Nintendo Switch finally gets Bluetooth audio, but it may be flaky

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Update: We’ve spent a bit of time testing the new feature and found that some headphones work better than others – see’How does it actually perform?‘ below for more details. Our origin story continues below.

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Nintendo has revealed that its ultra popular Switch lineup of convertible gaming consoles is finally getting a feature fans have been begging for since its launch in 2017 — Bluetooth audio support.

The surprise announcement came from the Nintendo of America Twitter account, which states that a firmware update (version 13.0.

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Both the standard Nintendo Switch and Switch Lite are supported, and possibly the upcoming Switch OLED as well – though there’s no clear confirmation yet.

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The tweet also hints at ‘restrictions on certain features’ when using Bluetooth audio, and points to a support page for more information.

These limits include the upper limit of pairing two wireless controllers while Bluetooth audio is in use at any one time, and that only one Bluetooth audio device can be paired at any one time (though up to 10 can be saved for quick pairing). Is).

For gamers using the Switch for multiplayer gaming, Bluetooth local wireless won’t work during multiplayer games, and Bluetooth microphones for communication aren’t supported at all.

The pairing process, in classic Nintendo style, is remarkably simple – a new menu item called ‘Bluetooth Audio’ appears in the Switch’s settings menu, from which you just have to hit ‘Add device’ and run through the motions. is needed.

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bluetooth and lag

One final limitation listed in Nintendo’s support page is that you “may experience audio latency depending on your Bluetooth device”. This has been one of the main issues with using Bluetooth for gaming in the past, as the technology has been known to cause slight delays when delivering audio from one device to another.

As Bluetooth standards have improved, that latency is slowly decreasing, and there are now a variety of clever tricks that help keep the size of the information transmitted (compression for one) down while improving communication efficiency. helps, although it does not completely solve the problem.

While direct Bluetooth audio support isn’t necessarily a standard feature for consoles—for example, the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 both lack it—these systems offer low-latency options, such as adding dedicated headsets or headphones. Ability to plug directly into the controller (both features also lack switches).

How does it actually perform?

The team at Nerdshala has been testing the new Bluetooth audio support on our Switch console (tested in handheld mode), and unfortunately it’s not all peach.

We found that the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones sounded great, while the Sony WF-1000XM4 True Wireless Earbuds consistently crackled and heavily filtered audio signal.

A similar pattern was found when comparing the Beats Solo Pro with the Beats Studio Buds, with the former over-ear units sounding solid, but the true wireless buds offering flaky performance.

In both instances, the true wireless models actually had more recent versions of Bluetooth (5.2 compared to 5.0), so this could be a problem with the newer headphones. Alternatively, the problem may stem from the fact that true wireless earbuds require the left and right earpieces to either be wirelessly paired together, or each requires a direct connection to the host device.

If it’s the latter, perhaps the Switch’s limitation of being able to connect to only one Bluetooth audio device means that true wireless earbuds simply aren’t compatible. We’re sure the situation will become clearer as more people try out the feature, but we’ll have to wait and see if Nintendo addresses this more clearly.

In all cases, latency was similar, with something within a half-second interval between the control input and the associated sound being delivered to our ears.

This level of latency is probably passable for many gamers and games — for example, we didn’t find it annoying in Skyrim — but when trying out the fast-paced Rogue-Lite Dead Cells, the time delay caused some hairy moments, especially. made chaotic. and disturbing.

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