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Living the wire-free Bluetooth lifestyle comes with some undeniable benefits. But let’s be honest, pairing your headphones or earbuds to a new device is a terrible experience. It’s time-consuming, difficult, and unintuitive. And that’s why multipoint Bluetooth exists.

Multipoint Bluetooth allows your headphones or earbuds to connect with multiple devices at the same time. It can reduce or eliminate the need to go through annoying pairing processes, and better yet, it can save you from missing calls when you’re listening to music on your laptop or tablet.

Multipoint Solves Bluetooth’s Biggest Problem

Bose

The Bluetooth pairing process sucks. It’s clunky, it’s slow, and it makes switching between audio sources incredibly difficult. In fact, most people just leave their earbuds or headphones connected to their phone or laptop, as it’s more convenient than struggling to pair them with a new device.

Believe it or not, but the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (which is only slightly less sinister than it sounds) tried to resolve this problem back in 2010. That’s when it introduced Bluetooth 4.0 with multipoint connectivity, a feature that, in theory, would allow users to connect their headphones or earbuds with multiple devices simultaneously.

I say “in theory” because most headphones and earbuds lack multipoint connectivity. But those that do support multipoint are fantastic.

Imagine that you’re wearing wireless earbuds during a video call. When the call ends, you decide to leave your laptop and go on a quick jog. You start streaming a workout playlist on your phone, and without going through a Bluetooth pairing process, the music automatically plays through your earbuds. That’s multipoint audio.

Bluetooth multipoint can also interrupt audio streams. If you get a call while listening to music on your laptop, for example, the music will pause and your headphones will automatically switch your smartphone. Then, when the call is over (or you ignore it), the headphones will switch back to your laptop for music.

Note that multipoint Bluetooth won’t let you simultaneously play audio from two devices. And while multipoint Bluetooth sounds like magic, it can be a bit clunky. Like all things Bluetooth, multipoint is far from perfect.

Dirty Details: How Does Multipoint Work?

Sony

Devices set up with Bluetooth form a “piconet,” which is just a cute way of saying “a tiny network.” In the world of Bluetooth audio, these piconets usually contain just two devices—a pair of headphones and a single audio source.

Your headphones act as the “leader” of this piconet, dictating how and when connections operate. But your audio source, be it a phone or laptop, is just a “follower.” It listens to any commands that your headphones make (such as pause or play), and it complies with any rules (such as audio codec or bitrate constraints) set by your headphones.

When a pair of headphones or earbuds supports multipoint audio, its piconet can include a couple of extra “followers.” That is, audio sources. The headphones are still in charge, though, so the multipoint experience can vary depending on which headphones or earbuds you own.

And yes, Bluetooth multipoint can vary wildly between different models of headphones, earbuds, and headsets. Here are the four types of multipoint connectivity:

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