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Enable High Quality mode on your headphones (Updated for macOS Catalina)

If you're using a high-end bluetooth headset on your Macbook Pro it's likely your mac is using an audio codec which favors battery efficiency over high quality. This results in a drastic degradation of sound, the SBC codec is the likely culprit, read more about it here.

Find out what codec you're using

  1. Play a song on your headphones
  2. Option (⌥) click the Bluetooth button at the top of your screen Inspect the Bluetooth Coded
  3. If you're using AAC or aptX, you can stop here—those are the highest quality codecs.

Change your codec to AAC or aptX

UPDATE: It looks like Apple has silently dropped support for aptX, leaving only AAC

You'll need to download Apple's Bluetooth Explorer in order to change codecs.

  1. Head over to Apple's Developer Downloads

  2. Search for additional tools and download Additional Tools for XCode 11.dmg Search for "additional tools"

  3. Open the dmg, and open Bluetooth Explorer Open Bluetooth Explorer

  4. Click on Tools > Audio Options and change your audio codec to the following settings:

    • Enable AAC
    • Force use of aptX
    Change your audio codec
  5. Disconnect your Bluetooth headset, reconnect it, and while some music is playing, inspect your codec. It should now show either AAC or aptX.

    Your codec should now show AAC/aptX

Squeezing the most out of AAC

You can increase the AAC bitrate in Audio Options but be sure to keep an eye on the graphs. The retransmission percentage is roughly equivalent to packet loss, and if you increase the bitrate too high your audio will start cutting out:

The retransmission rate is a function of distance and interference, and you'll need to disconnect/reconnect on each attempt before you find the sweet spot.

@scag1io
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scag1io commented Oct 26, 2021

Indeed this has stopped working for Monterey. Does anyone have a solution?

Unfortunately no. I used the Additional Tools for XCode 11.4 but aptX/AAC do not work in Monterey.
I also had another problem. After the upgrade, my bluetooth device (Creative SoundBlaster Roar) had the VERY low volume compared to Big Sur. I had to fix the volume by slightly moving the Output level in "Audio MIDI Setup" app.
I'll wait for a new minor release and then make a fresh installation of the OS.

@louaymd
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louaymd commented Oct 26, 2021

Would like updates to making aptX work in Monterey too.

@DavidKittleSEL
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DavidKittleSEL commented Oct 29, 2021

sub'ed

@Noor-Nizar
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Noor-Nizar commented Nov 6, 2021

need update for Monterey please

@inspirit1986
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inspirit1986 commented Nov 9, 2021

same

@mychaelgo
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mychaelgo commented Nov 15, 2021

do you guys can find Sony WH-1000XM3? I can' find my device after upgrading to v12.0.1 macOS Monterey (m1 chip)

@kolombet
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kolombet commented Nov 16, 2021

Still not sure if it possible to enable aptX in Monterey? Audio without aptX lagging behind
And apple decisions not clear to me, I bought headphones with the aptX support because it's high quality, but apple force me to buy airpods 👎

@naruto-chelsea
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naruto-chelsea commented Nov 22, 2021

Additonal tools for xcode 10.2 dmg worked for me with airpods pro

@louaymd
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louaymd commented Nov 22, 2021

Additonal tools for xcode 10.2 dmg worked for me with airpods pro

Are you sure? Didn't work for me. It literally doesn't even work on a system level (terminal command not working either)
Make sure you're on the latest Monterey.

@naruto-chelsea
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naruto-chelsea commented Nov 23, 2021

Additonal tools for xcode 10.2 dmg worked for me with airpods pro

Are you sure? Didn't work for me. It literally doesn't even work on a system level (terminal command not working either) Make sure you're on the latest Monterey.

it worked for me and i’m using catalina 10.15.7

@dabster3000
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dabster3000 commented Nov 24, 2021

Looks till MacOS 11.6.1 AptX is working but not beyond that. obviously newer "Tools" Package utility never worked. As always with Apple we are mercy of them that they will bring back support.

@eriegz
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eriegz commented Dec 22, 2021

Another thing that's broken in Monterey are the tools within the "Bluetooth Explorer" application, in particular "Audio Graphs" (the graphs are just empty no matter if you're listening to music or not).

Apple, what happened? You guys are supposed to be the "do it right" for the audio world! Needless to say I eagerly await a fix / workaround for this issue.

@brendandebeasi
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brendandebeasi commented Jan 10, 2022

Cries in Monterey

@brendandebeasi
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brendandebeasi commented Jan 10, 2022

A solution I used was to just get a USB BT transmitter like this one I had laying around:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00ZYYPFHU/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

@S-n-d
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S-n-d commented Feb 1, 2022

Please Apple, do the right thing... Bring back the bluetooth explorer tools. 😢

@jjoshrtca
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jjoshrtca commented Feb 13, 2022

@brendandebeasi I've seen your solution mentioned and confirmed as working on another site as well (can't remember where but I can say it's not one of the mainstream commercial sites that describe how to enable aptx since all of those are just spewing out outdated techniques without realizing they don't even work anymore 🙄)

PS, SCREW APPLE for fisher-pricing out OS X (sorry... MacOS 😒) and removing aptx support!

@markminnoye
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markminnoye commented Feb 26, 2022

I can confirm this solution is working on Monterey for AAC. See attached screenshot of my -fantastic- hiby R3Pro. It was showing SBC until I enabled AAC using : sudo defaults write bluetoothaudiod "Enable AAC codec" -bool true
I can't get AptX working though :-(
IMG_1455

@robinjhector
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robinjhector commented Mar 9, 2022

Subbing!

Looks like it's totally impossible to know what codec is being used in Monterey?

@w0ngdg
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w0ngdg commented Mar 11, 2022

It doesn't work with Monterey MacOS 12. Seems Apple promotes their expensive headphones by banning aptx and aac on none apple's device. Yuk.

@S-n-d
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S-n-d commented Mar 14, 2022

It doesn't work with Monterey MacOS 12. Seems Apple promotes their expensive headphones by banning aptx and aac on none apple's device. Yuk.

AAC is still used per default when the receiving device supports it. Which is as it should be because AAC is better than APT-X.

@Eugene-Y
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Eugene-Y commented Mar 15, 2022

sudo defaults write bluetoothaudiod "Enable AAC codec" -bool true

but how do you know?

@forresthopkinsa
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forresthopkinsa commented Mar 31, 2022

And apple decisions not clear to me, I bought headphones with the aptX support because it's high quality, but apple force me to buy airpods

Sounds like their decisions are clear enough then

@varenc
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varenc commented Apr 20, 2022

@Eugene-Y

sudo defaults write bluetoothaudiod "Enable AAC codec" -bool true

but how do you know?

That's the setting that the Bluetooth Explorer util sets. Not sure about Monterey, but for everything else just setting those values enables AAC without the need for Bluetooth Explorer.


AAC is working fine for me on Monterey and my Sony WH-1000XM3 with all the default settings. (nothing in bluetoothaudiod). Haven't tried aptX.

Too bad about aptX going away, but it seems like it has. Though it was probably only ever used by a tiny number of people in the first place. Maybe it's extra tricky because aptX is proprietary and patented? Apple might be unable/unwilling to support it and have to hand over money to the patent holders.

@forresthopkinsa
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forresthopkinsa commented Apr 20, 2022

As long as Qualcomm remains the the second largest SoC manufacturer, aptX isn't going anywhere

@mpilgrim8
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mpilgrim8 commented May 15, 2022

@Eugene-Y

sudo defaults write bluetoothaudiod "Enable AAC codec" -bool true

but how do you know?

I can't speak for all MacOS versions, but I do this on Monterey:

  1. Disconnect your headphones.
  2. Open the "Console" app (Under "Applications/Utilities").
  3. In the "Search" field, in the upper-right corner, type "Codec", and hit "Enter".
  4. Hit the "Start" button.
  5. Re-connect your headphones while looking at the Console output.
  6. After a few seconds, you should see a bunch of lines appear, including one starting with "A2DP", like this:

00:48:15.750396-0400 bluetoothd A2DP configured at 44.1 KHz. Codec: AAC-LC, VBR max: 256 kbps. 1 frames * (12+744) bytes = 756 per RTP (max=879) every 23.22 ms

I also checked on my older work Mac, which is still on Catalina, and the "Console" app on Catalina doesn't have a "Start" button -- so for older systems like this, you can just skip that step above, since the log entries just start loading automatically. The output on Catalina wasn't as clear-cut with a single line like on Monterey, so people may need to try other search terms with older versions, like "aac" or "sbc", depending on what you're looking for. When I searched with "aac", I found a few lines like these:

02:41:48.587446-0400 bluetoothaudiod New AAC Bitrate:256000
02:41:48.586376-0400 bluetoothaudiod AAC encoder initialized. VBR maxBitSize:5152 minBitSize:256
02:41:48.772929-0400 bluetoothaudiod Set current codec (null)->AAC

Interestingly, the top of this site references a "SoundGuys" article as evidence for doing all this, and yet SoundGuys also published this other article just a couple days before the one above, stating that AAC isn't all that great, even compared to SBC -- at least tested within the mobile device realm. On Android, it's recommended to disable AAC altogether, and use SBC (if you don't have aptX). On iOS, AAC is definitely better than on Android, but not necessarily better than SBC. This is all for mobile, though, and is focused on sound quality, not other aspects like power/battery efficiency. Not sure how this all corresponds to MacOS, but just some food for thought.

One quote from the article, in which "any instance" included several Android phones, plus an iPhone:
AAC doesn't reach frequencies high enough to match CD quality or standard Bluetooth's SBC in any instance. That's concerning for anyone who prizes audio quality over convenience.

@varenc

Too bad about aptX going away, but it seems like it has. Though it was probably only ever used by a tiny number of people in the first place. Maybe it's extra tricky because aptX is proprietary and patented? Apple might be unable/unwilling to support it and have to hand over money to the patent holders.

AAC is also patented, requiring licensing fees for manufacturers, although dropping aptX does decrease Apple's licensing burden from two to one. AAC is also patented by a larger consortium of companies, in which any perceived gains (more power than money) are diluted across multiple beneficiaries/competitors, whereas aptX's gains help a single beneficiary (Qualcomm), which Apple would see as a bigger threat.

@dabster3000
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dabster3000 commented May 15, 2022

Looks licensing for AAC is costlier than AptX. But this document is old from 2014 here.
Screen Shot 2022-05-15 at 6 06 06 PM

So the reason maybe to stick it to Qualcomm as competitor sadly....

Just my Opinion for AptX devices MacOS previous than Monterey the output sound was Better, now it works on SBC.. Without doubt.
Sadly my device supports AptX but no AAC.

@jamesdh
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jamesdh commented May 15, 2022

Just for reference, I'm on MacOS Monterrey on an M1 Max, I've never altered the bluetoothaudiod defaults value, and I get this in my console logs when connecting my Bose QC 35's:

A2DP configured at 44.1 KHz. Codec: AAC-LC, VBR max: 221 kbps. 1 frames * (12+644) bytes = 656 per RTP (max=656) every 23.22 ms

@jamesdh
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jamesdh commented May 15, 2022

@mpilgrim8 any idea why you'd be getting 256 and I'd be getting 221kbps bitrate?

@mpilgrim8
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mpilgrim8 commented May 15, 2022

@jamesdh

@mpilgrim8 any idea why you'd be getting 256 and I'd be getting 221kbps bitrate?

Maybe a difference in headphones, but that's just a guess. It could be a bluetooth signal quality issue, since it is generally going to negotiate the connection based on the available bandwidth/signal quality it sees. Make sure the headphones are near the computer when connecting, and that there aren't a lot of electronics around causing interference. Otherwise, maybe the headphone's bluetooth just has a weaker signal.

The log entry that I cut-and-pasted before is from my M1 MacBook Air w/Monterey. My older (~4 y/o) work-issued MacBook Pro w/Catalina also connected at 256kbs. I have two sets of over-the-ear headphones, and both connect at 256kbs. One set are the Sennheiser HD350BT, and the other are a more obscure brand (FALWEDI S6) that I got on Amazon for $35 -- one of those budget-priced products on Amazon where you see the same product model under 10 different company names. But for the price, they are actually quite good, although too bass-heavy for my taste, which is why I eventually splurged a bit more on the more neutral Sennheisers (but got those on-sale, at least). The FALWEDI unit supports both aptX (first-gen only, not HD/LC) and AAC, which was a pleasant surprise, since it didn't even mention AAC in the product info -- it only mentioned aptX and SBC. The Sennheiser supports the same, plus aptX-LL (but not HD).

In any case, both of these units are over-the-ear headphones, and have a stronger bluetooth signal than any others that I've owned. Over the years, I've had many in-ear bluetooth headphones, and all of them cut-out when I leave the computer in the living room while walking into another room. But I've stopped using in-ear units, and these two over-the-ear units are the first to stay connected when I go into the other room -- so they do seem to have stronger signals, for what it's worth.

@eengl
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eengl commented May 17, 2022

@dvf Thank you for providing this. I have an iMac Pro running macOS Monterey (12.4) and use Sennheiser PXC 550. Following the various instructions above, I am only getting SBC codec. Here is my console info from when the headphones are paired.

A2DP configured at 44.1 KHz. Codec: SBC, Bitpool: 53 (327 kbps). 7 frames * 119 bytes = 833 per RTP (max=879) every 20.32 ms

The audio quality was poor until I went into Preferences -> Sound -> Sound Effects and set "Play sounds effects through:" to "iMac Pro Speakers" instead of the headphones. Since then, the audio quality is significantly improved.

I also get this error message in Console when the headphones connect:

Length of AVDTP Codec Info is too short for Apple Vendor-Specific Codec

I wonder if this is a Sennheiser issue, not Apple.

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