With the release of Sony WF-1000XM5 and WH-1000XM5, more and more owners are wondering how to enable Hi-Res audio, which is one of the key features of high-end Sony wireless headphones and earbuds, in addition to the signature noise canceling feature.
This guide explains and shows you how to use LDAC codes to enable Hi-Res audio on Android devices so that you can enjoy the best quality audio you have paid for. Detailed step-by-step instructions are included. Questions you may have on LDAC codec and Hi-Res audio are also answered.
This guide applies to all wireless headphones and earbuds with LDAC codec support. We use Sony WF-1000XM4, WF1000XM5, and WH-1000 series just as examples.
Background info on Bluetooth codecs and Hi-Res audio
However, some readers may need some background info.
Bluetooth audio sucks.
Many cheap wired headphones are better than high-end wireless headphones.
Most wireless earbuds, including the AirPods Pro series, Sony WF-1000 series, and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds series, are inferior to most cheaper wired headphones.
But Bluetooth audio solves the problem when “wire” is unavailable (or not an option). Especially in the current market, almost all “flagship” or high-end phones have removed the most useful (for audiophiles) 3.5mm audio jack. You may have to look for a Bluetooth headset or wireless earbuds.
Bluetooth codec makes a difference.
All Bluetooth “audio” devices must support the baseline codec: SBC (subband codec), which is part of the Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP). This guarantees that all Bluetooth headphones or earbuds work with all “sending” devices (e.g., iPhone and Android phones).
AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) was standardized by ISO and IEC. Almost all headphones and earbuds manufacturers support it, although it is not royalty-free. Generally, AAC offers better (arguable)audio quality than SBC with the same bandwidth. Of course, this depends on the implementation of the sending and receiving devices.
Hi-Res means different in file format and Bluetooth codec.
When talking about individual music files, Hi-Res usually means either uncompressed (e.g., WAV) or compressed but lossless (e.g., FLAC and ALAC). MP3 and AAC are two common examples of the opposite side: compressed and lossy.
For the codec, the Japan Audio Society certifies Hi-Res Audio and Hi-Res Audio Wireless. The requirement is 96kHz/24bit or above. Currently, there are only the following 4 codecs have been certified as Hi-Res Audio Wireless (mainly for Bluetooth implementation):
Up to now, LDAC is the most successful one, thanks to Sony's power and money in the consumer audio market.
The most challenging part of implementing Hi-Res audio in Bluetooth A2DP profile is the limited bandwidth. LDAC leverages the Enhanced Data Rate (EDR) to achieve the maximum 990k bps rate, which is 3 times that for SBC (328kbps). The bit rate of Bluetooth codecs is compared here.
LDAC operates in three modes, and you need to ensure it works at 660 or 990kbps.
After you enable Hi-Res audio on the phone with a supported headset, the LDAC may operate at 3 different modes with a speed of 330, 660, and 990kbps, respectively. The phone, by default, adjusts it automatically, which is called adaptive bit rate.
In plain words, if it is at 330kbps, you lose all the advantages of the LDAC and the premium of Hi-Res audio. It is probably even worse than using the SBC or AAC codecs.
So, you should manually set the rate (read on).
Why Android only? Why can I not enable Hi-Res Audio on my iPhone?
Up to iPhone 15, Apple does not support any Hi-Res audio for Bluetooth connection. This means you must use the SBC or AAC codecs if you use any wireless headphones or earbuds with an iPhone.
Although Apple Music offers lossless audio, you need to use wired headphones or the built-in speaker (no kidding, it is suggested by Apple officially) if you want to access the lossless version of the songs.
However, Android is a different story. Sony donated the LDAC codecs to the Android project, and Hi-Res audio codes, LDAC, have been baked into Android since Android 8 (Oreo). So, technically, for any Android phones or tablets with Android 8 or later, LDAC codec is supported. Therefore, you can enable Hi-Res Audio on these devices.
What do you need to enable Hi-Res Audio?
Of course, to enjoy the Hi-Res audio, the receiver side (headphones or earbuds) must also support the LDAC codec. Unfortunately, only some high-end headphones and earbuds support it.
So, you need the following two items to enable Hi-Res audio:
- An Android device with Android 8 (Oreo) or later.
- A wireless headphone or earbuds supporting LDAC codec.
Please note that none of the Apple or Bose wireless headphones or earbuds support LDAC codec.
Some high-end Sony headphones and earbuds support LDAC, including:
- WH-1000 series, including MDR 1000X, WH-1000XM2, WH-1000XM3, WH-1000XM4, and WH-1000XM5.
- Recent WF-1000 series: WF-1000XM4 and WF-1000XM5. WF-1000XM3 and older versions do NOT support LDAC.
A few high-end third-party wireless headphones also support the LDAC codec, for example:
- Some Audio-Technica wireless headphones, e.g., ATH-M50xBT2.
- Some other brands may offer LDAC in some of their products, e.g., Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2.
- The best truly wireless noise canceling headphones on the market.
- Astonishing sound quality with High-Resolution Audio.
- Sony’s best ever call quality with AI based noise reduction algorithm and bone conduction sensor.
- Small, light and beautifully designed.
- Smooth switching and a clear Bluetooth signal with a powerful new Integrated Processor V2.
Steps to enable Hi-Res audio on Android devices
This guide will use Samsung Galaxy S23 and Sony WF-1000XM4 as an example. Other devices should work similarly.
By default, you will NOT get the best audio quality because almost all Android phones always switch back to “best effort (adaptive bitrate)” to balance between a stable connection and the optimal sound quality. Some manual intervention is needed when you are listening to lossless audio.
Step 1: Pair WF-1000XM4/XM5 with Galaxy S23 and install Sony | Headphones Connect app
Sony | Headphone Connects app is needed to customize the settings of WF-1000XM4/XM5 and other Sony headphones. Firmware updates for Sony headsets are also obtained through this app. So, you should install this app from the Google Play Store if you own any Sony wireless headphones or earbuds.
Once an unpaired WF-1000XM4/XM5 is near Galaxy S23, the Fast Pair window pops up, as shown below.
You can tap Connect to pair the earbuds with Galaxy S23 immediately.
As WF-1000XM4 also supports Google Assistant, you will see the option to set up Google Assistant for the earbud, as shown below, after it is connected to the phone successfully.
You can skip this process and set it up later.
Step 2: Enable Prioritize sound quality in Sony | Headphones Connect app
Now, if you play lossless audio (e.g., FLAC) on the phone, you may not be impressed with the audio quality compared to an MP3 file.
And you should not because LDAC is not enabled by default on all Android phones even after you connect a compatible headphone or earbuds.
For example, you can go to Galaxy S23 Settings —Connections. Tap the Bluetooth field (not the switch).
As shown in the screenshot below, you can find there is no option for HD audio, Hi-Res Audio, or LDAC options.
By default, in almost all Android phones, the default codec, usually AAC (or SBC in older phones), is used for all Bluetooth headsets, even if they support some high-fidelity codecs.
On almost all Android phones, you need to manually enable the LDAC codec in the apps provided by the vendor.
You can also check the current codec used in the Headphones Connect app for Sony wireless headphones and earbuds.
As shown in the screenshot below, you can find that the AAC codec is actually used even when playing the FLAC audio.
To enable LDAC codec for the earbuds or headphones, you can tap the Sound tab in the Sony|Headphonea Connect app, as shown in the screen below.
Under Bluetooth connection quality, you can find the default option is Prioritize stable connection, which is suitable when the quality of the Bluetooth connection is not ideal, e.g., headphones or earbuds are more than a few meters away from the phone.
When Prioritize Stable Connection is enabled, LDAC codec will not be used in almost all Android phones, regardless of what type of file is played.
In other words, you need to switch to Prioritize Sound Quality to force your Android phone to use the LDAC codec so that you can enable Hi-Res Audio.
Although the explanation does not state this, we found this is a necessary step to force the LDAC codec. Otherwise, it will use the AAC (or SBC) codec.
After tapping on the Prioritize Sound Quality, the earbuds (WF-1000XM4/XM5) need to reconnect to the phone.
You should see the notification, as shown in the screenshot below.
You must tap OK to change the connection mode.
Step 3: Enable LDAC for WF-1000XM4 in Bluetooth settings
After switching to Prioritize Sound Quality mode, you can verify that LDAC codec is available. But it is not used yet.
In the Bluetooth settings for the earbuds (WF-1000XM4/XM5), as shown below, you can find there is a new entry of LDAC.
You must manually turn on the LDAC option here to enable Hi-Res audio.
Tap the switch to turn it on.
As shown in the screenshot below, the LDAC is now enabled.
This means LDAC codec will be used.
You can quickly verify whether LDAC codec is used by the headphones or earbuds in the Sony |Headphones Connect app.
As shown in the screenshot below, you can find the LDAC codec is now being used.
But this is NOT the Hi-Res audio you expected yet. You still need to enable one more setting.
Step 4: Change the playback quality to Optimizes for Audio Quality (990kbps/909kbps) in Galaxy S23 developer options
Many owners of Sony headphones and earbuds mistakenly thought they got the Hi-Res audio once they saw LDAC codec was being used.
This is totally wrong because LDAC codec may work in three different modes (speeds):
- 990/909 kbps.
- 660/606 kbps.
- 330/303 kbps.
To get Hi-Res audio for your lossless music files, you must ensure the 990/909kbps mode is used.
The 330/303kbps mode should be avoided totally. The sound is usually not as good as that of the AAC codec at this speed.
If you have Bluetooth connection issues, you may choose 660/606kbps mode.
But how to change it to enable Hi-Res audio?
Android makes it really complicated and troublesome.
By default, all Android phones (including Sony's Xperia) use the adaptive bit rate, which seldom reaches 990/909kbps, based on our experience.
The settings to change the LDAC playback quality are deeply buried in the Developer options in Android devices.
You must use the Developer options to enable Hi-Res audio for the LDAC codec. There are a few paid apps in the Google Play store to set it up. But it is usually a hit-and-miss.
So, you must enable the Developer options on your Android phones. On stock Android (e.g., Google Pixels, Motorola Moto Gs), you need to navigate to Settings — About phone. Then, tap the Build number 7 times to enable the developer options.
Once the developer options are enabled, you can access them from Settings — Developer options on Galaxy S23 and other Galaxy phones, as shown in the screenshot below. On Pixel phones or Moto phones, you can access developer options in Settings — System — Advanced — Developer options.
After tapping the Developer options, you can see all available entries of the developer options. It is important to understand the meaning of the developer options before making any changes. The meaning of all these options was explained in this post (see footnote 33).
To enable Hi-Res audio, you can ignore others and find the entry of Bluetooth Audio LDAC Codesc Playback Quality, as shown in the screenshot below.
Please note this option is available only after:
- LDAC-supported headphones (e.g., Sony WH-1000 series) or earbuds (e.g., Sony WF-1000XM4/5) is connected to the phone.
- The LDAC codec is enabled in Step 3.
If you cannot find this option, check the current codec used in the Headphone Connect app.
You can find the Best Effort (Adaptive Bit Rate) is active.
To enable Hi-Res Audio, you tap on Bluetooth Audio LDAC Codesc Playback Quality.
Then, a pop-up window shows, as shown in the screenshot below.
You must tap Optimized for Audio Quality (990kbps/909kbps) to use Hi-Res audio,
If the distance between your phone and the headphone (or earbuds) is usually larger than 2~3 meters, you probably should choose the Balanced Audio and Connection Quality (660kbps/606kbps)
After the Optimized for Audio Quality (990kbps/909kbps) is selected, as shown in the screenshot below, tap OK to confirm.
If you forget to tap OK, the change will not be saved.
Now, you can enjoy Hi-Res audio with the headphone or earbuds.
Why must I enable Hi-Res Audio after I reconnect the earbuds or headphone?
Unfortunately, the Bluetooth Audio LDAC Codesc Playback Quality setting is NOT persistent on all Android devices.
Whenever you reconnect the headphone or earbuds to the phone, although the LDAC codec is enabled automatically (if you enabled it before), the playback quality is always reset to the Best Efforts (Adaptive Bit Rate).
There are no solutions for it unless Android changes its behavior in future versions.
So, you must enable Hi-Res audio (i.e., set the playback quality to 990/909kbps) in the developer options after reconnecting the headphone or earbuds to the phone.
FAQs on using and enabling Hi-Res audio on Android devices with WF-1000XM4, WF1000XM5, and WH-1000 series
Does WF-1000XM3/XM2/XM1 support the LDAC codec?
Does AirPods Pro 2 support the LDAC codec?
Are there any other wireless earbuds supporting the LDAC codec (besides WF-1000XM4/5)?
Why can I not enable Hi-Res Audio on the Amazon Fire tablet?
Is Hi-Res audio just a gimmick?
When should I enable Hi-Res Audio?
Why Hi-Res Audio is not for Spotify users?
As an iPhone user, how do I enjoy Hi-Res Audio?
Do you have any questions about how to enable Hi-Res Audio and LDAC codec for the Sony WF-1000XM4/5 and WH-1000 series?
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- Fast Pair, aka Google Fast Pair Service (GFPS), is available on all recent Android phones. It can be used to quickly pair an Android phone with supported devices, which can be another phone or accessories like headphones and earbuds. For example, you can use Fast Pair to set up Galaxy S23 with your old phone. Sony WF-1000XM4/SM5 supports Fast Pair. ↩︎
- You can easily enable and disable developer options on any Android phone. But the Build Number field may be located in different locations in the Settings. For Galaxy S23, S22, or S21, you can follow this guide to enable and disable developer options. For Motorola phones, you may follow this post. ↩︎
- The developer options in each version of Android are slightly different. But for Android 8 (Oreo) or later phones, you should be able to find the Playback Quality option for LDAC codec, e.g., Galaxy S23 developer options and Galaxy S22 developer options. ↩︎