Netflix to Bring ‘Studio Quality Sound’ for All Users

May 2, 2019
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There isn’t much one can say about Netflix in the recent past. The streaming service is constantly working on original content and burning through copious amounts of capital. Netflix raised its prices in some markets, but that’ll hardly matter to most people, considering how intertwined it has become with daily life. Today, the company announced another QoL change that aims to make your Netflix experience even better. According to their blog post:

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.

According to Netflix, people who own high-end audio equipment often miss out on the full audio experience due to low audio bitrates, which are also affected by bandwidth limitations. Based on a plethora of tests, Netflix determined that for 5.1 speaker systems at and above 640 kbps, the audio coding quality is perceptually transparent. Anything above that would add nothing of value to the listening experience while using up more bandwidth. The bitrate can be pushed a bit higher at 786 kbps for Dolby Atmos capable hardware. But, Dolby Atmos is available only for members subscribed to the Premium plan at the moment.

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Netflix to also implement adaptive streaming for audio

Until now, Netflix has always used static audio streaming at a constant bitrate. The method selects the audio bitrate based on network conditions at the start of playback. Adaptive streaming is a technology designed to deliver media to the user in the most optimal way for their network connection. Media is split into many small segments (chunks) and each chunk contains a few seconds of playback data. Until now, Netflix has only used adaptive streaming for videos.

By using adaptive streaming for audio, it is possible to adjust audio quality according to bandwidth capabilities, just like for video. The adaptive bitrate switching happens seamlessly during a streaming experience, so you shouldn’t notice a difference other than better sound. If your network conditions are good, you’ll be served up the best possible audio. If your network has an issue, the audio quality will tone down a little to compensate for the lack of available bandwidth. The changes have already begun rolling out and you should notice considerably better audio in your Netflix binges.

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