On Wednesday, Qualcomm introduced two new Aqstic audio codecs for use in the company’s high-end Snapdragon 730/730G chipsets.
Dubbed WCD9375 and WCD9370, the new codecs have a playback dynamic range of 120-dB and 123-dB, respectively. Here is the spec sheet for a quick glance. But on paper, they both slot below the older flagship WCD9341 that has a 130-dB playback dynamic range.
To further fine-tune the WCD9375, Qualcomm claims it enlisted the help of professional audiophiles referred to as “Golden Ears.” Golden Ears are certified individuals who have special hearing abilities to catch even the slightest hint of distortion in audio playback. We don’t know how these audio specialists plan to tweak the WCD9375, but they do have quite a job title.
Before Qualcomm revamped its mobile-oriented audio codecs under the new Aqstic name in 2016, many older smartphones resorted to various solutions from industry giants like ESS, Cirrus Logic or AKM to output higher fidelity sound.
The 2015 Meizu Pro 5, for instance, incorporated an ESS ES9018K2M DAC and Texas Instruments OPA1612 amplifier. The setup, although it helped the Meizu Pro 5 rival the audio output of some HiFi music players, was power hungry and expensive to implement, according to a Chinese media outlet Zaeke.
By comparison, a more straightforward solution like the Aqstic WCD9341 has a sizable advantage in cost, efficiency, complexity and tuning over the more “skunkworks” combination used by Meizu Pro 5 and many of its 2015 Chinese counterparts. As a fun fact, there is a dedicated Aqstic codec for headphone jack dongles.
Aside from simplifying the backend of mobile audio playback, Qualcomm also came up with the widely-adopted AptX protocol to improve wireless music playback compared to the ageing SBC protocol. If you recently purchased a high-end Bluetooth headphone from big brands, it probably supports AptX or Sony’s LDAC codec.
Currently, no phones officially sold in North America have the Snapdragon 730 series processor, so it will take some time for the new Aqstic chips to hit the Canadian market.
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