If you’ve bought a pair of wireless Sony headphones in the last few years, you might have noticed that they claim to support LDAC. So what exactly is LDAC, and what benefits does it confer?
LDAC Is a Wireless Audio Codec
LDAC is a proprietary wireless audio codec developed by Sony. It’s not clear exactly what the acronym stands for since Sony has never defined it. The codec is different from older Bluetooth streaming technologies in that it uses a combination of lossless (when possible) and lossy compression to deliver high-resolution audio.
The codec uses bitrates of 330/660/990kbps at sample rates of 96 and 48kHz or 303/606/909kbps for sample rates of 88.2 and 44.1kHz. This exceeds bitrates seen on older technologies like the Bluetooth Special Interest Group’s SBC (345kbps at 48kHz) or Qualcomm’s aptX (384kbps at 48kHz), which should result in better-sounding audio.
Despite the marketing, only the higher bitrate of 990kbps qualifies the codec as a truly wireless, high-resolution audio solution. An in-depth look at the technology by SoundGuys examines why this is the case in great detail, and concludes that LDAC falls short when it comes to 24-bit/96kHz studio-quality recordings.
LDAC isn’t the only attempt at bringing high-resolution audio to the world of wireless earbuds. Qualcomm introduced aptX HD (also known as aptX Lossless) in 2016 to enable higher bitrate streaming of 576kbps on compatible Bluetooth headphones.
How Can You Use LDAC?
While Sony developed the technology and continues to push it in its own products, the LDAC encoder is open source. This has led to it being included in many more products, including the Android 8.0 “Oreo” released in 2017. If you have an Android device that runs Oreo, you can likely use LDAC with compatible wireless products.
Since the technology was developed by Sony, you’ll mostly find LDAC support in Sony products. This includes its best-in-class WF-1000XM4 wireless earbuds and over-ear WH-1000XM4 headphones, too. Anker Life has adopted LDAC support in some headphones (like the Soundcore Q35s), while the Audeze Mobius gaming headset can use LDAC for listening to music.
You can also use LDAC with select active wireless speakers, home theatre setups and soundbars, dedicated portable audio players in the Walkman range, Bluetooth headphone amplifiers like the BTR3 by FiiO, and even car receivers like the Kenwood KKX9020DABS.
There’s no support for LDAC in any Apple products at present, so you can’t use the higher bitrates that LDAC supports with an iPhone, iPad, or AirPods. Other popular wireless earbuds like the Jabra Elite 75t lack LDAC support in favor of SBC and AAC.
How to Enable LDAC on Android
Many Android devices support LDAC, but the feature needs to be enabled via a developer menu. To do this, first, enable developer options on your Android phone. Then, head to Settings > Developer options > Bluetooth Audio Codec, where you should be able to select LDAC from the list.