Have you ever sat down to enjoy your favorite television show when, all of a sudden, the audio coming through your earbuds, headphones or speakers doesn’t match up with the actor’s mouths on screen?
It can be an incredibly frustrating issue for a television viewer, and it is extremely distracting from the plot on the screen.
Believe it or not, it probably isn’t a lip sync error, although that is what it is often called.
The problem may be the audio latency in your Bluetooth earbuds. You may be thinking, what is audio latency? What does this have to do with the sound my Bluetooth earbuds make?
How can I reduce latency, so I can get back to enjoying my favorite TV show or music video? Read on to see how lowering audio latency in your Bluetooth earbuds will return in sync sound.
What is Latency?
Latency is the time it takes for the data to be transferred from one device to another. For example, with earbuds, latency is the delay in audio playback before sound comes through your speakers after the play button has been pressed on your device.
Audio needs to be transmitted and decoded before it can be played through your earbuds. Although today, data travels through the networks incredibly fast, it is still pretty much impossible to achieve the data transmission without a delay.
All devices have latency because none of them are quick enough to be able to transmit sound with no playback delay. Even wired earbuds have a degree of latency, although it is so low that it cannot be detected by human ears.
Therefore, the goal with wireless earbuds, just like it is with wired ones, is to have latency as low as possible – so you can enjoy fully synchronized video and audio.
Bluetooth earbuds have a greater delay in playback than wired earbuds or headphones because there is more time involved in converting data into an audio signal. When searching for a good pair of Bluetooth earbuds, finding low latency earbuds should be your goal.
It is known that talented musicians start feeling the effects of latency at around 5-10ms, whereas other people usually don’t notice it until it is around 15-30ms.
What Causes Latency Issues?
When audio is not in sync with video, you may have a latency issue. Latency issues occur during the transmission of audio.
First, the audio is encoded, it’s then transferred via Bluetooth. Next, it is decoded, and the sound is sent to your ears.
The entire process only takes milliseconds, but even that can be detectable and destroy the viewing experience. The problem usually lies in the amount of time it takes to encode and decode the transmitted content, thus causing a delay.
Bluetooth devices use a codec to encode data to be sent from a transmitting device, and the earbuds then decode this data into information for your listening pleasure.
There are many kinds of codecs with varying transmission speeds, but all Bluetooth devices need at least the Sub-Band Codec (SBC) to be able to transmit its content. SBC has a noticeably high latency of 200-220 milliseconds.
There are other codec options that can provide low latency, higher sound quality and so on. Both units, transmitting and receiving, should support the same codec for best results.
Other things that could factor into your latency issues with Bluetooth are interferences, such as Wi-Fi or the television that are attempting to use the same signal range.
Another reason could be the distance between the source (your streaming device) and the receiver (your earbuds). The further they are apart, the higher the audio latency can become.
Occasionally, when streaming from the Internet, latency or buffer issues can be caused by bandwidth. Having a bandwidth problem could make the audio inconsistent, causing drop-outs or latency issues.
Furthermore, the range of your external Internet connection and the frequency can cause interference on your streaming unit too.
How to Reduce Bluetooth Audio Latency on Earbuds
If the video and audio are off-sync while you are using a Bluetooth headset or earbuds to watch videos or TV, you can try troubleshooting the problem before you rush to buy new ones.
For those of you, who are using wireless earbuds to connect to a Bluetooth TV – most of these TVs have an audio delay setting in the audio source settings menu.
It can be adjusted to slow down the visual, so that the audio in your earbuds can catch up. Some Bluetooth enabled PCs have this functionality built-in too.
And, for those who are streaming from their mobile phones, you would need to troubleshoot further as the developers of most of the video applications already account for Audio Video(A/V) Sync. This means you don’t have that annoying delay as the A/V Sync already deals with it.
Here are some simple steps to help decrease or eliminate latency issues you may be having.
- Start by disconnecting and reconnecting both transmitting and receiving units by switching off Bluetooth on your transmitting device.
- Reset your paired devices list.
- Check the Internet and hardware connections. You might need to reset the router.
- Resetting the software is your next step. Occasionally, a hard reset of the software will make it begin working properly again. So, reboot the transmitting device, so the Bluetooth driver resets.
- You also can do a factory reset on both transmitting and receiving units.
- You can always check for firmware updates. This can help in reducing audio issues.
- Interference with other signals also can affect latency. Your TV, gaming systems and even Wi-Fi connection could make the transmission slow and buffer. Limit other signals in your area to maximize your wireless connection. In addition, ensure that your transmitting unit is not too far away from your Bluetooth earbuds. This can help reduce latency problems.
- Make sure that your earbuds and your phone are using the same codec, as this could be another cause for latency issues. Remember, as we mentioned above, the Bluetooth audio codec cannot be updated or changed within your earbuds.
If you’ve gone through all the troubleshooting steps and still have the same issue, you have two choices: replace your earbuds/headset with wired ones or with those that have low latency.
Check the ones that we recommend below as they will lower if not completely remove the latency issue you may be having.
If you decide to replace your earbuds, make sure your phone or TV supports low latency as well.
And, if it doesn’t, have a look at these transmitters to help reduce the problem.
If, however, your TV supports LL and the earbuds you own don’t, you can always buy a Bluetooth receiver adaptor that supports low latency audio.
Alternatively, you can purchase a headphone & adaptor combo.
Does Bluetooth 5.0 or Higher have Less Latency Lag?
In general, the latest Bluetooth versions have faster transmission times. That means that products with Bluetooth 5.0 or higher installed can have lower latency. So, having the latest Bluetooth technology should minimize most latency issues for the average Bluetooth device.
Do you do a lot of gaming or watch movies, video clips and live music performances on your phone, PC or TV? And, you want the lowest latency possible and maximum audio performance, then you should pay close attention to the codec used in your Bluetooth earbuds and streaming device.
Both of them need to support the same codec for best results. Most devices, including those with iOS, Windows and Android operating systems use SBC as a default codec as described earlier.
aptX Audio Codec Supports Low Audio Latency
The most common codec for transmitting audio data is SBC. However, there are more advanced codecs that support low latency and help reduce audio issues as well.
The Qualcomm’s aptX LL technology is the best to reduce audio latency and give you a more seamless audiovisual experience.
AptX LL codec is specifically designed for low audio latency; it reduces the transmission time and synchronizes audio with video, creating a high-quality result. This codec features latency of approximately 40 milliseconds.
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4 of the Best Low Latency Bluetooth Earbuds
If your latency issues do not improve after troubleshooting, you may need to buy some new Bluetooth earbuds that integrate low latency technology.
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A transmitting unit’s codec cannot be updated, so make sure your mobile phone or computer has the same codec as your new set of earbuds. Following are four sets of earbuds that integrate low latency technology.
1. JLab Epic Air ANC True Wireless Bluetooth 5 Earbuds
With super low latency movie mode, 48 hours of playback from a single charge, sweat resistance, wireless charging and a wear detect sensor, these earbuds are a great choice.
Its Bluetooth 5.0 ensures high audio quality and a good connection.
Movie mode ensures that the audio sound will match up with the voices on the screen with low latency of less than 100 milliseconds. Incredible value for the price, too.
2. Avantree Ace 130 Earbuds Lag Free Sound
Ace 130 supports aptX, AAC and SBC codecs.
They have low latency, but unlike other low latency earbuds, these earbuds have an independent transmitter system.
This means that your transmitting device doesn’t need to support a low latency codec to provide you with a fantastic lag-free experience.
3. Avantree Clari Air II Earbuds Lag Free Audio
Enjoy a full audio experience with powerful bass and rich sound thanks to the exclusively built dual drivers.
These earbuds offer an inline control system, so you don’t need to search for your phone every time you want to change the song or volume.
In addition, Clair Air ll Earbuds support dual link, meaning they can connect up to two devices.
This model supports the aptX-LL, aptX and SBC codecs.
4. Avantree TWS116 Earbuds Open Ear Application
These true wireless (TWS) earbuds were created for television viewing. They are open ear and use Bluetooth 5.0, which provides high audio quality and high transmission speeds.
This model uses a new chip technology that noticeably lowers the latency levels in these Bluetooth earbuds using the sub-band codec.
The TWS116 reduces the SBC codec latency from 200-220 milliseconds down to around 110 milliseconds.
Generally, earbuds that provide low latency functionality require both transmitting and receiving units to support the same aptX LL codec.
TWS116 earbuds, however, offer a solution for those who use devices with higher latency codec (such as the SBC).
Thus, using these earbuds, you can enjoy a low latency experience regardless of what device you are connected to.
Conclusion: Reduce Audio Latency For a Great Audio Experience
All in all, audio latency describes the delay from the time you press play on your device until you hear the audio in your earbuds.
When issues arise with audio latency, such as the audio in your earbuds not lining up with the video on your device, there are a few things that you can do to troubleshoot.
These include turning the device and earbuds off and back on for a hardware reset, reconnecting them, searching for any sources of transmission interference, audio interference and making sure the device is close enough to your earbuds.
If none of these issues solve your latency problems, the issue may lie in your codec. Because the codec cannot be updated or changed in your devices and Bluetooth earbuds, it may be time to purchase a new set of Bluetooth earbuds that are built with low latency in mind.
When considering a new pair of low latency Bluetooth earbuds, pay attention to the codec, and make sure it matches your device.
This will ensure the sound you’re hearing is in sync with the picture you are watching, giving you a much better audio experience.
You may just find the perfect pair of Bluetooth earbuds for you.