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Home / Features / What is aptX lossless? The CD quality headphone tech explained

What is aptX lossless? The CD quality headphone tech explained

We explain what aptX Lossless is - and what headphones are compatible

Nura True Pro

Qualcomm introduced aptX Lossless in late 2021 – a tech that promised consistent CD quality (lossless) audio over Bluetooth headphones.

But it has been rather slow to appear, with only a few compatible headphones launched since then such as the NuraTrue Pro. And in the main trifecta of audio quality – lossy, lossless and Hi-Res – where does aptX lossless fit in with that?

It’s certainly true that with music streaming services increasingly offering lossless audio options such as Amazon Music HD, Tidal as well as Apple Music, the tech is going to become a key battleground for headphones over the next couple of years.

Nura True Pro

The aptX Lossless tech is adaptive and will output lossless audio providing the music file being played is lossless. It also requires the wireless connection to be good enough to support it.

Essentially the is a refinement of what has gone before and will only work initially with compatible smartphones that run the last couple of generations of Qualcomm Snapdragon chips. The tech can scale the data throughput up or down depending on the conditions to minimise any audio dropouts.

aptX Lossless does steal a march on Apple. The AAC Bluetooth tech in the AirPods doesn’t offer the same bandwidth for full lossless audio, something we’d expect to see corrected with the next generation of AirPods Max headphones.

Sound quality and battery life top the list

Qualcomm says that its research shows true wireless headphone buyers – which, after all, isn’t the cheap end of the market are primarily interested in sound quality and battery life before price, comfort and ease-of-use. Interestingly, noise cancellation and call quality are both further down the list.

“Currently lossless audio is only supported on devices such as phones, PCs and tablets. By supporting lossless audio on next-gen earbuds and headphones, we’re providing another way to deliver sound the way the artist intended,” said Qualcomm’s James Chapman.

“Lossless audio means mathematically bit-for-bit exact, with no loss of the audio file and up to now the necessary bit rate to deliver this over Bluetooth has not been available.” The aptX Lossless technology will support audio up to 16-bit 44.1kHz lossless audio.

Profile image of Dan Grabham Dan Grabham Editor-in-Chief

About

Dan is Editor-in-chief of Stuff, working across the magazine and the Stuff.tv website.  Our Editor-in-Chief is a regular at tech shows such as CES in Las Vegas, IFA in Berlin and Mobile World Congress in Barcelona as well as at other launches and events. He has been a CES Innovation Awards judge. Dan is completely platform agnostic and very at home using and writing about Windows, macOS, Android and iOS/iPadOS plus lots and lots of gadgets including audio and smart home gear, laptops and smartphones. He's also been interviewed and quoted in a wide variety of places including The Sun, BBC World Service, BBC News Online, BBC Radio 5Live, BBC Radio 4, Sky News Radio and BBC Local Radio.

Areas of expertise

Computing, mobile, audio, smart home

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