Wireless audio may not yet be up to par with wired audio, but it’s getting a whole lot better. These days, the average listener may not even know the difference between wired and wireless sound quality. Now that Bluetooth 5.0, many assume that it has the potential to drastically change how we listen to music wirelessly.
But just what are the advantages to Bluetooth 5.0? Will it actually equate to better sound quality? Here’s everything you need to know about Bluetooth 5.0 and what it means for your music listening.
What’s the maximum range of Bluetooth 5.0?
Perhaps the biggest difference between Bluetooth 5.0 and previous iterations of Bluetooth is the maximum range. While Bluetooth 4.0 and later supported a range of up to 10 meters, or 33 feet, Bluetooth 5.0 steps that up to a theoretical range of 243 meters, or 800 feet. That’s a theoretical maximum range — so don’t expect to hit that in the real world — but you should still expect much better range than previous versions of Bluetooth.
That’s helpful for a number of reasons. It means that you can pretty much walk around your house with headphones on, without having to take your listening device with you wherever you go. So, you could connect your headphones to your computer, and clean the house listening to music without having to worry about running into range issues.
What’s the maximum bandwidth of Bluetooth 5.0?
In addition to a longer range, Bluetooth 5.0 also brings with it a high bandwidth — though that extra bandwidth comes at the expense of power. That’s perfect for devices that need to transmit larger packets of data, like firmware updates, but it’s also great for transmitting higher quality audio — and the power consumption may not be such a big deal for many devices.
Unfortunately, Bluetooth 5.0 doesn’t include a standard for audio transmission, so for now Bluetooth headsets are stuck using older Bluetooth audio standards.
The total maximum bandwidth of Bluetooth 5.0 is 2 megabits per second.
What else is better about Bluetooth 5.0?
Apart from increased range and bandwidth, Bluetooth 5.0 also makes it much easier to connect to multiple devices at once, thanks to its higher bandwidth. Whether you can stream to multiple devices or not depends on software running on your phone, computer, or other listening device.
Is Bluetooth 5.0 backwards compatible?
Thankfully, yes. Bluetooth 5.0 devices can work with devices that only support older versions of Bluetooth — though you’ll be limited to the older device’s specifications when doing so. So, if you have a phone that supports Bluetooth 5.0 but a headset that supports Bluetooth 4.2, you’ll be limited to the 10 meter, or 33 foot, distance of Bluetooth 4.2.
What hardware supports Bluetooth 5.0?
Bluetooth 5.0 is likely to become increasingly common as time goes on, but for now there’s a limited number of devices that support it. Most new flagship phones support Bluetooth 5.0, including the iPhone 8, iPhone X, Samsung Galaxy S9, OnePlus 6, and more.
When it comes to headphones, more and more devices are supporting Bluetooth 5.0. Currently, you can find Bluetooth 5.0 in headphones like the Jabra Elite 65t.
Does Bluetooth 5.0 really improve audio?
In short, no. But it one day could. Most of the improvements that come in Bluetooth 5.0 apply to Bluetooth Low Energy, which is used for things like fitness trackers, smart home devices, and so on. Headphones use Bluetooth Basic Data Rate/Enhanced Data Rate, also known as BR/EDR, which doesn’t really benefit from the improvements in Bluetooth 5.0.
In the end, Bluetooth 5.0 is an important update — just not for headphones. Hopefully, eventually, many of the improvements coming in Bluetooth 5.0 will apply to headphones, but for now when you’re buying a pair of headphones you don’t need to worry about buying a pair that uses Bluetooth 5.0.