The capability to connect Bluetooth stereo signals has become standard in car audio receivers these days, which smartphone owners love because it allows us to play music from our phones on our car stereos without any tangling wires. But that doesn’t mean it sounds great. However convenient Bluetooth stereo may be, music fans should expect a loss in sound quality that may become more noticeable when played on a premium audio system, not less. If you want both the convenience of Bluetooth stereo connectivity and excellent sound quality, choosing the right components becomes especially important.
Digitizing music degrades sound quality
First, it’s important to understand that Bluetooth stereo doesn’t transmit an audio signal, it’s transmitting digitized data. Compact discs and MP3s also use digitized data, which audio players convert to an analog audio signal that can play through headphones and speakers. As record collectors are fond of pointing out, CDs lose sound quality compared to vinyl records due to digitization. When MP3s compress this digital data into smaller file sizes to fit on your smartphone, even more sound quality may be lost.
Bluetooth was not originally designed to transmit music
Bluetooth technology uses short distance radio transmissions to send data wirelessly between devices. Originally, it was intended to transmit human voice over wireless phone headsets, not the full range of musical frequencies played on a sound system. Thus, it uses very low bandwidth to send very compressed digitized audio. The standard compression used by all Bluetooth devices is called the SBC codec, which is fine for a conversation, but not nearly wide enough to play music without sounding tinny and distorted.
What about new Bluetooth technology?
Newer kinds of compressed music technologies promise CD quality, even when played over Bluetooth stereo transmissions, and you may find speakers and sound systems touting compatibility with aptX codec, AAC, or LDAC formats. These may work as promised, but there’s a big caveat: both the audio player and receiver must be compatible with the same technology. For example, while many stereo receivers now boast aptX compatibility, iPhones do not. An iPhone may still play music through an aptX receiver, but it won’t use either Apple’s preferred AAC format, or aptX. It will just revert to the same crummy audio SBC standard.
What about premium car audio systems?
If Bluetooth stereo sounds so bad, why do people keep using it? The simple answer is, their music sounds poor regardless of the source. To begin with, car audio has to battle with noisy conditions, such as the sound of a car’s engine, road noise, traffic, and weather. When you add cheap speakers to the mix, the lost sound quality of Bluetooth stereo is less noticeable, because the music is going to sound distorted and thin regardless. That poor audio quality is exactly the reason people want to upgrade to a premium sound system, so they can hear all the sweet tones that makes music wonderful. When you play Bluetooth stereo through a quality sound system, it becomes obvious pretty quickly that those tones don’t make it through heavily compressed wireless signals.
How to get the convenience of Bluetooth stereo without losing quality
The bottom line is that wireless audio connections only work as well as the equipment connecting them. With a little planning, consideration, and the help of an expert, it is possible to match convenience and premium quality audio. Contact Car Audio City, and we will help identify the best audio signal and equipment to meet your specific needs. Give us a call at (619) 474-8551.