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Bench Talk for Design Engineers

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Bench Talk for Design Engineers | The Official Blog of Mouser Electronics

New Tech Tuesdays: BLUETOOTH® Low Energy Audio Is Making Sound Advancements Tommy Cummings

New Tech Tuesdays

Join journalist Tommy Cummings for a weekly look at all things interesting, new, and noteworthy for design engineers.

The quest for optimum wireless audio quality continues with the next generation of audio streaming, BLUETOOTH® Low Energy (BLE) Audio.

BLE Audio focuses more on power efficiency and better audio quality than the classic version of Bluetooth. As a wireless standard, Bluetooth is easily the most recognized for audio streaming with over 1 billion devices shipped in 2020.

The BLE Audio's goal is to allow a standard Bluetooth signal to better manage and share wireless audio streams between devices without overworking batteries in phones, smartwatches, or headphones. BLE Audio will add broadcast audio, enabling an audio source device to broadcast one or more audio streams to an unlimited number of audio sink devices.

Broadcast Audio enables applications such as Personal Audio Sharing where a user can share their audio stream, for example, from a phone or tablet, with other users' headphones in the vicinity.

On a bigger scale, Location-based Audio Sharing can be deployed. Users will be able to hear the same audio content with different languages enabled on their headphones, which is especially useful in cinemas, fitness clubs, airports, conferences, museums, etc.

BLE Audio also standardizes how audio is transmitted over Bluetooth LE using a new block-based transform codec called Low Complexity Communication Codec (LC3).

In this week's New Tech Tuesday, we'll look at development kits from Nordic Semiconductor and Mikroe that test BLE audio applications.

How About Some Sound Development Kits?

The Nordic Semiconductor nRF5340 Audio Development Kit helps engineers better evaluate BLE audio applications. The kit supports better audio quality with LC3, which, in practice, means that the component will enable design engineers and manufacturers to build products with longer battery life without sacrificing sound quality. The kit functions as a USB dongle, allowing a PC to send and receive audio data. It also can be configured as a business headset, a broadcast receiver, or a True Wireless Stereo (TWS) earbud. The kit contains three primary devices—an nRF5340 SoC, an nPM1100 PMIC, and Cirrus Logic’s CS47L63 Audio DSP. The CS47L63 digital-to-analog converter and differential output driver are intended for direct connection to an external headphone load. The CS47L63 is ideal for earbuds with mono-only and direct speaker output.

The Mikroe BT Audio 3 Click is a compact (57.15mm x 25.4mm) add-on board with voice and audio post-processing capability for BLE audio applications. This board is suitable for a smartphone (source) streaming audio to a speaker. The board features the Microchip BM83 Bluetooth v5.0 stereo audio module that receives audio from the smartphone via its printed circuit board (PCB) antenna and then forwards it to an external speaker via the AK4430, connected to a line-out connector. The BM83 supports 24-bit/96kHz high-resolution audio formats to enable high-fidelity wireless audio. Configured in Host mode, the BM83 allows data processing via the universal asynchronous receiver-transmitter (UART) interface. It also comes with many additional features such as audio control buttons, onboard microphones, LED indicators, and more.

Tuesday's Takeaway

With its focus on power consumption and improved audio quality, BLE Audio signals a major step forward in audio stream development. This might mean better sound quality, which should go toward making discerning audiophiles happy. But, most of all, it also means design engineers should be able to turn to BLE Audio for all types of meaningful innovation in audio development.

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Tommy Cummings is a freelance writer/editor based in Texas. He's had a journalism career that has spanned more than 40 years. He contributes to Texas Monthly and Oklahoma Today magazines. He's also worked at The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, San Francisco Chronicle, and others. Tommy covered the dot-com boom in Silicon Valley and has been a digital content and audience engagement editor at news outlets. Tommy worked at Mouser Electronics from 2018 to 2021 as a technical content and product content specialist.

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