Google Pixel 8 to get a great free audio upgrade

If you're serious about sound, your Pixel 8 or Pixel 8 Pro is about to get a serious upgrade

Google Pixel 8 Pro lifestyle
(Image credit: Google)

Google's latest flagship phones, the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro, are getting an important upgrade that'll make them sound as good as they look. According to Google's vice president of engineering, Dave Burke, both phones will shortly get lossless audio over USB.

That's really good news for people who are serious about sound, because while the best wireless headphones are very good they can't deliver the same sound quality as cabled connections. Connecting an external digital audio converter (DAC) with a good quality pair of cabled headphones could be a serious audio upgrade.

Why cabled connections still sound better

The problem with wireless connections of any kind is that you only have so much bandwidth. aptX Adaptive can go up to 420kbps and Sony's LDAC tops out at a maximum of 990kbps at highest quality settings – but a CD is 1,411kbps. And if the signal strength isn't 100% the quality has to drop back or you'll experience buffering. You can get around that with larger buffers that download data in advance, but the bigger the buffer the longer the delay before you can listen.

That's not to say aptX Adaptive and LDAC aren't great. They are, delivering vastly improved sound quality compared to traditional wireless streaming. But they're still wireless, and that means they're still a compromise.

Support for lossless audio over wired USB connections was introduced in Android 14, and speaking on Reddit Dave Burke promised that it's coming to the Pixels. "I'm excited about this feature," he said, adding that "basically what it does is ensure 'bit perfect audio' so audio bypasses the audio mixer, any processing effects, etc. We've added OS support so the next step is for support from device makers and app developers." As for the Pixels, "Pixel 8... is expected to support this mode in their hardware abstraction layer (HAL) implementations in later releases."

For most people, wireless headphones are more than good enough. But for audiophiles, near-perfect sound is a must-have. If you'd like to plan an audio upgrade for your Pixel 8 or Pixel 8 Pro, check out our guide to the best headphone DACs here.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (