How to force macOS to use aptX/AAC on supported devices

by: - Last updated on: July 7th, 2020

The quality of audio experience you can enjoy on your headphones/earphones is highly dependent on a bunch of factors. Starting with, the format of an audio file, the quality of DAC (Digital to Analog Converter), and the Codec in use, which all happen to be the prime essentials for an immersive and high-quality audio experience. Needless to say, the streaming device should support the Codec that your headphone is using and have it enabled. However, a lot of the times, it is set to use the default Codec, which, in most cases, is the SBC (Sub-Band Codec), requiring you to enable your preferred Codec manually.

Force macOS to use aptX AAC

In this article, we take you through the steps required to force your Mac (running macOS) to use aptX/AAC. Before we begin, make sure your streaming device (headphones or earphones) supports the aptX or AAC Codecs. For this demonstration, we will be using the Bullets Wireless 2 earphones from OnePlus, which come with aptX codec, and a MacBook Pro 2017.

How to Identify the Active Bluetooth Codec

1. Turn ON Bluetooth on your headphones and Mac. Connect your headphones to your Mac and start playing music.

2. Now, hold the Option key and click on the Bluetooth icon on the menu bar.

3. Hover the cursor over your headphone (from the list of devices). Here, you will see ‘Active Codec’ with the currently active Codec mentioned next to it.

Identify Active Codec 1

4. If you see the Active Codec as aptX or AAC, your Mac and headphones are already using these Codecs. Whereas, in case you see SBC, you need to go through the following steps to change the active codec to aptX or AAC.

How to Enable aptX/AAC on macOS

1. Open a web browser and navigate to the Developer’s download page.

2. Here, enter your Apple developer account credentials and sign in.

3. Once signed in, download the Additional Tools by selecting one from the list.

4. Next, double-tap the Additional Tools (.dmg file) to mount it on your desktop.

5. Open the Additional Tools directory and navigate to the Hardware folder.

Enable aptX AAC 5

6. Now, open your Mac’s Application folder in a separate window and drag the Bluetooth Explorer app here.

7. Go to the Application’s folder and launch the Bluetooth Explorer app.

Enable aptX AAC 1 1

8. From the menu bar, go to Tools > Audio Options.

Enable aptX AAC 3 1

9. On the Audio Options window, tick the checkboxes next to Enable AAC and Force use of aptX. Also, make sure the Disable AAC and Disable aptX checkboxes are unchecked.

Enable aptX AAC 4 1

10. Hit Close, and restart your Mac. Once it boots up, re-pair your headphones again.

Identify Active Codec 2 1

 

That’s it!

By now, you must have enabled aptX/AAC on your Mac. To verify that you are using aptX/AAC, perform the same step as you did earlier to identify the active codec in use.

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  1. What to do, when these instructions are not enough? When using headphone microphone as input source, codec ALWAYS fallbacks to SCO, and my voice is like beyond grave, and sound I hear is very poor.

    Instructions in this article is the copy-paste instructions which are found everywhere, and which don’t fully solve the problem.

    1. The purpose of the article is to help you force macOS to use aptX and AAC codec. It is not to determine what causes Apple to fall back to the default SBC/SCO codecs. We have embedded a video (captured today), which corroborates that the steps mentioned in the guide work fine.

      Besides, to answer your query regarding the codec falling back to SCO when using the built-in microphone, it looks like macOS changes the codec to default when it recognizes that you are trying to use the built-in microphone for the connected headphone/earphone. And that can happen due to several reasons.

      To find out what is causing the issue, you can go into the settings for each app/service that is accessing your microphone, and find out the culprit by disabling them one-by-one to see the one that is forcing the operating system to fall back to SCO.

  2. Found this, and a couple of [1] very [2] technical articles–which may be of interest–while trying to figure out if Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2 headphones support AAC.

    Sidebar: The manufacturer says ‘yeah we do’ but if the headphone mic is set as the input device the stream on MacOS will always be SBC. Pick ‘built-in mic’ to get AAC on the headphones.

    The Bluetooth Explorer.app helped to forcing aptX. John Darko links to the standalone app* from this [blog post](
    https://darko.audio/2016/01/how-to-enable-aptx-bluetooth-audio-on-your-macbook-imac/).

    *Just a note, once the zip is extracted, ‘inspect contents’ of the app, and copy the actual app out. Running whatever the zip delivers results in an error.

    [1](https://www.sereneaudio.com/blog/how-good-is-bluetooth-audio-at-its-best)
    [2](https://habr.com/en/post/456182/)

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