A Research On True Wireless Earbuds – Bluetooth Chipset Makers and Major Players

I’ve been working on an Bluetooth Android app for a long time. The app gets GATT characteristics for battery level, manages Bluetooth connection and sound customization.

This allows me to read a lot of information about Bluetooth chip and their functionalities.

Often we heard about new TWS models released from dozens of brands, but none of them specifies which Bluetooth chipset is the core in Bluetooth modules (hardware makers), except Apple with their in-house developed chip.

You only get to know which Bluetooth processor in your wireless earbuds if they break, do a teardown you would see on Bluetooth modules (PCBA) letters like C, B, A what do they stand for briefly?

C stands for CSR Qualcomm

B stands for BES Hengxuan

and A stands for Airoha

Technically I am not able to evaluate their Bluetooth chips, but le’t see which of them are being used by Sony, Samsung, Bose, Anker or Jabra, etc..and these earbuds sound any good?

When a product becomes more popular people are more picky and they are expected more from the product for less, that’s I listed a set of requirements for true wireless earbuds

Sound quality

Noise isolation

Connection stabitility

Waterproof

Durability

Lightweight and comfort

And so on..

These things will lead to manufacturers develop new products or upgrade their products that meet the demand.

And they rely on chip makers that will build new features and functionalities to the Bluetooth chip-sets. Traditionally, hardware makers rely on chip makers, until chip makers release the next gen of chips with new features the firsts have no way to integrate that new functions to their products that is about to change. Apple and Huawei already have their first Bluetooth processors.

This gives benefit to users – cheap price, advanced features.

Take a look at some Bluetooth processor manufacturers and their profiles.

Bluetooth Chip Maker

Model

True wireless earbuds

Apple

W1

Airpods (first gen)

H1

Airpods (2nd gen)

Qualcomm

CSR8675

Sony WF-1000X

CSR8670

TicPods Free, Bragi The Headphones (discontinued)

CSRA63120

QCY Q29

BES

BES2000IZ

Meizu POP TW50 (not popular)

Airoha

AB1526

Anker Zolo Liberty+, SEC-E221BT (China market), Pioneer C8

Realtek

RTL8763B

Sebbat X12 Pro, LyreBeats T02s

Wind Tunnel

WT200

Not available

Jieli

AC175

Not available

Source: 52audio.com

Well the core part of TWS is Bluetooth Audio System-on-Chip (SoC) , which is responsible for wireless connection.

Each earbuds is now independent and they receive the audio signal transmitted via Bluetooth separately from the connected devices.

That simultaneous connections lives up the the stereo sound to wearers.

That overcome the problem with connection with very first model of TWS – 2 earbuds are connected with each other.

Low-latency, low-power consumption and solid Bluetooth connection, wireless listening matching the wired performance and the Bluetooth range is longer could be the standards for a pair of true wireless earbuds.

Standards for true wireless earbuds

Bluetooth audio SoC is highly integrated for new functions, so the TWS is a great candidate.

Understanding the Bluetooth audio SoC’s functions from various chip makers you would have a general view of what TWS can do.

Apple W1

First Gen of Airpods is equipped with Apple’s in-house chip, the W1. The W1 used optical sensors and motion acceleration sensor to track users behavior – put Airpods in/out of ear.

When you make calls, or talk to Siri, an acceleration sensor detect and trigger the function to filter out the background noise.

The W1 has a low-power consumption and high efficiency to manage the battery life, it is impressive that Airpods can last 5 hours for listening music, given its compact size that none of competitors can fit.

Apple H1

Airpods 2nd gen is equipped with the new Apple’s Bluetooth chip the H1. The H1 inherits most functions from the W1 but add the new “Hey Siri” voice command function to active Siri.

Qualcomm CSR (Qualcomm acquired CSR for a whopping $2.4 Billion)

Qualcomm CSR8675’s quick specs

  • Support standard Bluetooth 4.2
  • Support aptX, AAC, SBC and other transmission protocols
  • Support EQ and active noise cancellation.

BES2000IZ Bluetooth processor

Quick specs

  • High performance and low power consumption,
  • Support for Bluetooth 4.2
  • Transmission speed: 192KHz/24bit
  • Hi-Fi Audio
  • Support EQ and bass enhancement and other sound effects
  • Audio output signal to noise ratio of up to -105db
  • Support Active noise cancellation.

Realtek

Realtek is a Taiwanese chip-design house. You probably once install the driver (software) for Realtek sound cards.

Chip modelBluetooth versionFunctionalities
RTL8763BRC5.0
RTL8763BFP 5.0
RTL8763BFR 5.0
RTL8773BF5.1
RTL8773BFR 5.1
RTL8773C5.1

Recently they introduced the RTL8763B which supports Bluetooth 5.0. The RTL8763B is the first Bluetooth processor developed by Realtek.

But the Bluetooth connection of earbuds (Sebbat X12 Pro and LyreBeats T02s) having RTL8763B is not stable, it sometimes drops.

Airoha

Airoha Technology is another Taiwanese hardware and chip-design house, founded in 2001.

When I ordered some batches of TWS earbuds from China, I figured out the Airoha. Cheaper than Qualcomm CRS, the Airoha Bluetooth chips set have the most key functions that TWS needs.

Let’s have a look at chip model and their support Bluetooth versions

Chip modelBluetooth version
AB15114.1
AB1524C5.0
AB1526 4.2
AB1526P 5.0
AB1532 5.0
AB1536 5.0
AB1536U 5.0
AB155X 5.0

AB1511

Found in Dacom K6H TWS Photo: 52 Audio

This Bluetooth supports stereo sound and microphone, active noise cancelling and C.V.C noise reduction for microphone. It has a function to monitor the charging, and only allows the maximum current is 400mA being charged. However, the Airoha AB1511J supports old Bluetooth 4.1, EDR and Apple battery status indicator.

AB1526

The chip is reportedly used in Nakamichi Nakamichi NEP-TW3, PADMATE PAMU TWS, Philips SHB4385 TWS, Pioneer SEC-E221BT and ZOLO Liberty (Photo 52Audio)

The new gen of Bluetooth processor for high fidelity sound.

Airoha AB1526 Bluetooth processor for TWS

  • Support for Bluetooth 4.2
  • HFP1.6 and AAC decoder
  • Support equalizer and CVC noise cancellation for mic.
  • Embed flash memory for third party firmware

The AB1526 also has a built in flash memory which can store the software installed without power and able to upgrade the software developed by either third party or Aihora.

Aihora optimized the AB1526 MCU’s interface layout and DSP digital signal processor for higher performance, clear voice quality calls and better sound.

The AB1526 has a small BGA (A ball grid array) package and requires only a few extra components, making it great fit for TWS earbuds.

Two earbuds with AB1526 can be synced to each other, creating the stereo sound.

The “AiroShare” feature allows 4 earbuds can pair with the same device for sharing music experience.

AB1526P

Found in Fake Apple Airpods BINGOLA , Edifier TWS2, Hui Wei AW-73, Hewitt I93 TWS, iQiyi I71 D30, (KUWO) X1 TWS with Bluetooth headset look, Lenovo TWS, PURDIO NEXTER TX11, Pioneer SEC – E110BT TWS, SYLLABLE D15 TWS

The AB1526P is an upgrade of AB1526 , it supports Bluetooth 5.0, and profiles such as A2DP, HFP, HSP and AVRCP and an additional feature – stereo sound for calls – both earbuds will work when you have calls.

AB1532

AB1532

Huawei Kirin A1

Like Apple, Huawei wants to develop their own Bluetooth chipset built for their headsets. So they have the total control of how their TWS work for better performance.

FreeBuds 3 with Kirin A1 which supports NC works seamlessly. Because the PCA – Bluetooth modules of TWS isn’t that complicated like of smartphones or computer and a single chipset solution could make a big change for the product.

Kirin A1 is the world’s first Bluetooth 5.1 supported processor, its data transmission rate can reach up to 6.5 Gbps.

Jieli (zh-jieli.com)

Based in Hong Kong, Jieli Technology has released their lowcost Bluetooth chipset with excellent compatibility, which eats up CSR market share.

Jieli‘s AC175’s TWS contributed to lower prices of true wireless earbuds ($25 – $40)

Startups, big names such as Apple, Samsung, Huawei and Xiaomi, accessories makers like Anker, traditional headphones manufacturers such as Bose, Sony, Pioneer and Sennheiser all come to join the true wireless earbuds market.

Technologically I think true wireless earbuds about to mature. Now they are being tested with new advanced features and new design for better sound.

While traditional headphones makers are struggled with TWS tech, Airpods proved that the tech – smart feature is a winner over the sound.

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