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why your bluetooth headphones sound like crap on windows 10

When you’ve connected your bluetooth headphones like Apples Air Pods Pro Galaxy Buds on windows before, you probably had a very lousy sound quality compared to your phone. Especially when using them with the mic for your team or zoom meeting.

windows does not support AAC Audio

The fault here is not on the device side – instead windows is the culprit here. Microsoft inexplicably does not support AAC audio, which is a requirement for high quality full duplex (output + input) audio via bluetooth. As soon as you try to use both, you will hear a tremendous decrease in sound quality. That is caused by windows relying on its two codecs:

  • Bluetooth SBC
  • Qualcomm aptX.

While SBC has the possibility for 320 kbit/s, it’s compression is much worse compared to AAC, and the bandwith provided by Bluetooth reaches its limits when transmitting audio. If you now add an input stream from your microphone, the sound quality suffers.

While Qualcomm aptX provides better quality, most headphones don’t suppport it.

AAC for the rescue?

Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) is an audio coding standard for lossy digital audio compression, which can handle both audio output and input without a large loss of quality. Most phones use this codec, which is the reason why your headphones sound much better when used with your phone.

Windows doesn’t support the codec yet. They announced in april 2022 that they are adding support for it and made it available in an insider preview. Then it got awfully quiet, and in the end microsoft had decided to shift the upgrade to its new OS, Windows 11, as it is now part of the preview versions of Windows 11.

So it seems like AAC will never make it to the official Windows 10 versions in the foreseeable future.

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