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Cheap wireless earbuds are about to get even better – without a steep price hike

bluetooth le
(Image credit: Bluetooth SIG)

The best wireless earbuds today offer a heady mix of great audio quality, active noise cancellation, and hands-free access to your device's voice assistant, all housed within a compact package – but these buds can be pretty expensive.

Now, these premium features could be coming to cheap wireless earbuds too, with the news that Qualcomm has launched the QCC3065x Soc, a true wireless earbud chip that comes with support for Bluetooth LE Audio.

First announced at CES 2020 in January, Bluetooth LE Audio is a wireless transmission standard that uses a new codec called LC3 to improve sound quality and battery life, as well as connect hundreds of devices to a single source.

The magic behind Bluetooth LE – or Bluetooth Low Energy – is the LC3 codec. It’s capable of compressing and decompressing data more efficiently than SBC, which means that Bluetooth wireless chips can do their jobs without drawing as much power. In other words, your true wireless earbuds are about to sound better, and last longer, too.

Buds that can do it all

As well as support for Bluetooth LE, the new Qualcomm earbud chip allows for audio sharing (so you can listen to music with a friend using one source device), hands-free voice assistant support, and Qualcomm's Adaptive Active Noise Cancellation. 

The chip also brings support for aptX Adaptive at up to 96Khz audio resolution and low-latency streaming for when you're watching videos or playing games, and cVc Noise Suppression to make your voice sound clear during phone calls. 

These are the kind of features you'd expect to find with relatively expensive true wireless earbuds like the Apple AirPods Pro or the Sony WF-1000XM3 – but the new chip is designed with mid-tier earbuds in mind, meaning you'll soon be able to get these premium features without breaking the bank. 

Qualcomm’s voice, music and wearables vice president and general manager James Chapman explains: "We believe this combination gives our customers great flexibility to innovate at a range of price points and helps them meet the needs of today’s audio consumers, many of whom now rely on their truly wireless earbuds for all sorts of entertainment and productivity activities."

According to Qualcomm, noise cancellation, hands-free voice calls, and mobile video watching "are among the most popular end-use cases for truly wireless earbuds today", so it's little wonder that manufacturers would want to make their earbuds are versatile as possible. 

While packing in so much tech would normally lead to lower battery lives and higher costs for consumers, the new QCC305x chip means we should see more fairly cheap wireless earbuds that can really do it all in 2021.

Olivia Tambini

Olivia is TechRadar's Audio & Music Editor, covering everything from headphones to music streaming services. Based in TechRadar's London offices, she's a popular music graduate who worked in the music industry before finding her calling in journalism. She's previously been interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live on the subject of multi-room audio, chaired panel discussions on diversity in music festival lineups, and her bylines include T3, Stereoboard, Top Ten Reviews Creative Bloq, and Croco Magazine.  In her spare time Olivia likes gardening, painting, and hanging with her cat Ethel and golden retriever Dora.