Nintendo added Bluetooth audio support to the Switch – but it sucks. Here’s why you still need an adapter.
When the Nintendo Switch originally launched back in 2017, one glaring omission was the lack of Bluetooth audio. The console can support up to eight Bluetooth wireless controllers for local wireless multiplayer, but no audio support. It has taken nearly four years, but the latest update finally adds Bluetooth audio support.
Unfortunately, there are some limitations to the implementation. When using Bluetooth audio, only two wireless controllers can be used. A pair of Joy-Cons counts as two wireless controllers, so you can’t play multiplayer games with Bluetooth audio. You cannot pair additional controllers unless the audio device is disconnected. Also, Bluetooth audio is automatically disconnected during local communication.
Only one Bluetooth audio device can be paired at a time, but up to ten devices can be saved on a Nintendo Switch system. You cannot use a Bluetooth microphone with the Switch, so adapters with a microphone are still better. And as Nintendo notes, “You may experience audio latency depending on your Bluetooth device.” That’s the big one.
Why is my Nintendo Switch Bluetooth audio laggy?
The Nintendo Switch uses the standard SBC Bluetooth codec. It has a latency of around 220-300ms, which is noticeable for games that require precision sound. First person shooters, precision platformers, and other games you will notice a slight delay in sound.
You can avoid that slight delay by buying an audio adapter for Switch that supports better Bluetooth audio codecs. The Skull & Co. Audio Stick supports AptX, AptX LL, AAC, and Sony LDAC for low latency gaming. It also has microphone support for most Switch games.
Any modern Bluetooth headset that supports Bluetooth 5.0 should have support for these codecs. If you use Apple or Sony headphones, those connect using the AAC and LDAC codecs respectively. Let’s take a look at some of the reported latency times for these various Bluetooth codecs.
- SBC – 0.20 second latency (what the Nintendo Switch uses by default)
- AAC/LDAC – 0.09 second latency (Apple & Sony’s proprietary codecs)
- AptX – 0.06 second latency
- AptX LL – 0.04 second latency (designed specifically for gaming)
For the best audio experience on Switch, you should still use a Bluetooth audio adapter. The Skull & Co. Audio Stick is a great choice because it works with both Apple and Sony headphones and their proprietary codec. If you use Bluetooth headphones that support AptX or AptX LL – then the Creative BT-W3 is another option.
You won’t get lag-free Bluetooth audio with the default Nintendo Switch Bluetooth connection because it uses a high latency codec. That’s because Nintendo would have to pay a licensing fee to include support for all three of the other Bluetooth codecs – which would increase the final price of the console.
Can I connect my AirPods to my Nintendo Switch?
Yes, if you’re fine dealing with the audio latency of the SBC codec. If not, you’ll need to purchase an adapter that supports the AAC codec, like the Skull & Co. Audio Stick. AAC support in Bluetooth transmitters is expensive to implement, so most solutions don’t.
How to Pair Bluetooth Audio to Nintendo Switch
- Turn on your Bluetooth device and set it to pairing mode.
- From the HOME menu, open ‘System Settings.’
- Scroll down and find Bluetooth Audio, then select ‘Pair’ to find devices.
Searching for a pairable device may take several seconds. If you already have ten saved devices, you’ll need to remove one to pair a new one. Remember that a pair of Joy-Cons counts as two controllers when they’re used wirelessly.
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