*buffer image*

NO! Not about the Venza. That car is still an abortion of design. And it probably drives like crap. Just get an Outback, man.

No, I mean about Bluetooth, from this earlier post here about the audio codec aptX. If you have been around, you know a few things about me. One of these things is that I love quality audio, tube amps, vinyl, FLAC, and good DACs. And you know that I hate, loath, and despise Bluetooth audio. “But why, Because Racecar? The convenience of Bluetooth is amazing!” Well, yes, friend, the convenience is definitely there, but the audio quality is on par with the sound of a Toyota Echo engine. It’s crap. The bitrate is too low, the compression is too high, the rolloff in frequency replication looks like someone took a Photoshop smudge tool to your Fourier Series. Line out has always been better, even on phones with crappy DACs, like my Google Pixel XL. Yes, I admit, the DAC is awful, but I use it. I prefer to play music off my Fiio X1, with a VERY nice DAC, but that’s not always possible.

Anyway, I digress. First off, am I an audiophile? No, no I am not. No one is, anyone who tells you they are are lying. Everyone likes different music, and everyone likes different qualities in their music. I prefer my frequency replication to be sharp. By this I mean the rising edge and falling edge of any particular tone must be fast. If Dave Grohl hits a snare, I want that snare to come on like thunder and drop off like a power switch. In. Out. Some people like their tones to be softer, with more rolloff. I do not. I mean, you can tell if someone is holding a note, and that’s fine, but when it’s done, I want it done. Otherwise, the music becomes muddled. I’m talking around a lot of technical crap right now because I know most of you don’t care about that part, so you get the less nerdy version.

Bluetooth audio has always been a backup for me. I’ll use it while mowing the lawn because I’m sweating all over the place, I don’t want the cord dangling about, and there’s a lawnmower to contend with, so I don’t care. But in life, I do care. In my car (next person who comes at me with “cars are terrible environments for music” gets a stern look, and a lecture on how pressure waves and hard surfaces work.) Dammit, again, I digress. Where were we? Oh, right, we were talking about how much Bluetooth audio sucks. Well, why does it suck? Low bitrate, for one, which hasn’t been an issue really since BT 2.1+EDR, but it’s still not super great, especially when combined with the lowliest of standard Bluetooth audio codecs, SBD....no, I mean SBC. Sorry about that. Anyway, Atlas///M’s post linked above goes into more detail. Short story, SBC is super compressed, rounded off, and smooth for transfer over low bitrate BT. So it sucks.

Advertisement

Well, my friends, I have seen the light. With Android 8.0, my Pixel XL got access to all the goodies, including aptX for bluetooth audio. I had a false start with a cheap BT receiver that claimed aptx, but did not have it, so I got frustrated and pulled the trigger on the medium mac daddy, the Creative Soundblaster E3. It’s meant as a headphone amp, to convert non-BT headphones to bluetooth, and has a really nice DAC, and supports aptX. I was, as yet, still skeptical of Atlas///M’s claims. Surely a simple codec could not solve the underlying issues that are BT audio, right? WRONG! The connection was easy, and inside my BT connection, there was the little check mark to use advanced aptX codec. Well, yes please. I was blown away. The BT audio sounded BETTER than my line in. I mean, as I mentioned. the audio DAC in the Pixel XL is just the one build into the Snapdragon 821 processor, so it’s nothing like the Quad DAC standalone chips in the LV V10/20/30. I did not, however, expect a Bluetooth connection to ever sound better than a line it. Never. But the DAC in the E3 is very nice. There’s a more advanced version, the E5, which I may spring for at some point, but we’re talking $150+ to the $70 I spent on the E3. The E3 does have limitations, though. It won’t take more than 96kHz sampled music, so my very high sampled FLAC files are out. Not that big of a deal, but if I’m going to using this with some very nice cans, I may spring for the E5. The E5 also supports BT 4.1, which I was a little hesitant of not going with because 2.1 isn’t known for it’s bitrate, but it was the +EDR (extended data rate) and it turns out that’s ok!

Long story short, if you need to use Bluetooth for music, and you care about how your music sounds, use aptX!