Tech

Bluetooth headphones are about to get a lot more exciting

Key Points
  • The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) introduced Bluetooth LE Audio on Tuesday.
  • LE Audio will let multiple devices, more than the two that it's limited to right now, share music or movies from a tablet, computer or phone.
  • It will also improve audio for people with hearing difficulties.
Two people listening to music.
urbazon

Soon your whole family might be able to watch the same movie on a tablet, or listen to the same album on a phone, using Bluetooth headphones. The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) announced Tuesday a new "LE Audio" standard that will add lots of fun new features to Bluetooth devices.

Right now, Bluetooth devices support up to two streams of music to different products. So, you might have two headphones paired to a phone. But soon, multi-stream audio in LE Audio will allow you to sync even more devices, like headphones, to a single product.

For example, a family might share a tablet to watch a movie with everyone wearing headphones. A location-based sharing feature will let everyone in the area tune in to a specific device for audio. So, if you're sitting in a public place like an airport bar with a football game on, you might just pop in a set of earbuds and tune into the TV. Others around you could do the same.

This might help people with trouble hearing in places like academic lecture halls too. A student could tune into a lecture using headphones to hear the professor, who might be speaking into a Bluetooth microphone a the front of the room. It also works with Bluetooth hearing aids, which will work with new phones and TVs that will launch in the coming years.

Finally, the group says that Bluetooth LE Audio improves audio quality even if you're streaming music at low data rates. This should, theoretically, improve the quality of music even if you're streaming it online without a high quality source file.

Bluetooth SIG said the specifications for the new standard will be released in the first half of this year, so products that support it probably won't arrive until after that. But, it's possible some existing products will support the new features.

"Consumers will need to check with the product manufacturer to understand whether an existing product is upgradable," a Bluetooth SIG spokesperson told CNBC.

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