With a promise of high-quality audio and low-latency listening experiences, two new Qualcomm sound platforms were launched this month. Bringing the third generation of the S3 and S5 to the market, the Qualcomm audio chip advancements are set to introduce cutting-edge technology to the range of audio devices they will be integrated into soon enough. Both chipsets offer an upgrade from previous processor versions but cater to different markets. The Qualcomm S3 Gen 3 sound platform is the cheaper of the two chips and is aimed at the mid-tier category of devices, designed to have affordability as a central quality of the purchase. The Qualcomm S5 Gen 3 audio chip is the more expensive version, aimed at high-end devices that can afford to invest in higher-quality parts.

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Image: Qualcomm

Qualcomm Sound Platforms Launched to Elevate the Wireless Audio Experience

The last Qualcomm sound platforms launched were the Qualcomm S3 and S5 Gen 2 which were released in 2022 during the Snapdragon Summit event. The audio chip specifications came with the tag of the “most advanced Bluetooth audio platform to date,” upgrading the lossless audio feature and bringing spatial audio support with head-tracking capabilities. The Adaptive Active Noise Cancellation technology (ANC) was also much celebrated when the chips were first introduced. The recent Qualcomm audio chip advancements have taken things a step further.

The Qualcomm S3 Gen 3 Sound Platform

Chasing rich and immersive audio quality, the Qualcomm S3 Gen 3 sound platform uses a quad-core processor architecture with an 80MHz CPU and a dual 240MHz DSP. Equipped with Bluetooth 5.4 to support LE Audio, the chip also carries on the legacy of Qualcomm’s Adaptive ANC. The recently launched Qualcomm sound platform promises lossless audio quality at up to 48KHz with Snapdragon Sound, combining performance with low power consumption needs to avoid burdening the device in any way. The on-chip memory for audio buffering should also allow for faster access to the audio data, reducing the latency of transmission between the smartphone and the audio device. 

Interestingly, there is also support for the integration of wake words and button-operated digital assistants which is something many look for in their electronics right now. Calling on Alexa or Siri when you need to know something and having audio devices capable of waking them is always useful. The Qualcomm audio chip advancements for the S3 Gen 3 promise twice the computing power of the Gen 2 chip with increased processing capabilities. The chip also provides support for Auracast, Google Fast Pair, and Qualcomm’s own TrueWireless Mirroring technology.

Those who choose to make the most of the SoC will have the advantage of capitalizing on the company’s third-party solutions through the Qualcomm Extension Program to try out advanced technologies in combination with the processors. Working in tandem with the program is where the full extent of the chip capabilities will come to life, including support for “AI, hearing enhancement, echo cancellation and noise suppression, and spatial audio.” 

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The Qualcomm S5 Gen 3 Audio Chip

The new Qualcomm audio chip features on the S5 Gen 3 are even more impressive than the mid-tier S3 Gen 3. The CPU clock speed extends to 200 MHz with a 350 MHz Digital Signal Processor. All the capabilities of the cheaper chipset are guaranteed here as well, but there are additional features that make it worth the higher price tag. With an upgraded platform architecture, the Qualcomm S5 Gen 3 audio chip has a dedicated AI core for its machine learning needs instead of solely relying on the DSP. Reportedly, its compute power on-device is 50 times that of its predecessor chipset.

How the Qualcomm audio chip’s AI capabilities are used will depend entirely on audio device makers, considering the optimization element will be left for them to experiment with. Utilizing Qualcomm’s 4th-generation Adaptive Active Noise Cancellation capabilities, a new and improved digital-to-analog converter, and showcasing 1.5 times greater memory compared to its predecessor, the Qualcomm S5 Gen 3 audio chip is hard to ignore. 

“For premium tier devices, the Qualcomm S5 Gen 3 Sound Platform’s new architecture and increased AI capabilities give OEMs a platform to develop intelligent devices that can monitor the user’s environment, in addition to how the device is being used, and respond accordingly.”

—Dino Bekis, Vice President and General Manager, Wearables and Mixed Signals Solutions, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.

We haven’t heard too much about which upcoming devices are getting ready to use the Qualcomm sound platforms that were launched recently. A Vivo device might be one of the first we see powered by the Qualcomm S3 Gen 3 Sound Platform, so it’ll be interesting to see how they adapt this technology and what final form it takes. It’s too early for predictions so we’ll have to wait a little longer to get a better picture.