Bluetooth 5.0: Everything you need to know
Bluetooth 5.0: Everything you need to know
Bluetooth 5.0: Everything you need to know

Everything you need to know about Bluetooth 5.0

With the ever-increasing popularity of wireless headphones, speakers, music systems, and wearable devices, Bluetooth is becoming more and more common. If you don’t believe us, ask the Bluetooth Task Force (SIG), which estimates that seven billion Bluetooth devices will be sold globally in 2026, nearly two billion more than in 2022. Incredible numbers!

Bluetooth has been around for nearly 25 years (yes, we’re feeling old at this point too), and its original goal was to rid audio components of cumbersome nine-pin RS-232 serial ports.

These days, the Bluetooth chip is hidden in almost every mobile or stationary device you can find. At the same time, the technology is constantly improving. Bluetooth LE (together with Bluetooth 5.2 – more on that below), 5.0, 5.1, 5.2 and 5.3 are now faster than ever before and have great potential for IoT and wireless music listening.

If you’re considering purchasing a Bluetooth device, but don’t understand what protocol version you need – and whether those numbers really matter – we’ll give you all the information you need.

What is Bluetooth 5.0?

Bluetooth 5.0: Everything you need to know

Version 5.0 is the latest umbrella iteration of Bluetooth, a near field wireless technology found in smartphones, smartwatches, tablets, wireless headphones and speakers, laptops, desktops and many other devices.

Bluetooth technology, as you probably know, allows various devices to communicate with each other wirelessly without an Internet connection – provided that they are relatively close to each other. With it, you can also transfer content from an audio source (most often a smartphone) to a wireless speaker to listen to music at the right volume at home, in the park or on the beach.

We won’t go into the early stages of Bluetooth development here for a simple reason: if you’re buying a new budget speaker or wireless headphones today, the oldest version of the protocol you can see on the technical data sheet is 4.2, released in 2014. This old variant is still found in some high-end devices, often as a backup streaming method beyond Wi-Fi, such as in the award-winning What Hi-Fi? AC Audio Pro Addon C10 MkII .

We move from 4.2 to Bluetooth versions 5.0 (released in 2016), 5.1 (January 2019), 5.2 (December 2019) and finally 5.3, which was introduced on July 13, 2021. Bluetooth 5.3 is the most advanced; its benefits include higher energy efficiency (resulting in longer battery life), improved wireless stability over long distances, and less interference. It is used in the latest (usually high-end) devices such as the iPhone 14 family, Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II and Apple AirPods Pro 2.

However, Bluetooth 5.3 is not yet available for many new products – recently released devices such as the Sony WH-1000XM5, Apple HomePod 2 and Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3 use version 5.2 or earlier. So check the specifications before buying.

How is Bluetooth 5.0 different?

Compared to its predecessor, Bluetooth 4.2 Low Energy, Bluetooth version 5.0 is twice as fast, has four times the range, and can transfer eight times more data.

If you need exact parameters, in numbers this is 2 Mbps. In practice, this means a fast and reliable wireless connection, allowing faster firmware updates and data downloads.

With an extended range of approximately 240 meters, compared to 60 meters for Bluetooth 4.2, your wireless speakers and headphones will work at a much greater distance from the source of your content than when connected via Bluetooth 4.2 Low Energy. In a real-life setting, walls and obstacles will shorten this distance a little, but it’s still a very big achievement that allows you to provide whole-house coverage for IoT devices, such as security cameras, smart refrigerators or thermostats, and more.

And by making better use of broadcast channels in the increasingly popular 2.4GHz band, it paves the way for “more advanced Bluetooth connectionless, beacon-based solutions,” according to SIG. In other words, you can expect more wireless connectivity wherever you are, from sports stadiums to shopping malls.

In addition, today it is already possible to connect several pairs of wireless headphones to the same sound source via Bluetooth thanks to the Dual Audio function, which was first introduced in version 5.0. If your device has the appropriate functionality (such as Samsung’s Bluetooth Dual Audio), you can independently adjust the volume of each device – great for sharing when traveling by train or plane.

Bluetooth 5.0 also allows compatible speakers to be stereo-paired by assigning one to left and the other to right, and sending a signal from the same source to them.

Bluetooth 5.0 is even able to detect interference at the edges of the 2.4 GHz band and the adjacent LTE band and automatically eliminate them. Thanks to this, music will sound clearer from any wireless device.

What devices are compatible with Bluetooth 5.0?

Bluetooth 5.0: Everything you need to know
Apple iPhone 13 (and all iPhone models from 8) supports Bluetooth 5.0

Despite seven years of experience, Bluetooth 5.0 is still very common – it can be found in every Apple smartphone from the iPhone 8 to the iPhone 13 (but not in the iPhone 14, as you will see below). It also comes with several wireless headphones, including the amazing Shure Aonic Free, Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+, Apple AirPods Max, and Apple AirPods 3.

The Samsung Galaxy S8 was the first smartphone to support this technology in 2017, followed by the larger Galaxy S8 Plus and Note 8 – and as you can see, the fleet of such devices has grown significantly since then.

As for the earphones, the Anker Zolo Liberty+, launched through a Kickstarter fundraiser, became the first Bluetooth 5.0-enabled model back in 2017. But while the 2018 Apple HomePod specs list version 5.0 (as does the 2020 Apple HomePod Mini smart speaker spec), both are definitely using AirPlay 2 for music streaming, not Bluetooth, and don’t show up as Bluetooth-enabled. devices. It seems that the Bluetooth radio channel is used only for configuration – and nothing more. Outside of the Apple ecosystem, the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin wireless speaker and Q Acoustics M20 desktop stereo also support Bluetooth 5.0.

What is Bluetooth 5.1?

Bluetooth 5.0: Everything you need to know

Bluetooth version 5.1 can be found in the JBL Flip 6 , JBL Charge 5 , JBL Go 3 and JBL Xtreme 3 portable speakers – and the list goes on.

Of course, version 5.1’s performance gains aren’t all that great compared to the 4.2 to 5.0 transition, but it does allow Bluetooth devices to pinpoint your location, enabling apps like Find My Headphones to work. There are other small benefits in the form of faster pairing and reduced power consumption, as well as slightly better manageability – a more reliable “connectable” signal on the device.

What is Bluetooth 5.2 capable of?

Bluetooth 5.0: Everything you need to know

Bluetooth 5.2 can be found in 2021 and 2022 wireless headphones including the Sony WF-1000XM4 , Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 and Beats Studio Buds, as well as smartphones including the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra and Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G. Version 5.2 provides, first of all, an improvement in the performance of audio devices, which is just great. Its main innovation (besides many technical, but mostly irrelevant modifications) is LE Audio, or Low Energy Audio transmission. Along with it came an audio codec called LC3, which boasts of providing high quality sound and lower power consumption.

Bluetooth 5.2 also allows multiple synchronized data streams. Let us explain in a nutshell what we are talking about and why this feature is so useful. Imagine wireless headphones: before, only one earphone was actually connected to a smartphone, and the second one was already “cling” to the first one. But if both are directly connected to the device – that is, it transmits multiple streams at the same time – this not only improves the reliability of the connection, but also largely eliminates the delays and synchronization problems that can occur between the left and right speakers. In addition, version 5.2 provides for the connection of two pairs of headphones to one device (which was not possible before), as well as the option to select an instance to use – if today you only need one.

Finally, the Bluetooth 5.2 protocol has greatly expanded the capabilities of hearing aids. Now they are able to function much longer on a single charge, and developers can make these devices much smaller and almost invisible.

How to get version 5.2? Although LE Audio operates on the same Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) radio channel, the device must be equipped with the appropriate hardware – so your old earbuds will not support it even after a firmware update. Fortunately, more recent Bluetooth 5.2 compatible headphones are more likely to be compatible with Bluetooth LE audio.

What is Bluetooth 5.3?

Bluetooth 5.0: Everything you need to know

This is the latest and highest performing version available on the latest and most versatile devices, including the iPhone 14 family, Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II and Apple AirPods Pro 2.

But not all new Bluetooth 5.3 gadgets are compatible.

Version 5.3 includes four major new features.

The first is called Periodic Advertising Enhancement; it is designed to make a Bluetooth device more efficient. In her absence, the same data is sent over and over again to ensure its delivery; Periodic Advertising Enhancement allows you to check once that sent data has been received, reducing power consumption and potentially extending battery life.

The second feature, Encryption Key Size Control Enhancements, allows the host to specify the number of characters in the recipient’s encryption key; this reduces the duration of the “negotiation” between them and increases the efficiency of the data transfer process.

The third improvement is called Connection Sub Rating and is intended for faster switching between scenarios for using Bluetooth devices. As a rule, they have two modes – normal (with low load) and intensive (with high load). The first is intended for undemanding applications, such as a hearing aid in a normal use situation. But if using the same gadget you want to organize wireless listening to music or talking on the phone, then it will switch to intensive mode, since higher requirements will be placed on it. The Connection Sub Rating feature should make these transitions smoother and less noticeable, improving the user experience.

And finally, the last feature, Channel Classification Enhancement, makes the wireless connection more secure and less susceptible to interference by allowing devices to perform channel classification when transmitting data packets at different frequencies.

Does Bluetooth 5.0 improve sound quality?

No. A pair of wireless headphones paired via Bluetooth 5.0 will not sound better than one paired via Bluetooth 4.2 – or rather, it may be, but this will not be related to the protocol version.

However, despite the fact that the Bluetooth version does not affect the sound quality, it makes a huge contribution to the functionality of the headphones. For example, devices with more recent versions of Bluetooth may have longer battery life, extended range, and features such as Multipoint to seamlessly switch between wireless devices without re-pairing.

They can also have higher bandwidths, allowing the use of Bluetooth codecs such as aptX HD, which provides higher-sampled audio streaming over a wireless network. So while a later version of Bluetooth doesn’t automatically mean better sound quality, it can still provide it thanks to a wider range of features.

Which version is better – Bluetooth 5.1 or 5.2?

Each version of Bluetooth builds on the previous one, so of course 5.2 is better than 5.1. It adds three key features: Enhanced Attribute Protocol (An improved version of the attribute protocol, EATT), Low Energy Power Control (Management at low power consumption, LEPC) and Isochronous Channels (Isochronous channels).

EATT allows you to play audio streams from two applications at the same time and also reduces latency. LEPC optimizes power consumption by monitoring how far away Bluetooth devices are from each other, resulting in better signal quality and a more reliable wireless connection. Isochronous channels allow you to send audio to each earbud individually, without having to go from left to right or vice versa, so you can listen to music through one earbud and charge the other at the same time.

Is Bluetooth 5.3 a lossless audio transmission protocol?

Unfortunately no. The Bluetooth channel does not have enough bandwidth to transmit lossless formats, so no wireless headphones provide lossless playback of music content, since compression always makes its contribution. However, things may change soon…

In 2022, Qualcomm announced two wireless audio platforms capable of supporting lossless Bluetooth data transfer in CD quality (16bit/44.1kHz). According to some reports, Apple and Sonos are also considering ways to wirelessly stream audio to headphones (even if they do without Bluetooth at all) – and perhaps we are not far from the promised land where it will be possible to listen to music without wires and without quality loss.