I have a set of bluetooth earbuds and I have been using them with my MacBook running High Sierra. I use them for Slack calls and the quality basically sounds like I'm talking on my phone. I understand Apple's official advice is to switch to the internal microphone, but that defeats the purpose. I was wondering if there was a specific wireless headset that will give me the same quality as a pair of dumb wired earbuds.

I want to add that I did a decent amount of investigation on my own. I understand The driver macOS uses is SBC when playing just audio and SCO when using the Handsfree profile. I've even been able to enable AAC when playing audio, but none of this has helped me. I've basically just accepted the fact that the Bluetooth driver that macOS uses for the Handsfree profile is terrible quality and there is nothing I can do about it.

I just want to know if there is a wireless headset that will give me the same quality as wired earbuds.

  • What is your budget looking like?
    – jcam3
    Sep 7, 2018 at 22:52
  • @jcam3 Let's say my budget is $200. Really I just want to know if there are any devices out there that overcome the Bluetooth driver issue with macOS, but can still provide the convenience of being wireless.
    – bheussler
    Sep 8, 2018 at 0:22

3 Answers 3


You can't, at least not on macOS.

There's no high quality duplex audio Bluetooth profile, maximum what you can get is 16 kHz duplex SBC (mSBC, "Wideband speech"). It's better than SCO (8 kHz), but not dramatically.

For some reason, Bluetooth SIG hasn't been interested in implementing high quality duplex audio since 2003. The only solution is available from Cambridge Silicon Radio (now Qualcomm), the FastStream pseudo codec, which in fact is SBC with backchannel A2DP hack. It provides fullband audio and wideband speech, but the headphones with FastStream support are very rare, and it would probably work only on Windows with CSRHarmony Bluetooth driver.

  • "Full stack" dedicated audio Bluetooth transceivers that have all of the Bluetooth logic in the embedded device, like the Avantree Audikast, do not require OS support for FastStream. In fact I am unaware of any general purpose operating system that has a FastStream codec at all. The main problem is that the sound quality of FastStream on every pair of headphones I've tried with it is really poor. Sep 28, 2018 at 18:50
  • @allquixotic, since FastStream is just an SBC with duplex audio configuration, it could be implemented e.g. in Linux. The developer who made aptX support for Pulseaudio have working code for FastStream. FastStream can handle "Medium Quality" SBC for audio (44.1/48 kHz with 239 kbit/s bitrate) and 16 kHz voice.
    – ValdikSS
    Sep 28, 2018 at 21:46

As has been mentioned already you could try to find a bluetooth headset that supports the faststream codec, and use a dongle on your macbook that supports it, but faststream support is very rare. Much easier to find are gaming headsets that support a non-bluetooth wireless connection. See e.g. here for some examples. Unfortunately there are currently no earbuds that support this.


As of today Bluetooth stack has changed a lot since. The new HFP 1.6 supports better voice quality (16 kHz, 16 bit) with the mSBC codec, still very compressed and with fair quality but noticeable better. Long story short, getting a BT +5.0 dongle and headset should make it work.

Alternatives such as FastStream or AptX LL bidirectional, are hard to find a pair that dance together. I have a set of FS in BT 5.3 and voice works as HFP 1.7 instead.

When the upcoming standard LC3 codec gets globalized (currently optional in BT 5.3), HD calls will be a fact. Will take years though.

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