Besides a good, clear, hi-definition picture, high-quality audio is important for media consumption. Starting today, Netflix’s Dolby 5.1 and Atmos sound should sound even better.
Netflix is hoping the new high-quality audio will give viewers “a richer, more intense experience.”
Today we’re excited to announce a new feature, high-quality audio, which takes our sound quality to another level. We gave it this straightforward name because it fits: high-quality audio delivers audio that sounds closer to what creators hear in the studio, so every little detail is captured for a richer, more intense experience. Additionally, if you have bandwidth or device limitations, we’ve made the feature adaptive so that we will deliver the best possible audio to match your capabilities. This is similar to what we already do for video.Netflix
Most TV devices that support 5.1 or Dolby Atmos are capable of receiving better sound, and depending on your device and bandwidth capabilities, the bitrate you receive may vary:
- 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 members subscribed to the Premium plan)
So just what spurred this decision to invest more time and technology in high-quality audio? You can thank Stranger Things 2 and the Duffer brothers for that.
In late 2017, we were reviewing Stranger Things 2 with the Duffer brothers in a living room environment so they could understand how viewers would experience it. At one point in the first episode, there was a car chase scene that didn’t sound as crisp as it did on the mixing stage. We immediately got our sound expert involved, spun up the engineering teams and were determined to make it right, no matter how much effort it was going to take. Fortunately, we were able to address the problem for Stranger Things 2 by delivering a higher bitrate for the audio, and since then have been working diligently to roll out improved audio more broadly.Netflix
While the aforementioned audio bitrate improvements are rolling out starting today, Netflix states that this is just the beginning. The company expects these bitrates to evolve over time as they get more efficient with their encoding techniques.
If you’re really curious as to the technology behind Netflix high-quality audio, you can check out this Medium post.