What is aptX?

If you’ve taken a look at our new products at Solid Signal, you’ve seen our Tech Choice Bluetooth Audio Receiver and Transmitter. It’s the first product that we offer with Qualcomm’s aptX technology. You may not need it today, but you’ll want it in the future, there’s no doubt.

A little bit about Bluetooth

Bluetooth technology was invented at the very dawn of the 21st century. The goal was basic wireless communication. Before that, wireless connection between two devices was a mixed bag. Some devices used proprietary dongles. (Many wireless mice still do.) Some used fancy but ineffective technologies like IrDA.  The idea was a single standard that made short-range wireless communication easy and quick. Wi-Fi was for communication between different devices; Bluetooth was designed to help accessories communicate with their host device.

The “killer app” for Bluetooth was, of course, car audio. At the time Bluetooth rolled out, there was a lot of focus on how talking on the phone in the car could be deadly. Bluetooth let people connect their phones and talk on speaker while driving. Bluetooth headsets also gave snarky jerks of the day a status symbol to hang on their ears. It let them say, “hey, I’m so important that I might need to take a call at any time!

But what Bluetooth didn’t have, and didn’t need, was audio quality. Early Bluetooth devices were for voice calls, not music. But, it wasn’t long before people wanted to start using Bluetooth for wireless headsets. And that meant that they started caring about audio quality.

Why is Bluetooth audio quality worse than wired audio?

In order to get information from your phone to your ear, it needs to be compressed. And it does get compressed, pretty savagely. Software within the headphones can help put back some of the lost quality, but it’s never quite the same. With compression, what’s lost is lost forever and all you can do is hope to simulate it.

I’ll admit, it’s not the biggest problem we have in the world but it is something that people do notice when they’re listening to their music wirelessly. Thanks to the advent of smaller wireless earbuds, they’re doing that a lot.

That’s where aptX comes in.

Getting sound to your Bluetooth headphones still means compressing it. But, there have been a lot of tech advancements since 2002, and that means that more powerful hardware is a lot cheaper. It’s now possible to use much more advanced math in compressing the signal, and that means preserving more of it. Not only that, aptX can be configured in two ways. It can provide the absolute highest quality, or it can provide nearly instantaneous communication. This means that gaming headsets will be more responsive, which means gamers will do better.

In order to use aptX, you need both a headset and a transmitter that supports it. Only the latest hardware will do. Even if your relatively new device supports Bluetooth, it might not support aptX. You can get a relatively complete list here. As you can expect from newer tech, you’ll find a lot of Samsung products that support it and, well, no Apple ones. Maybe next year.

It’s a futureproof technology

You might not need aptX right now, but you’ll want it in the future. Whether you are a gamer, someone who appreciates good music, or just someone who wants their stuff to work well, it will be the “go-to” tech in the future.

Oh, and one more thing: Apparently it’s called “aptX” because “apt” stands for “audio processing technology.” The funky use of lower case… well I have no explanation for that.

You can get our aptX-enabled Bluetooth adapter, along with everything you’ll need to live your best digital life, when you shop at Solid Signal.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.