Windows 10 finally getting full AirPods support in imminent update

Windows 10 adding AAC support for AirPods
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An upcoming Windows 10 update is set to give any connected AirPods, AirPods Pro or AirPods Max a boost by adding support for Apple’ favored AAC Bluetooth codec.

A Windows Blog post detailed the Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 21370, which released yesterday to members of the Windows Insider Program. The build focuses on improving Bluetooth audio functionality, including AAC support and streamlining parts of the Windows 10 UI.

Insider Preview Builds aren’t the same as full Windows updates, but they exist to test out new features, performance improvements and bug fixes, so anything that makes it into an Insider Preview Build has a very good chance of becoming a bonafide Windows 10 addition soon after.

In the case of AAC support, the move could result in better sound quality when playing AAC files (yes, it’s both a file type and a Bluetooth codec) over a supportive speaker or pair of headphones — of which the AirPods models are prime candidates.

Currently, Windows 10 only supports the SBC and aptX codecs; because none of the AirPods work with the higher-quality aptX, AAC files from sources like Apple Music need to be encoded to the lower-quality SBC codec. This conversion process causes an even bigger drop in sound quality than you already get from the lossy SBC. So if both Windows and your headphones support the AAC codec, you can skip the process and enjoy better-sounding songs.

The update will also tidy up the “Select playback device” menu you can open from the Windows 10 taskbar so that certain Bluetooth devices don’t appear twice. Currently, devices like headsets can show up more than once, even if only one of the selections will actually ensure playback uses that device; in this Insider Preview Build, only one endpoint is visible per device, and Windows will automatically select the correct one.

On top of these continued, smaller updates, Microsoft is planning to give its OS a major design overhaul with the upcoming Windows 10 Sun Valley update. There’s no solid release date for this though we’re expecting it to launch sometime later this year.

James Archer

James is currently Hardware Editor at Rock Paper Shotgun, but before that was Audio Editor at Tom’s Guide, where he covered headphones, speakers, soundbars and anything else that intentionally makes noise. A PC enthusiast, he also wrote computing and gaming news for TG, usually relating to how hard it is to find graphics card stock.