Bluetooth Headset Solution for the Nintendo Switch

iThunderbirt

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Sep 21, 2012
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Hello Nintendo Switch fans!

For those who are not aware, the Nintendo Switch (though equip with Bluetooth) does not support Bluetooth headphones/headsets because it does not have A2DP. This caught a few off guard.

Today, I was researching this as at first I thought the Switch did not have Bluetooth only to discover the Joy-Con are Bluetooth. During my search, I stumble upon a solution some have been using to be able to use their Bluetooth headset/headphones.

That solution is getting hold of the Mpow Streambot Bluetooth 4.0 Adapter. This adapter simply connects directly into the 3.5mm jack of the Switch when in tablet mode. Then simply pair it with your Bluetooth headset/headphones and you are all set.

The only thing that will be weird is this thing will look odd when plug at the top.

Hopefully Nintendo will be able to update the Switch to support A2DP. If not, maybe it has to do with them wanting to ensure everyone gets the best possible battery life when taking the Switch on the go.
 

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josepilot81

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Sep 11, 2014
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Re: Bluetooth Headset Solution

Wow that such a great idea! I love to use my QC35 and I never thought about useimg it with the Nintendo
 

fury

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Aug 8, 2010
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Re: Bluetooth Headset Solution

Although I haven't tried one of these, I have one point to mention, knowing a bit about how Bluetooth works especially with multiple Bluetooth radios in the vicinity acting as masters - this will affect the performance of your joycons if they're detached. So, for the best experience, keep them on the Switch if you're using a Bluetooth adapter to get audio. Otherwise, the Switch and the Bluetooth adapter will be fighting for space in the Bluetooth spectrum to transmit, collisions will happen, and additional delays will occur as a result. I am almost certain that bandwidth concerns are why this didn't ship with A2DP support off the bat. I don't know how often the controllers ping it to send back input data (likely pretty often to minimize latency), but it probably doesn't leave much room in the budget to send audio.
 

Matty

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May 24, 2014
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Re: Bluetooth Headset Solution

Anyone try this solution yet? Curious about latency with this.
+1

Also interested about that. I'm sure it will be pretty good, don't think the product would get any good reviews if it didn't. It does have Bluetooth 4.0 so transfer speeds should be good as well.

I think once you have used it for a couple days and it stays there permanently, after a while you start to forget about it. 😃

Thanks for the suggestion OP!
 

IvanKaramazov

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Sep 13, 2015
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Re: Bluetooth Headset Solution

This is a great idea. I believe fury is right about the bluetooth issues though. It's kind of a shame, as the Bluetooth 5.0 standard introduced better support for multiple bluetooth connections (including multiple audio ones!).
 
May 16, 2017
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Re: Bluetooth Headset Solution

One key point is to be sure that you are getting a BT TRANSMITTER and not a receiver.

That said, there are a ton of different BT transmitters for sale on Amazon and all of them have somewhat spotty reviews. I'd really love to see iMore collect a few of the best and do a comparative review. I really found their review of the Anker PowerCore+ 26800 PD battery very valuable. On the strength of that review (and a couple of others I saw on YouTube) I purchased the battery and in the little testing I've done of it, it's been great.
 

SteveO1128

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Not including bluetooth headphone support in the first place (even with the potential bluetooth collisions) just seems like an odd choice for Nintendo. I wonder how much that shaved off their costs.
 

fury

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Re: Bluetooth Headset Solution

This is a great idea. I believe fury is right about the bluetooth issues though. It's kind of a shame, as the Bluetooth 5.0 standard introduced better support for multiple bluetooth connections (including multiple audio ones!).

Bluetooth LE/Smart is a different radio technology than EDR/Classic and really should've been called something other than Bluetooth to avoid consumer and developer confusion. I hate how hard it is to google for things about one Bluetooth without the other Bluetooth getting in the way.

As far as I know, the new goodies in Bluetooth 5 are for Smart/LE so that it can do mesh network, send more data, have longer range, or other enhancements needed for wearables, health, IoT, super low power devices. As with the past few Bluetooth spec releases (3.0, 4.x), it's still not making EDR/Classic any better.

Audio (A2DP) goes over EDR/Classic, the old 2.1 standard. With the new 2 Mbps rate, audio maybe could go over Bluetooth 5/Smart/LE, but it would need the A2DP specification ported over to work on that technology, and then everyone has to design new headsets. So, we're not quite there yet. Or, at least, I haven't come across any concrete sources that LE audio is on the way. Correct me if I'm wrong (I would be both happy and sad to be wrong, as both a user and developer of audio systems).

In any case, the Switch is stuck at Bluetooth spec 4.1 at the moment, and I don't know if the chip could be updated in firmware to support 5.

Not including bluetooth headphone support in the first place (even with the potential bluetooth collisions) just seems like an odd choice for Nintendo. I wonder how much that shaved off their costs.
The Bluetooth chip used in the Switch (BCM4356) has a built-in SBC audio encoder included, so the only cost for the most basic solution is working out the user interface, fitting the data transmission in, and testing.

It'd cost some money if they were to license a higher quality codec like AAC or aptX, and then it'd cost CPU time to do the higher quality encoding, but those formats can take less Bluetooth airtime while providing better quality audio (to headsets that support it).

*puts on propeller hat* Feel free to stop me if any of this doesn't make sense--I haven't dug this deep into Bluetooth in a while and my explanation may be a little off. But I worked on a product that handled audio to/from 3-4 devices simultaneously from one chip, so I got to know a little bit about how it gets sent over the air.

Bluetooth Classic is split into 0.625 millisecond time slots (1,600 a second). Until this magical mythical Bluetooth 5 LE audio profile becomes a thing, headsets for the foreseeable future receive audio over Classic. When detached, joycons do their thing over Classic. So that's 3 devices that need to fit within those time slots. It's doable, from what I understand, but would need some really clever low-level juggling of packets, especially as input probably gets sent more often than audio.

  • An audio packet (SBC high quality, ~328 Kbps, 8 frames per packet) takes 5 slots to send (3-DH5) and 1 to acknowledge, and contains about 23.2 ms of audio (so needs to be sent about every 37 slots).
  • Over the hard wired connection, at least, the switch requests an input update every 15 ms, leading to a roughly 66 FPS input rate. 61 bytes for the input payload. Not sure if this is the same over Bluetooth HID, I haven't found a packet log of the communication between the Switch and the joycons yet. But assuming it is for now. Therefore, I'm guessing a joycon packet would be at least 2 slots for data plus 1 for acknowledgement (maybe an additional packet for "request", not sure) every 24 slots.
  • 6 out of every 37 slots for audio, 3 or 4 out of every 24 slots for Joycon-L, and 3 or 4 out of every 24 slots for Joycon-R. 660-800 of the 1600 available slots per second just for data and acks between all 3 devices. That's a lot of opportunity for collisions / retransmissions to screw things up--not even taking into account polling and other Bluetooth overhead

So if no retransmissions are required, certainly possible. But if it has to retransmit even 1 packet every now and then, then it runs the risk of causing a very noticeable and annoying delay in either the audio or the input (or both).

Likelihood of retransmission goes up should any of the connected devices request the master role, or if there's other Bluetooth Classic or 2.4 ghz activity in the vicinity. 2.4 ghz Wi-Fi coexistence, too--the same chip handles both on the switch, so if it's connected to an online game or is downloading, the thing has to play air traffic controller between the Wi-Fi side and the Bluetooth side to make sure they don't run into each other.

Lots of things to consider, any or all of which probably why Nintendo hasn't put Bluetooth audio support in.

Interesting reading for a deep dive into how the joycons communicate with the console when plugged in: https://github.com/dekuNukem/Nintendo_Switch_Reverse_Engineering
 

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