New Qualcomm audio chips — spatial audio, lossless music stream and more

Qualcomm S5 and S3 Gen 2 audio platform
(Image credit: Qualcomm)

Qualcomm is rolling out more than just a new flagship chipset for its phones this week. The company is also touting a pair of new sound platforms that promise a number of new and improved audio features for mobile gear.

The Qualcomm S5 and S3 Gen 2 sound platforms support Snapdragon Sound, Qualcomm's collection of audio technology for making sure that music, phone calls and games sound just right on your mobile device. These newest platforms promise improvements to spatial audio, lossless music streaming and latency over Bluetooth.

Some of the features that are part of the Qualcomm S5 and S3 Gen 2 sound platforms aren't huge surprises, as they were touched upon when the chip maker announced its new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 silicon for flagship Android phones earlier this week. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 promises support for spatial audio with dynamic head-tracking, which is very much part of the  Qualcomm S5 and S3 Gen 2 offerings. Increasingly, spatial audio is seen by consumers as a must-have feature for wireless earbuds, so Qualcomm wants make sure it's included as part of its audio platforms.

Another critical audio feature is support for lossless music streaming. So it's not really a surprise that the Qualcomm S5 and S3 Gen 2 offer that in line with new Bluetooth LE Audio specifications.

Long-awaited features are coming next year

Additional features of the Qualcomm S5 and S3 Gen 2 platforms include low latency for gaming audio — less than 48 milliseconds between your phone and your earbuds, Qualcomm says. Low latency is particularly critical for gaming where you want the sound in your ears to match the action on the screen. Additionally, Qualcomm says the S5 and S3 Gen 2 offer a voice back-channel for in-game chat when you're gaming on your smartphone.

The Qualcomm S5 and S3 Gen 2 platforms support Qualcomm's third-generation active noise cancellation features. That includes adapting the audio experience not just to external audio but how the earbuds are fitting in a person's ear. An Adaptive Transparency feature that's part of Qualcomm's active noice cancellation uses speech detection to switch between complete noise cancellation and letting natural sounds pass through when you need to hear the world around you.

The Snapdragon S5 and S3 platforms are used by audio device makers to bring new capabilities to speakers, earbuds and stereo handsets among other devices. The Gen 2 offerings are now with Qualcomm partners, and the chip maker says that commercial products should be ready by the second half of 2023.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.