Netflix Launches High-Quality Audio: Studio Sound to the Home

Netflix has announced a new feature for its members, as today marks the launch of high-quality audio, “which takes our sound to another level,” explains the company.

With high-quality audio, Netflix says customers can now hear “audio that sounds closer to what creators hear in the studio, so every little detail is captured for a richer, more intense experience.”

This feature is adaptive, so Netflix will bring the best sound based on your bandwidth or device limitations, similar to how video quality is determined on your devices.

Netflix says the backstory of high-quality audio began with the review of the original series Stranger Things 2 with the Duffer brothers, watching the series in a living room.

Once car chase scene didn’t sound “as crisp as it did on the mixing stage,” so Netflix go their sound expert and engineering teams involved to make it right, “no matter how much effort it was going to take.” The result? Stranger Things 2 saw a higher bitrate for audio, and since that time Netflix has been working to roll out better audio “more broadly.”

According to the Netflix tech blog, which gets into the fine details:

Our high-quality sound feature is not lossless, but it is perceptually transparent. That means that while the audio is compressed, it is indistinguishable from the original source. Based on internal listening tests, listening test results provided by Dolby, and scientific studies, we determined that for Dolby Digital Plus at and above 640 kbps, the audio coding quality is perceptually transparent. Beyond that, we would be sending you files that have a higher bitrate (and take up more bandwidth) without bringing any additional value to the listening experience.

What devices are eligible for better sound? Netflix says it depends on your device setup and bandwidth capabilities:

  • 5.1: from 192 kbps (good) up to 640 kbps (great/perceptually transparent)
  • Dolby Atmos: from 448 kbps up to 768 kbps (Dolby Atmos is available for Netflix Premium plan members only)

Netflix concludes, “we expect these bitrates to evolve over time as we get more efficient with our encoding techniques.”

Update: For those asking about Apple TV 4K, it is supported according to Netflix:

Devices that support 5.1 or Dolby Atmos will be capable of receiving high-quality audio, although some older, legacy devices may not be supported. Apple TV 4K (requires tvOS 12 or later) is supported.