Often there is pride in the packaging of the slightly more expensive aptX headphones, but what about AAC and what do you choose?
aptX has always been the magic word when it comes to wireless speakers and headphones. In the meantime, newer versions of aptX (HD) have appeared that offer even more sound quality. But you shouldn’t allow yourself to be fooled by all that beauty.
First of all, aptX is an ‘ordinary’ codec where loss occurs. The HD version is not lossless either. The first version of aptX dates back to the eighties of the last century, where it was used as a file format for music files in radio studios. In the meantime, it has moved to the twenty-first century, as one of the Bluetooth codecs. Where aptX is definitely an improvement on the standard SBC that is often found in average Bluetooth speakers and headphones. For SBC, you don’t need to have a trained ear to hear the compression deficiencies.
An additional problem with SBC is that recompression often occurs. If you are listening to an MP3 file originally, for example, it will be decoded on your smartphone and then re-encoded to SBC. If you are listening to an MP3 file anyway, you can use this application to decode it and then re-encode it to SBC. The average teenager doesn’t know any better and listens to it most of the time during all kinds of sports activities and won’t be irritated by the extra amount of compression.
aptX is already one degree better, and you should keep in mind that the same problem of recompression occurs here again of course. Only less audible because aptX is less destructive for the sound quality. It is very important to remember that the source (i.e. your smartphone, tablet, etc.) must also support aptX. If this is not the case, it switches back to SBC. This is something especially important for owners of Apple equipment to keep in mind: it does not support aptX. But doesn’t really need that either!
AAC and the Apple ecosystem
In fact, users of Apple equipment and iTunes are still the best in terms of sound quality. Apple does use lossy compression for its tracks and streams. AAC, to be precise. However, the bit rate is high, and if you use headphones or speakers that also support native AAC, no recompression takes place. And that’s audible!
Strangely enough, many manufacturers hardly mention that their product can also handle AAC. aptX has all the glory! AAC is more for ‘insiders’. But if you’re in the Apple ecosystem, the sound quality certainly pays off when you buy a Bluetooth headphone or speaker to check whether the AAC codec is supported. That sounds a lot better.
Of course, an original MP3 file or otherwise encoded stream will be recompressed. But AAC, just like aptX, is a lot friendlier for the final sound quality, compared to the simple SBC.