If you experience delays in Bluetooth audio when watching movies or TV shows, you can usually adjust the delay on a TV to sync correctly. For gaming, TVs that lack a sync feature and other audio outputs, adjusting settings or upgrading your Bluetooth hardware can eliminate audio lag.
Bluetooth is great for music or audiobooks, but as soon as you’re watching video or gaming, it can introduce latency that makes everything seem like bad dubbing. Bluetooth speakers and headphones will always lag, but there are ways to minimize it.
Adjust the audio sync on your TV
Many televisions allow you to deliberately introduce a video delay to match the audio delay inherent in your audio equipment. By using this feature, you can get a perfect match between your Bluetooth audio output and the video you watch.
Unfortunately this solution is not suitable for gaming as you are adding input latency equal to the Bluetooth audio delay. If you want to watch movies and TV shows, this is the easiest solution, but anything interactive will need something different to fix the problem.
If your TV has this feature, you’ll need to look in your audio settings or manual for exact instructions, as they will vary by make and model.
Adjustment for distance and interference
Like any radio signal, Bluetooth performance can be affected if the signal is too weak. If there are objects between you and the receiver, or if you are too far away, or if other devices are operating on the same radio frequency, this can cause additional latency.
If latency improves as you move closer to the transmitting device, that’s a sign that this is one of the issues causing audio delay. The solution is to sit closer to the device, move it closer to you, remove sources of interference, or move objects that may block the signal.
Upgrade to Bluetooth 5.0 or newer
Newer versions of Bluetooth come with performance improvements, but you’ll only get the benefit of the oldest Bluetooth device in the chain. Bluetooth version 5.0 has been around for some time and represents a significant improvement over previous versions. If you’re using headphones, speakers, or a TV that’s still running an older version, you may benefit from upgrading.
Using an external Bluetooth transmitter or receiver
Of course, no one wants to buy a new set of headphones or a whole new TV to get better Bluetooth, but you may not have to. There are numerous stand-alone Bluetooth transmitters and receivers that offer the latest Bluetooth technology.
A separate Bluetooth receiver allows you to connect any set of headphones or speakers via a wired connection. This is particularly useful if you have a pair of headphones that you love, but are otherwise out of date. A dedicated receiver allows you to maintain the audio quality and comfort you’re used to.
Bluetooth transmitters take the audio signal from a device like a TV and then convert it into a Bluetooth signal. Often these will plug into your TV’s headphone jack, but there are numerous options available.
In either case, look for a transmitter that supports the latest version of Bluetooth, and preferably one that offers a low latency codec.
Switch to a low latency codec
Another way to reduce Bluetooth latency is to switch to a low latency codec. “Codec” is short for “encoder/decoder.” Describes the specific method used to encode video or audio, usually as a way to reduce file sizes while maintaining the highest possible quality. You’re probably familiar with codecs like MP3, but Bluetooth is also home to a number of different codecs.
Some of these codecs focus on reducing latency as much as possible. SBC, the most common Bluetooth codec, comes with a hefty 220 ms delay. AptX HD has 250ms of delay or more, but you get much higher audio fidelity in return, making it a good choice for music.
AptX standard has a decent 70ms latency, where most people wouldn’t notice any obvious timing issues. Finally, we have aptX LL (low latency), which only has 40ms of delay, making it virtually indistinguishable from a wired connection.
FastStream offers the same delay as aptX LL, but with less audio fidelity, so aptX LL is generally preferable.
If you want to take advantage of low latency codecs, both the transmitting and receiving device must share support for the codec in question. In most cases, the selection of the best codec is automatic, but some devices (such as Android phones) may allow you to manually switch between codecs. However, you will need to consult their manuals individually.
Try an audio-only USB Bluetooth dongle
If you are experiencing annoying audio delay when using your computer’s built-in Bluetooth radio, you may benefit from an audio-only USB Bluetooth dongle.
Avantree DG80 USB Bluetooth Audio Adapter
This small and affordable plug-and-play audio adapter works with any device that supports USB audio, including consoles and PCs. With a proper aptX LL headset, you’ll experience virtually no lag.
These devices do not appear as Bluetooth devices on the computer. Instead, the computer thinks that the Bluetooth device is a normal USB audio interface. Bluetooth pairing and processing occurs on the dongle independently of the computer.
This offers an ideal situation for Bluetooth audio, since the adapter is not connected to multiple peripherals and the computer’s Bluetooth drivers are not a factor at all.
Use proprietary wireless audio instead of Bluetooth
If you have one of the latest video game consoles, you’ve probably noticed that you don’t have audio lag issues with your wireless audio solutions. That’s because these devices don’t use standard Bluetooth. They may use a modified version of Bluetooth or a completely proprietary wireless audio standard that better handles latency issues.
You can also take advantage of proprietary audio without Bluetooth (or Wi-Fi-based wireless audio in some cases) which can have much better performance and quality.
For computers, you can get wireless headsets that come with a proprietary USB dongle. For televisions, there are wireless headphone systems that have various input options typical of televisions. For example, if your TV has an optical digital audio output, you can often use it for a high-quality stream to the wireless transmitter.
If you’re still not satisfied with the lag tendency of your Bluetooth audio, remember that there are more reasons to switch to a wired headset or speaker than just to fix latency. And if you’re using Bluetooth simply because your device doesn’t have a 3.5mm audio port, you can still add a wired connection to devices without headphone jacks.