Adaptive bit rate audio codec xHE-AAC now natively supported on Apple, Amazon and Android products – Fraunhofer Audio Blog
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Adaptive bit rate audio codec xHE-AAC now natively supported on Apple, Amazon and Android products

Consumer devices powered by the latest Android, Fire and Apple operating systems support the most efficient AAC codec with mandatory MPEG-D DRC loudness and dynamic range control metadata – delivering a seamless streaming experience on any device in any environment.

A rapidly growing number of platforms and playback devices now support xHE-AAC decoding natively, which means interrupted or buffering audio and video streams are becoming a thing of the past. Fraunhofer has been working closely with major content providers and operating system vendors to make xHE-AAC and MPEG-D DRC available to consumers. These service providers now have an installed base of playback devices which they can rely on to reach a broad consumer audience worldwide.

Created with adaptive streaming via DASH or HLS in mind, xHE-AAC delivers transparent quality under good network conditions and, when necessary, seamlessly switches to the bit rates and quality levels that a congested network can support. Audio bandwidth saved as a result of xHE-AAC’s efficiency can be used to improve the video quality. The mandatory MPEG-D DRC metadata is designed to deliver the best possible user experience in any listening environment. In noisy conditions, for example, it can boost the volume of hard-to-understand dialog while leaving the original audio content untouched.

xHE-AAC and MPEG-D DRC are now natively supported in Google’s Android 9 and 10, as well as Android TV 9, in Amazon’s Fire OS 7 (based on Android 9 Pie) operating system, and on Apple’s iOS 13, macOS 10.15 Catalina, tvOS 13, iPadOS and watchOS 6.

The first Android TV 9 devices with xHE-AAC are available from various manufacturers including Philips, Nvidia, TCL and Xiaomi, while the first Fire OS 7-based products are offered by Amazon (Fire TV Cube Gen 2, Fire HD 10 tablet), Grundig and JVC. xHE-AAC is also supported in browsers (Safari, Chrome and Firefox) on iOS 13 devices.

Versatile audio codec

xHE-AAC enables users of these products to enjoy uninterrupted streaming with all types of content – such as movies, music, audiobooks or podcasts. It is also ideal for digital radio broadcasting. xHE-AAC offers maximum coding efficiency with a usable bit rate range that spans from 12 kbit/s to 500 kbit/s and above for stereo services. This helps video and audio streaming providers to overcome audio bandwidth constraints and thereby facilitates an enhanced, more reliable consumer experience. Such efficiency is particularly crucial in emerging markets where consumers still rely on 2G or 3G connections.

Fraunhofer played a substantial role in the development of the xHE-AAC and MPEG-D DRC standards and provides the default codec implementations for the Android operating system (available in the FDK2 AAC Codec Library).

Professional xHE-AAC encoder software is available directly from Fraunhofer IIS or its streaming equipment partners, such as Modulation Index or Telos. xHE-AAC and MPEG-D DRC patents are included in the AAC patent licensing program administered by VIA Licensing at no additional cost.

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