How to Reduce Audio Latency in Bluetooth Earbuds

By The Best Portable SpeakersNov 14, 2021

Have you ever sat down to enjoy your favorite television show when, all of a sudden, the audio coming through your earbuds, headphones or speakers doesn't match up with the actor's mouths on screen?

It can be an incredibly frustrating issue for a television viewer, and it is extremely distracting from the plot on the screen.

how to reduce audio latency

Believe it or not, it probably isn't a lip sync error, although that is what it is often called.

The issue may be the audio latency in your Bluetooth earbuds. You may be thinking, what is audio latency? What does this have to do with my Bluetooth earbuds?

How can I resolve this problem, so I can get back to enjoying my favorite TV show or music video? Read on to see how to reduce audio latency in your Bluetooth earbuds.

What is Latency?

Latency is the time it takes for the data to be transferred from one device to another. For example, with earbuds, latency is the delay before sound comes through your speakers after the play button has been pressed on your device.

Audio needs to be transmitted and decoded before it can be played through your earbuds. Although today, data travels through the networks incredibly fast, it is pretty much impossible to achieve the data transmission without a delay.

All devices have latency because none of them are quick enough to be able to transmit sound with no delay. Even wired earbuds have a degree of latency, although it is so low that it cannot be detected by human ears.

Therefore, the goal with wireless earbuds, just like it is with wired ones, is to have latency as low as possible - so you can enjoy fully synchronized video and audio.

Bluetooth earbuds have a greater delay than wired earbuds or headphones because there is more time involved in converting data into an audio signal. When searching for a good pair of Bluetooth earbuds, finding low latency earbuds should be your goal.

What Causes Latency Issues?

When audio is not in sync with video, you may have a latency issue. Latency issues occur during the transmission of audio.

First, the audio is encoded, it’s then transferred via Bluetooth. Next, it is decoded, and the sound is sent to your ears.

The entire process only takes milliseconds, but even that can be detectable and destroy the viewing experience. The problem usually lies in the amount of time it takes to encode and decode the transmitted content, thus causing a delay.

Bluetooth devices use a codec to encode data to be sent from a transmitting device, and the earbuds then decode this data into information for your listening pleasure.

There are many different kinds of codec with varying transmission speeds, but all Bluetooth devices need at least the Sub-Band Codec (SBC) to be able to transmit its content. SBC has a noticeable lag of 200-220 milliseconds.

There are other codec options that can provide low latency, higher sound quality and so on. Both units, transmitting and receiving, should support the same codec for best results.

Other things that could factor into your latency issues with Bluetooth are interference, such as Wi-Fi or television that are trying to use the same signal range or too great of a distance between the source (your streaming device) and the receiver (your earbuds).

Sometimes, when streaming from the Internet, latency issues can be caused by bandwidth. Having a bandwidth problem could make the audio inconsistent, causing drop-outs or latency issues. Also, the range of your Internet connection and the frequency can cause interference on your streaming unit too.

How Do You Fix Audio Latency on Earbuds?

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If the video and audio are off-sync while you are using a Bluetooth headset or earbuds to watch videos or TV, you can try troubleshooting the problem before you rush to buy new ones. 

For those of you, who are using wireless earbuds to connect to a Bluetooth TV - most of these TVs have an audio delay setting in the audio source settings menu. It can be adjusted to slow down the visual, so that the audio in your earbuds can catch up. Some Bluetooth enabled PCs have this functionality built-in too.

And, for those who are streaming from their mobile phones, you would need to troubleshoot further as the developers of most of the video apps already account for Audio Video(A/V) Sync so that you don’t have those annoying lag issues. 

  • Start by disconnecting and reconnecting both transmitting and receiving units by switching off Bluetooth on your transmitting device.
  • Reset your paired devices list.
  • Check the Internet and hardware connections. You might need to reset the router.
  • Resetting the software is your next step. Sometimes a hard reset is needed for the software to begin working properly again. So, reboot the transmitting device, so the Bluetooth driver resets.  
  • You also can do a factory reset on both transmitting and receiving units. 
  • You can always check for firmware updates. 
  • Interference with other signals also can affect latency. Your TV, gaming systems and even Wi-Fi connection could make the transmission lag. Limit other signals in your area to maximize your wireless connection. In addition, ensure that your transmitting unit is not too far away from your Bluetooth earbuds. 
  • Make sure that your earbuds and your phone are using the same codec, as this could be another cause for latency issues. Remember, as we mentioned above, the Bluetooth audio codec cannot be updated or changed within your earbuds.

If you’ve gone through all the troubleshooting steps and still have the same problem, you have two choices: replace your earbuds/headset with the wired ones or with those that have low latency. Check the ones that we recommend below. 

If you decide to replace your earbuds, make sure your phone or TV supports low latency as well. And, if it doesn't, have a look at these transmitters:

If however, your TV supports LL and the earbuds you own don’t, you can always buy a Bluetooth receiver adaptor: 

Alternatively, you can purchase a headphone & adaptor combo:

How to FIX Audio Delay INSTANTLY when using Bluetooth headphones to Watch TV / Videos

Does Bluetooth 5.0 or Higher have Less Latency Lag?

In general, the latest Bluetooth versions have faster transmission times. That means that products with Bluetooth 5.0 or higher installed can have less latency lag. So, having the latest Bluetooth technology should fix most latency issues for the average Bluetooth device.

If you want the lowest latency possible and maximum audio performance for gaming or watching movies and video clips, you should pay close attention to the codec used in your Bluetooth earbuds and streaming device.

Both of them need to support the same codec for best results. Most devices, including those with iOS, use SBC as a default codec as described earlier.

aptX Codec Supports Low Latency

The most common codec for transmitting audio data is SBC. However, there are more advanced codecs that support low latency as well. The Qualcomm’s aptX LL technology is the best to reduce audio latency and give you a more seamless audiovisual experience.

AptX LL codec is specifically designed for low latency; it reduces the transmission time and synchronizes audio with video, creating a high-quality result. This codec features latency of approximately 40 milliseconds.

Four Earbuds Built with Low Latency in Mind

If your latency issues do not improve after troubleshooting, you may need to buy some new Bluetooth earbuds that integrate low latency technology.

A transmitting unit's codec cannot be updated, so make sure your mobile phone or computer has the same codec as your new set of earbuds. Below are four sets of earbuds that integrate low latency technology.

JLab Epic Air ANC True Wireless Bluetooth 5 Earbuds

With super low latency movie mode, 48 hours of playback from a single charge, sweat resistance, wireless charging and a wear detect sensor, these earbuds are a great choice. 

Its Bluetooth 5.0 ensures high audio quality and a good connection.

Movie mode ensures that the audio will match up with the voices on the screen with a latency lag of less than 100 milliseconds.

Avantree Ace 130 Earbuds

These earbuds are equipped with Bluetooth 5.2, a more advanced version that offers higher audio quality and transmission speeds. They are waterproof and can be used in any environment.

Ace 130 supports aptX, AAC and SBC codecs.

They have low latency, but unlike other low latency earbuds, these earbuds have an independent transmitter system.

This means that your transmitting device doesn't need to support a low latency codec to provide you with a fantastic lag-free experience.

Avantree Clari Air II Earbuds

Enjoy a full audio experience with powerful bass and rich sound thanks to the exclusively built dual drivers.

These earbuds offer an inline control system, so you don't need to search for your phone every time you want to change the song or volume.

In addition, Clair Air ll Earbuds support dual link, meaning they can connect up to two devices.

This model supports the aptX-LL, aptX and SBC codecs.

Avantree TWS116 Earbuds

These true wireless (TWS) earbuds were created for television viewing. They are open ear and use Bluetooth 5.0, which provides high audio quality and high transmission speeds. This model uses a new chip technology that noticeably lowers the latency levels in these Bluetooth earbuds using the sub-band codec.

The TWS116 reduces the SBC codec latency from 200-220 milliseconds down to around 110 milliseconds. Generally, earbuds that provide low latency functionality require both transmitting and receiving units to support the same aptX LL codec.

TWS116 earbuds, however, offer a solution for those who use devices with higher latency codec (such as the SBC).

Thus, using these earbuds, you can enjoy a low latency experience regardless of what device you are connected to.

Conclusion

All in all, audio latency describes the delay from the time you press play on your device until you hear the audio in your earbuds. When issues arise with audio latency, such as the audio in your earbuds not lining up with the video on your device, there are a few things that you can do to troubleshoot.

These include turning the device and earbuds off and back on for a hard reset, reconnecting them, searching for any sources of transmission interference, and making sure the device is close enough to your earbuds.

If none of these issues solve your latency problems, the issue may lie in your codec. Because codec cannot be updated or changed in your devices and Bluetooth earbuds, it may be time to purchase a new set of Bluetooth earbuds that are built with low latency in mind.

When considering a new pair of low latency Bluetooth earbuds, pay attention to the codec, and make sure it matches your device.

You may just find the perfect pair of Bluetooth earbuds for you.

reducing audio latency in earbuds
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