LeEco Introduces CDLA Audio Technology

LeEco has become the first company to dump the traditional 3.5mm jack for the USB Type-C based audio technology

The times, as they are — are certainly changing! LeEco — the Chinese major, has just become the first company to dump the traditional 3.5 mm earphone jack from its latest line-up of smartphones, and moving to USB Type-C based audio technology.

There’s a sound reason too.

When it comes to audio technology, the 3.5 mm headphone jack is possibly one of the oldest existing survivors. While the audio players have seen a sea change from cassettes, to CDs, to MP3, to Hi-Fi players — yet, the audio jack has remained all the same, unfazed and curiously unchallenged.

While it can rule roost in the analog era, most smartphone manufacturers are realising that digital-audio can do with better support equipment. In fact, if you consider it, with processors and RAM and all-metal bodies becoming commonplace, there’s very little that distinguishes smartphones from each other any more. So the battle is moving to two different zones — cameras and audio.

So LeEco, with its second generation ‘Superphones’ Le 2 and Le Max 2 that were launched recently in India, has led the revolution in the audio technology space. Using a technology called CDLA (Continual Digital Lossless Audio) , LeEco intends to revolutionise the music experience on their smartphones. And, just to be sure that it is a sound investment — the company is going to pump an investment of Rs 200 million in the industry with a motive to popularise and pioneer the CDLA standard.

In fact, so committed is the internet technology conglomerate towards this cause of popularising the new technology that it’s going be giving away a free CDLA earphone worth INR 1,990 to all Le 2 and Le Max 2 buyers during it’s first flash sale of its Superphones that’s scheduled for June 28.

So what is this technology all about? According to LeEco, “Delivering uninterrupted sound quality, CDLA improves signal-to-noise ratio from a standard best case of 60dB to 90dB. With our introduction of Type-C USB headphones, we are embedding digital signal processors (DSP) within the earphones themselves to handle the audio decoding. This results in a drastically reduced signal degradation”.

In other words, the digital signal goes straight from the phone and into the headphone’s audio processor, which decodes it, resulting in a purer sound.

The analog audio jack has indeed fallen far behind other components like the USB Type-C connector, that can not only handle high-throughput data transfers but even be cross-utilised to charge the device itself (and that’s not only phones — the Type-C can even charge laptops!).
 Being a digital connection, headphones can leverage the USB Type-C port and even integrate a digital-to-analog converter and amplifier right into their headphones, ensuring consistent quality across devices.

In a 3.5 mm jack-based system, the decoder is built into the smartphone and there is no power source for the headphone or the earphone, which means there is no way the earphones can boost the audio quality to prevent quality loss.
 Thus, loss usually occurs in traditional 3.5 mm headphones and earphones, irrespective of whether you are using a phone or a laptop.

In CDLA technology, the headset contains an integrated audio processing chip and a decoder which does not induce any sound quality loss.

Other than the loss itself, there are many problems in analog audio like interface noise, compatibility problem, poor sound field, noise from a connector, and etc. No matter how good the performance of the drive circuit is, as long as a 3.5 mm jack is used, there will always be inevitable losses. Coupled with the fact that users may use any possible options from a variety of earphones, it is just impossible to achieve real integration between the phone and the earphone.

Removing the dependence on the quality of the earphone’s circuitry, and moving it to a more self-contained and controllable element in the source device itself, thus will cause an automatic improvement in sound quality, which is agnostic to the earphone.

Additionally. CDLA also supports hi-fi (high-fidelity audio) which is used for high-quality audio reproduction and includes-quality high file formats such as FLAC.

Back to LeEco’s transition — all these benefits and features work with a USB Type-C based headphones that come with the Le Max2 and Le2 smartphones; but that also means that if a user decides to use a traditional 3.5 mm headset with a converter, he won’t get the same CDLA-equivalent sound quality.

In real-world field testing, the audio quality in the CDLA headset, when used with Le 2, was distinctly superior to the audio quality on the 3.5 mm headset (used with a converter).

LeEco has already launched their Superphones in China that come with standard Type-C interface, along with CDLA headphones, thus making LeEco the world’s first to launch the CDLA standard in smartphones!

While we at Chip-Monks believe that CDLA and similar music standards are on their way to redefine audio experience in smartphones thanks to breakthrough technology, intelligence and an upheaval in the supporting ecosystem, yet this ‘revolution’ will need our our open minds. And sympathetic ears.

Eggs-and-omlettes comes to mind, but since we’re talking about auditory senses, lean back, close your eyes and envisage a concert performance, hear the guitar strings, and the plectrum. If you can hear them and feel the pulse of the music, then you need better audio technology; get excited about it… it’s on it’s way to a smartphone near you!


Originally published at Chip-Monks.