why-bluetooth-le-and-the-new-lc3-codec-will-not-repeat-not-improve-your-sound-quality
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
GMShadow Avatar
4 weeks ago

Interestingly, the only devices announced today that don’t use Bluetooth 5.3 are the new Apple Watches.
The Ultra supports 5.3, but the 8/SE don’t.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
iBug2 Avatar
4 weeks ago

So this will just have AAC codec. That is just not good enough.
It’s still the best BT codec for music.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
prajaybasu Avatar
4 weeks ago

Since Apple Music uses AAC by default, switching to LC3 could actually reduce audio quality when using AirPods with Apple Music, since it would require the stream to be re-encoded, which always reduces quality. Maybe if you set Apple Music to stream lossless, then the lossless re-encoded to LC3 might surpass the quality of AAC without re-encode.
That is a common misconception. Using any codec on Bluetooth requires re-encoding of a song. Because Apple Music's sound need to be mixed in with other apps and notifications, keyboard sounds, etc. So Apple Music already decodes that AAC. You cannot send multiple AAC streams and play them back at once on the AirPods, the iPhone needs to mix them.

Lossless over Bluetooth sounds great. I find it equal to wired in most cases. And most codecs when played with lossless actually sound good even with the current Bluetooth. aptX and Apple's AAC are going to be very hard to beat. What LC3 will beat AAC in is complexity and therefore battery life.

Now what you said is partially true though. AAC is by far the best codec when it comes to being re-encoded multiple times, it fares much better than MP3. Especially Apple AAC.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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