Rumors have been swirling since 2019 around the possibility of Sonos wireless headphones – a first in the category for the company – and the connected audio giant’s latest acquisition lends a lot more weight to these rumors.
As confirmed by Protocol, Sonos has acquired T2 Software – a tech startup that’s been working on the Bluetooth LE (Low Energy) standard and LC3 audio codec, which are both aimed at transmitting and receiving higher quality audio without draining as much battery.
While the acquisition itself is certainly concrete, the wireless headphones have yet to be officially confirmed by Sonos – “occasionally, we will acquire teams, talent, and / or technology that augment our existing and future product roadmap,” a Sonos spokesperson told Protocol.
There is a chance that the acquired technology could be put towards improving the company’s Bluetooth speakers, like the Sonos Roam or possibly even a potential successor, enhancing battery life and synchronized connectivity without sacrificing portability and audio quality in the process.
With all that said, we do suspect that Sonos being among the first to release a pair of sporting headphones the LC3 codec would make for a rather compelling edge in the highly competitive wireless headphone space.
LE, LC3 and longevity
Bluetooth LE is the standard for wireless audio announced by the Bluetooth SIG (Special Interest Group) in 2020 in order to meet growing demand for higher quality wireless audio transmission.
It’s essentially a set of goalposts for developers to aim for that includes low power consumption, low latency, better support for true wireless and simultaneous audio streams, and other similar requirements.
LC3 (Low Complexity Communications Codec) is an audio codec set to replace the existing SBC (Sub-Band Codec). It complies with Bluetooth LE and is able to cleverly and efficiently compress an audio signal for transmission, and then decompress it at the other end, without requiring as much power and without losing perceived clarity.
You can actually hear a direct comparison between SBC and LC3 on the Bluetooth SIG website that has been conducted by T2 Labs (the company that’s just been acquired). The comparison demonstrates its ability to reproduce clear audio at bitrates as low as 64kbps, while SBC noticably cracks up even at 192kbps.
The net result for a future product adopting support for the codec would be to either extend its battery life or create a smaller product overall (ideal for true wireless earbuds) while improving its audio quality and latency performance.
Another point that Sonos would be especially interested in is the capability of LC3 to support multiple, synchronized audio streams – something that the company is renowned for with its multi-room speaker products.
At present, some of the more recent audio products that utilize Bluetooth 5.2 will have the ability to support Bluetooth LE and LC3 when they roll out, but the codec is yet to be released in a consumer product.