Low Latency 101: Understanding Bluetooth Earbuds’ Latency

We’ve all experienced it: You’re happily watching videos on your phone or laptop when you start to notice something is off. Something you can’t quite put your finger on. Eventually, you realize that your film or TV show has taken on the quality of a badly dubbed 1970’s kung-fu flick. There’s a jarring mismatch between the movement of the characters’ lips and the sounds that are playing through your headphones. This phenomenon is known as lag, or desynchronization.

Desynchronization is even worse of an issue for online gamers, where accurate sound can mean the difference between life and death, victory and defeat. Getting let down by your tools of battle is an unbelievably frustrating experience.

So what’s the key to avoiding sound lag? It’s simple: get yourself a pair of wireless earbuds with low latency. Read on to find out more about this often misunderstood but vitally important topic.

What Is Latency?

Latency, in computing terms, is the delay before data begins to move after it has been sent an instruction to do so. In regards to Bluetooth, latency describes the length of time that it takes for a sound transmitted from your phone (or another device) to be played on the earbuds or speakers that receive it.

Why do wireless earbuds have latency?

Despite what you might expect, even wired headphones aren’t entirely free of lag. But it’s pretty much imperceptible to humans at a tiny 5-10ms. Bluetooth lag associated with wireless earbuds is more significant, coming in at between 32-300ms.

The reason that Bluetooth lag is far greater than that experienced with wired connections is that Bluetooth devices spend far more time in the initial processing stages of converting digital data into an audio signal. So it takes longer to transmit the sound waves from the diaphragm of the earphones into your ears.

When audio is sent over Bluetooth, it must first be processed into a format for transmission over the air. Next, it is received by the headphones or speakers, where it must first be converted into an analog audio signal. Only then can it be enjoyed as playback. All of this takes time. And even though we’re talking about fractions of a second here, those additional steps can increase the lag you experience when you use Bluetooth.

Can latency be avoided?

Just to be clear, some degree of latency when you use Bluetooth is unavoidable. The steps involved in transmitting, decoding, and then playing audio will always take time.

In fact, Bluetooth headphones have an absolute minimum latency of 32ms – and even that is unstable in most cases. But depending on the equipment you’re using, this can go up significantly. This is a problem, as studies have shown that when lag increases beyond 100ms, it becomes more and more distracting to the user.

The short answer is that, no, lag isn’t avoidable when using Bluetooth. The good news though is that there are a few steps you can take to minimize the latency and its effect on your listening experience.

Focus on the Codec

The best bet for reducing latency when using Bluetooth headphones earbuds is to pick the right codec. If you want a deeper understanding of what codecs are and how they function, check out our article: How to Become a True Wireless Stereo Professional.

But to give you the short story, Codecs are responsible for encoding and decoding digital files for transfer across the Bluetooth protocol. The most common codec is called SBC (short for low-complexity sub-band codec).

SBC’s is popular, it’s open-source and therefore free for manufacturers to use. Additionally, SBC consumes very little in the way of system resources.

The downsides of using SBC are that it only supports 16-bit audio and has a massive latency of between 100-200ms. If you want to tackle lag and prioritize overall sound quality, we recommend you look for an alternative.

Currently, the most popular low-latency alternative to SBC is aptx HD. It supports 24-bit sound with latency as low as 40ms.

Low latency TWS Earbuds

Previously, if you wanted to purchase TWS earphones with low latency, you would have to be prepared to hand over a large amount of cash. But times are changing with the release of the stable and speedy HiTune T3 TWS Earbuds.

The HiTune T3 Low Latency TWS Earbuds are capable of latency as low as 60ms, which is below the 100ms threshold of what we can perceive, and enough to give gamers the edge in competition. Count on them to ensure you never get the “badly dubbed kung-fu flick” effect of poor lip synchronization when watching media.

The HiTune T3 LL TWS Earbuds offer more stable audio than previous iterations, as well as being super speedy. 14.2mm drivers and advanced diaphragms with PU+Titanium plating ensure that every auditory detail, from rumbling, punchy basslines to the crystalline treble notes, are replicated clearly and faithfully.

UGREEN HiTune T3 Earbuds

What’s more, it even has some features that you would only normally expect to find on headphones with a premium price tag. These include environmental noise canceling (ENC) that uses a 4-mic array to eliminate distracting background sounds, and a massive 20h battery life (comparable to the Apple AirPods Max).

With the HiTune T3 LL TWS Earbuds, 15 minutes of charging gives you an hour of playback, and your charging case will be full in just 2-2.5 hours.


The Impact of Low Latency TWS Earbuds

Low latency earbuds can be one of the cheapest and best ways to improve your experience of consuming any media or playing any type of game online.

For gamers who enjoy first-person shooter games such as PUBG or Call Of Duty: Warzone, low-latency earphones can mean the difference between life and death. But in reality, any game will benefit from properly synched audio.

For anyone currently working from home, you will almost certainly have experienced the jarring, frustrating nature of poor conference call connections. Bluetooth lag can be an exacerbating factor in these kinds of problems, so it’s best to eliminate as much as possible.

For everyone else, all of your media, Youtube videos, films, and TV programs will surely benefit from having the audio and the visual match properly. Nothing can pull you out of a make-belief world faster than bad lip-syncing!

Slow and Steady doesn’t win the Bluetooth Race

In the classic race between the hare and the tortoise, taking it nice and slow may have been the key to the tortoise’s victory. However, in the world of TWS earphones, you want everything to move as swiftly as possible!

Grab yourself a pair of HiTune T2 Low Latency TWS Earbuds today to instantly upgrade your gaming, video watching, and working-from-home audio experience.

Have you struggled with latency issues in the past? Let us know your horror stories in the comments below!

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