In many ways, Bluetooth revolutionized audio connections by replacing those pesky cables that cause clutter. But this isn’t a perfect technology as audio sometimes cut in and out (stuttering).
This is because Bluetooth was not originally developed for audio. Audio support was added later and is still being refined.
Audio stuttering during Bluetooth streaming is caused by the interference of BT signals between the transmitter (phone…) and the receiver (headphones, AirPods, etc.) or due to an unstable connection. This makes the Bluetooth audio playback choppy.
If you experienced this inconvenience, here are some possible causes and solutions.
Causes of Bluetooth stutter
Before we look at the causes of Bluetooth cutting in and out, here are some quick troubleshooting steps;
- Restart your devices
- Check for updates
- Ensure your device is charged
- Test the connection with another device
- Have a clear line of sight between the transmitter and receiver
Your source such as a Windows PC may have a Bluetooth troubleshooter. Use to find the root of the problem and follow the instructions to solve it. In some cases, resetting your Bluetooth module may work.
Here are some causes of Bluetooth stutter that may cause audio to skip.
Bluetooth devices transmit data using radio frequencies with each device having a specific transmission range.
Streaming audio over Bluetooth requires a constant stable connection that if not achieved will make it choppy. Interference can destabilize this connection.
Bluetooth connection operates at the 2.4 GHz ISM frequency band (2.4-2.48GHz). This is the same band for other consumer electronics such as a router, baby monitors, and so on.
The ISM band is easily crowded and as devices compete for bandwidth, momentary interference occurs causing stuttering. This is because the Bluetooth connection Bluetooth hops between different frequency channels to allow only synced receivers to access the transmitted data packets (audio in this case).
During hopping, the Bluetooth Radio waves may overlap with those from another RF emitting source. This can be a microwave, fluorescent lamp, router, and so on.
Weak Bluetooth connection
The quality of real-time audio transfer over Bluetooth worsens as the connection weakens. A week BT signal will cause stutter.
The connection can be worsened if the line of sight between the transmitter and receiver is obstructed by materials such as metal, water and so on which RF signals struggle to traverse.
Even placing your hands in the same pocket as your phone will degrade the signal quality as our bodies are also composed of water.
Most Bluetooth devices use class 2 Bluetooth chips with a max range of 33ft or 10m. But the effective range for optimal performance is usually 5m or 16 ft. Beyond this, the signal gets significantly weaker and completely cuts out or disconnects as they get farther out of range.
Other obstructions that can absorb and reflect Bluetooth signals are walls, furniture, and interference.
Low charge your headphones/Airpods
Stuttering may be a sign of low power on your earbuds/headphones. Charge your Bluetooth playback device to resolve the choppy audio if it’s the root of the problem.
For headphones whose battery health has gone down, you may need a battery replacement or upgrade.
Mismatched Bluetooth codecs
A codec defines how the audio signals are compressed and uncompressed during the transfer from the Bluetooth source to the receiver (headphones…). This allows audio signals to be sent over the limited bandwidth.
There are different Bluetooth versions and profiles. Although stuttering due to profile mismatches is rare, audio codec mismatch can affect transmission rate.
For example, for streaming high bit-rate (hi-res) music or surround sound codecs from your handheld device to headphones, the audio may cut in and out. This is because the files are huge and devour bandwidth.
For example, the latest Bluetooth version (version 5.2) has a bandwidth of 2 Mbs which is more than enough for streaming hi-res audio.
Despite this, the max transfer speed of audio over BT is 990 kbps which isn’t enough for high-bit-rate audio.
What’s more, most smartphones default to 660 kbps and will struggle to stream hi-res audio as some data packets drop out. These missing files cause those annoying audio skips.
For devices with earlier Bt versions (3.0 or earlier), the bandwidth may be inadequate for a stable connection.
It’s unnecessary to stream hi-res audio (CD quality) over Bluetooth as it will constantly skip due to limited bandwidth.
Clutter at the audio source
If your Bluetooth device is simultaneously trying to connect multiple devices, issues may arise.
Turn Bluetooth OFF on devices you are not.
How to fix choppy Bluetooth audio
1. Restart your Bluetooth devices
Sometimes simply unpairing and pairing your source and speaker can resolve audio stuttering issues. This ensures that devices are paired correctly.
Also, try connecting different Bluetooth devices to see if the choppy audio goes away. It will also help to pinpoint the source of the problem.
2. Clear the Bluetooth cache
Clearing the Bluetooth cache will clear any corruption that causes your audio to skip.
You can also reset the Bluetooth on your speakers/earbuds/headphones by pressing and holding the power button.
Most speakers have an LED that flashes to let you know the device has been reset. An app may also be available to reset your device.
On Windows devices, ensure Bluetooth Support Service is working smoothly. If not restart the service.
3. Get the devices within range
Check your paired devices’ effective range to find the sweet spot for a stable connection.
Since obstructions can interfere with Bluetooth signals, ensure there is a clear line of sight between the transmitter and receiver.
Stay away from electrical wiring and areas crowded with RF signals at the 2.4 GHz band to reduce interference. Also, cross-body interference can be reduced by moving your phone/player to a different position.
Removing barriers between the transmitter and the receiver makes the signal stronger and may fix crackling audio.
4. Match Bluetooth profiles
For paired devices to work seamlessly, their Bluetooth profiles should be compatible.
Audio devices mainly use Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) and Handsfree Profiles. If the profiles don’t match, you will experience choppy audio.
Reconfiguring Bluetooth profiles is difficult but the manufacturer may do it through a firmware update.
A mismatch can also occur if the BT receiver and transmitter use different Bluetooth versions such as pairing a phone with Bluetooth 2.1 with Bluetooth 5.0 headphones.
5. Update the Bluetooth firmware
A simple firmware update can get rid of choppy audio as patched bugs in some Bluetooth managers may affect your connection.
On Windows devices, update Bluetooth and audio drivers.
Some playback devices may have available firmware updates to fix bugs in the module. Check if there are any updates available online or by contacting customer care.
6. Change the Wi-Fi channel
As mentioned earlier, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth use the same 2.4 GHz, frequency band. However, some routers support more than one channel at the 2.4 or 5 GHz band.
To change the channel, log in to your router’s interface using its IP address. The user manual or online manual should have instructions on how you can access and change your channel.
Ensure you select the channel with the least traffic as a crowded channel makes your Wi-Fi slower.
7. Uninstall WIDCOMM on Windows
Some users have expressed that uninstalling WIDCOMM on their Windows devices seemed to resolve to stutter.
To uninstall WIDCOMM hit the Windows button- Device manager- View- Show hidden devices- and Expand Bluetooth tab to find the WIDCOMM protocol.
Uninstalling the RFCOMM Bluetooth protocol or disabling Windows Sonic also seems to do the trick for others.
Try this and see if it works for you.
To Sum Up
If nothing above or online resolves your issue, contact customer care or get your device checked by a professional for any possible Bluetooth hardware or software issues.
I would also recommend using devices from the same brands as some have developed proprietary technology that works best for the devices. This is usually done for refinement to ensure the audio experience is smooth.
It may also be time to get a new set of cans or earbuds if the ones you currently own feel outed.