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Bluetooth is getting the biggest upgrade in years — what you need to know

Sony LinkBuds S
(Image credit: Future)

You’ll soon be able to connect to multiple Bluetooth devices using the best wireless headphones or Bluetooth speakers, according to an announcement from the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) — the trade association that oversees the short-range wireless technology. 

This latest evolution to the Bluetooth specification known as Auracast enables Bluetooth streaming “to an unlimited number of nearby audio devices." In short, this allows listeners to invite friends and family to whatever they're listening to (or watching) via Auracast-enabled devices such as the best wireless earbuds, headphones, or the best Bluetooth speakers and next-gen hearing aids. 

Auracast enables a transmitting device such as smartphone, laptop, or television to stream audio to an unlimited number of nearby Bluetooth audio receiving devices, such as those mentioned above. Previously called Audio Sharing, Auracast is part of the recent Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) Audio capabilities rollout set to come to devices in the next few months when the final LE specification is launched. 

Bluetooth Auracast app

(Image credit: Bluetooth SIG)

Bluetooth tech has been around for two decades and has revolutionized the way we connect to our favorite music and TV media, breaking listeners free from getting tied up with wires physically tethered to a playback device. Until now, though, the tech has been limited to connections with just one or two devices at a time. 

Bulletins to your ears

With a capable pair of headphones, for example, wearers will be able to listen in to devices in public spaces such as TVs at airports, waiting rooms, and gyms, as well as public address system announcements, bringing accessibility and assistive listening to the next level, and big benefits to hearing aid users. 

It could also be used to send travel bulletins about delayed trains or flights, for example, straight to your earbuds. But it looks like you'll need to connect your earbuds or headphones to a public Bluetooth transmitter before these announcements arrive in your ears.

It will probably take a while until we see full Auracast support on all devices. But in the long term, sharing a common audio experience with multiple people looks set to be a lot easier (and a lot more fun), and could be widely in use by the end of the year.

As a former editor of the U.K.'s Hi-Fi Choice magazine, Lee is passionate about all kinds of audio tech and has been providing sound advice to enable consumers to make informed buying decisions since he joined Which? magazine as a product tester in the 1990s. Lee covers all things audio for Tom's Guide, including headphones, wireless speakers and soundbars and loves to connect and share the mindfulness benefits that listening to music in the very best quality can bring.