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Alternative A2DP Driver, Best Configuration & Compatible Hardware

mike7877

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I got tired of having my laptop's USB port occupied for casual listening when I'm in my chair, but because Windows sees Bluetooth Audio as an afterthought, supporting only two old codecs, I had to look into other options. Fortunately, someone(s) made Alternative A2DP Driver for Windows - it allows you to choose from all the major current codecs.

I have two laptops right now - one Surface Laptop 2 and an Asus L210. I use the L210 almost exclusively for Tidal playback because it's a fanless Windows machine. Its CPU is a 6 watt Celeron n4020 (2 core 1.1GHz base clock) and has 4GB RAM, so that's almost all it's useful for. And my main laptop is a Surface Laptop 2 - it's getting a little old now, but apart from the Alcantera fabric having wicked the blue dye from my jeans, it looks new and runs fast.

Regarding the L210, because I had a 9260 kicking around which supports BT 5, I replaced the 8265 that came in it, which only supported BT 4.

My Surface, though, is a sealed unit, so I couldn't replace the Marvell AVASTAR 802.11ac (88W8897) with anything newer, which sucks, because the 88W8897 was "...the industry's first 802.11ac 2x2 combination radio chip", combo meaning BT 4, 80MHz AC MIMO, NFC, and Miracast. Announced June 2012, available shortly after. The Surface Laptop 2? Released October 16, 2018 over six years later.

So because I much prefer using the 13.5" full sized keyboard >200ppi 400 nit display, 4C8T 1.8GHz 25W TDP machine to the 11.6" ~120ppi 200 nit display, 2C2T 1.1GHz 6W TDP machine, I first installed the Alternative A2DP driver on my Surface. Results? Not ideal:

LDAC: Needs auto-ranging mode because it can't do 660kbps without periodic drops (~10 per minute), even when I use an insanely high gain WiFi antenna for the E70 Velvet's Bluetooth, and place it inches away from the WiFi/BT antenna. AptX HD (bitrate 576kbps) seemed to work pretty well at first, but once I got music playing, I could hear skips every so often (1-2 per minute). At first I thought that my bluetooth mouse might be interfering, but after disconnecting it nothing changed...

L210 with 9260 works very well though - even auto-ranging LDAC stays at 990kbps 99% of the time with the antenna 3-5 feet away, only occasionally dropping to 660kbps. When set to 990 only, there aren't any periodic drops either. I don't like using the small L210 with 4GB RAM though - only in the listening room running Tidal, connected to DAC via USB.

I'm wondering - people who use this alternative driver - which version of Bluetooth does your device support, and what's your experience with LDAC? With AptX HD? I'm seeing places that BT 5 supports up to 2Mbit/s, while BT 4 only supports 1Mbit/s, but then on the Bluetooth wiki page, BT 2.0 supports 2.1Mbit/s? Strange... Anyway, in theory it shouldn't matter too much, because 990kbps is less than 1Mbps, and non auto-bitrate-ranging LDAC is just transmittransmittransmittransmit with the receiver picking up all that it can. Since BT4 can transmit, and client devices can receive as long as the signal level is sufficient and there isn't interference, I don't see why there should be any performance issues (especially in my case with {I think} a +8dB antenna as close as mere inches from the transmitter). Btw, I'm in a house with almost no other BT devices and modern AX WiFi, so interference shouldn't be an issue.

tl;dr
If you use the Alternative A2DP Driver for Windows:
- what is your experience with LDAC?
- what is your host device's supported BT version? /what's the model of WiFi card
- does anyone have any pointers on getting better performance? Say I can only get 400-600kbps from my BT 4 system - does reducing the bitrate from 96 to 44.1/48kHz only keep sound quality pretty much the same as 990kbps at 96kHz?

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-9260 on L210 :/
 
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