Bluetooth technology can be a godsend for those of us trying to minimise the amount of cord clutter in our digital lives. But when your laptop, phone, or other device is hooked up via bluetooth to a wireless speaker or pair of headphones and the audio playback starts to stutter, it can be nothing short of infuriating.
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Anyone who’s ever spent time angrily fiddling with their audio settings can tell you that while Bluetooth should allow audio to seamlessly transmit from one point to another, depending on your devices, there can be a wide array of problems that cause Bluetooth stuttering.
Often, this is due to a partial disconnection or interruption of the signal between the two wireless points. For instance, problems can occur if there are changes in your computer or mobile device’s operating systems, updates to computer software or mobile apps, firmware changes on mobile or other devices, as well as problems or bugs in your car-stereo system.
There are quite a number of different devices that rely on bluetooth, and how you fix the problem on one kind of device may not solve the issue on another. Below, we’ve listed some of the most notable culprits on several different devices, and how to fix them:
Whether you have a PC or a Mac, there are a number of issues that can create audio stuttering, such as signal interference. Various devices can cause that interference, including cordless phones (operating at 2.4GHz or 5GHz), baby monitors, and microwave ovens, since many of these devices are operating in the same frequency range.
Some methods to try to fix these problems include changing the channels on your wireless network. (Resetting it will often attempt to use the 2.4 and 5 GHz channels with the least interference.) To change the channel on your router, log into your router’s web interface in your web browser. Then, go to the Wi-Fi settings page, find the drop-down for “Wi-Fi Channel” and select a new channel. Also, consider minimising the number of active Bluetooth devices you have connected to your computer.
Some Mac users have also found increased audio stuttering when the handoff feature setting is turned on. (This feature allows a Mac and an iOS device to share functionality; you can start an email on your iPhone, and finish typing it on your Mac.) To turn off the handoff feature on your Mac, go to the Apple menu, then System Preferences, and click General. Then deselect “Allow Handoff between this Mac and your iCloud devices” to turn it off.
There can be many other issues, which may be as simple as carefully checking all the settings in the audio section of your PC computer’s device manager. For instance, stuttering may take place if your computer recognises a bluetooth speaker as both a speaker and a wireless headset. Deselect the headset, and choose it as a wireless speaker.
Mobile Devices and Cars
Mobile devices most frequently experience stuttering when paired with a car’s audio system. You’ll have to do some research to check out the problem with your particular phone and car, but a common fix is to find the “clear cache” section in the settings on your phone.
Cache files can become corrupt over time due to things like subtle changes to your mobile device’s OS, which can prevent a successful Bluetooth connection. So when you remove these problem files by clearing the cache, the proper files are recreated, which allow you to connect your phone and car via Bluetooth.
If you’re looking for resolution for a specific phone pairing with a specific car, a great place to look is in the online forums for the phone’s brand or the phone’s carrier. For example, take the problem some were experiencing with the Samsung Galaxy S8: a number of users experienced “choppy” audio problems when connecting via their car system. The sixth post in Samsung’s forum offers a solution. You can also try researching the forums of specific carriers, such as this one from Verizon.
If you want to solve an audio problem with Apple iPhones, try their forums for troubleshooting (such as this very long, 52-page forum for the iPhone 7).
Since most wireless headphones connect to various devices via bluetooth, there are instances when a mobile app associated with a particular pair of headphones is the issue, like one of Bose’s QC35 wireless headphones and its Bose Connect smartphone app. If you’re using your wireless headphones with a mobile device, always check that its operating system is up to date and that you have the latest version of a particular headphone’s app.
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Truly wireless or true wireless headphones (like the Apple AirPods) may, by their nature, present more stuttering problems than other wireless models. Although the Apple Airpods did not have this stuttering issue, previous truly wireless models from other brands, such as Samsung’s Gear IconX and Altec Lansing’s Freedom True Wireless Earbuds, did have problems connecting between the two earbuds or syncing correctly.
If you happen to buy these models and are experiencing stuttering, it may be difficult to fix, since your head itself may be interfering with the signal syncing the two earbuds.
Some headphone makers have found that updating the firmware improves syncing and other problems a bit, but these aren’t always a panacea. Still, it’s worthwhile to look on the manufacturer’s website for troubleshooting guides as well as updates to firmware, and be sure you’ve loaded the latest version.