Beken introduces BK3296, a Next-Generation Bluetooth Audio SoC Precisely Targeted for Mass-market TWS Headset Applications


JiWei reports that Apple released the first generation of AirPods TWS headphones in 2016, creating yet another explosive application in headset With the gradual implementation of product specifications such as intelligent in-ear detection, call noise cancellation ENC, active noise cancellation ANC and voice AI, the TWS headphone market has seen a major explosion. At the same time, with many non-Apple brand manufacturers entering this market, making the stability of the product, experience and other perfect in place, on the other hand, the ultra-low price strategy of white label manufacturers to quickly sink to the mass market, TWS headset market has grown dramatically while also began to form more and more homogeneous competition situation.

Against this backdrop, Apple's market share in the TWS headphone market plunged from 37.6% in the third quarter of 2020 to 24.6% in the same period of 2021. JW insights' research report points out that although China as the largest TWS headset consumer market, and AirPods in China has a stable and large user base, but the problem of high pricing on its market share can not be ignored, while the epidemic on the global economy under the impact of user purchasing power is weakened, meaning that the more cost-effective products will be more competitive. Non-Apple camp like Samsung, Sony, BOSE three major brands in 2021 are launched 1500 ~ 2000 yuan price point of the main products, several major domestic cell phone manufacturers headset prices are also catering to the domestic TWS headset consumption trends, such as Vivo TWS 2 price less than a quarter of AirPods Pro, OPPO's Buds Air and Xiaomi's Air 2 Pro's  price is pressed to within 500 yuan. Looking globally, the share of TWS headphones under $100 has grown from 18% in the first quarter of 2019 to 54% in 2021.

【Source: Counterpoint Research Global Hearables (TWS) Market Forecast 2021-2023 】

On the other hand, for some consumers who once wanted to buy AirPods but stopped at the expensive price, the imitation products became another option, thus quickly driving the dramatic expansion of the white-label market. According to the Shanghai Securities Research Institute estimates, white label TWS headset shipments reached 227 million units in 2020, with shipments topping the list at about 49%. However, with the improvement of brand headset performance and price competitiveness, the safety and reliability issues of white-label products, as well as the change in consumer perception, white-label users are bound to gradually move toward branded products, which will greatly promote the growth of the mid-range market.

Consumer surveys show that more and more consumers buy TWS headphones are concerned about the highest several parameters indicators are sound quality, price, wearing comfort, battery life and ease of use, voice call quality, consumers began to pay more attention to the perfect balance between the elements of sound quality, standby time and price.

With branded suppliers pursuing price/performance ratio and white-label suppliers pursuing quality, the two-tier market space of high and low end is gradually overflowing to the mid-range market to accommodate diversified demand, with the mid-range market share in the $50-$100 price range gradually growing. Apple also launched AirPods 3 in the second half of 2021, and without providing revolutionary innovations but only adjusting its product strategy, it made AirPods to regain growth momentum in shipments in the following two quarters, proving the correctness of its product strategy.

Beken introduces BK3296, pinpointing a wide range of mass application markets

In response to these consumer demand trends, Beken Corporation introduced the BK3296 recently, a next-generation, highly integrated Bluetooth audio SoC capable of delivering ultra-low power performance, superior Bluetooth connectivity and advanced audio processing capabilities, designed to fill a gap in the market for a TWS Bluetooth headset chip capable of addressing higher audio quality requirements, longer endurance, better connectivity performance and lower cost, providing advanced audio processing and lowest power consumption for audio applications such as TWS headsets, wireless headphones, control and multimedia hybrid applications.

The BK3296 integrates a high-performance Bluetooth RF transceiver, feature-rich baseband processor, memory controller, multiple analog and digital peripherals and Bluetooth protocol stack including audio, cloud and SPP profiles to support mainstream Bluetooth 5.2/LE/BR/EDR specifications. It uses Beken Corporation's advanced design technology and ultra-low power 22nm process to achieve extremely low standby and operating power consumption, with A2DP power consumption of less than 3mA in Bluetooth headset mode, which is about 50% of the industry's competitive chips. The BK3296 device is available in a variety of packages and has the industry's smallest size of 3 x 3mm, enabling customers to create compact, ultra-low power and more cost effective TWS headset products.

The BK3296 has an integrated 32-bit RISC MCU and supports Bluetooth 5.2 dual-mode compatible protocol stack. The SoC can run applications without an external host controller. An external host can be connected via a UART interface for debugging purposes, but is not required to run the application. Beken Corporation also provides a development kit to configure the application. The development kit includes software configuration tools and reference software code for features such as stereo-mode Bluetooth speakers, a CU control interface for artificial intelligence voice assistants, and more.

The BK3296 also incorporates a power management system that includes a battery charger, a step-down regulator that can be configured as a low dropout (LDO) regulator, and several internal LDO regulators that provide voltage and noise isolation for various parts of the chip.

In addition, the BK3296 includes a fully differential analog microphone input amplifier and a low-noise microphone bias generator that supports Beken's dual-microphone noise reduction algorithm, which supports adaptive beam-forming (Beam-forming) and increases additional power consumption by only 200μA when dual-microphone noise reduction is enabled, about one-third of that of comparable products.

"With TWS headphones becoming a popular electronic product after smartphones, improving the experience in terms of sound quality and call noise reduction has become an immediate need for users, which means a chip solution with superior sound quality combined with high cost efficiency and high efficacy is exactly what the market needs today." Pengfei Zhang, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Beken Corporation, noted, "Building on the success of the BK3288, which meets the highest functional complexity requirements, Beken is once again introducing the newly designed BK3296, which is precisely targeted at TWS headset products that are targeted at the most widely used range of needs."

"Beken has been at the forefront of wireless audio innovation for over a decade, powering hundreds of millions of Bluetooth-enabled audio devices." Weifeng Wang, vice president of R&D at Beken, emphasized, "The next-generation Bluetooth audio SoC BK3296 is optimized for power performance and package size, and the highly optimized hardware plus software solution provides OEMs and ODMs with industry-leading performance in a cost-effective, rapidly deployable SoC that helps customers easily create a unique listening experience."

At present, BK3296 has been introduced to many well-known customers at home and abroad design-in, and there are already mass production shipments of end products equipped with this chip.

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