World’s biggest online streaming service of TV shows and movies is sparing no expense to constantly improve its service in the wake of heating up of competition from rival platforms. Disney+ and Apple TV+ are a few big upcoming alternatives poised to mount a tough competition to Netflix’s hegemony in the streaming sphere. As it ramps up production of big-budget original content across geographic regions, Netflix also raised subscription prices in some markets to cover the soaring cost. Most streaming services focus mainly on video quality which often relegates audio to the background. Netflix is looking to change that with better audio quality to offer a holistic viewing and listening experience to its users.
The company seems dedicated to bringing experience enhancing features, such as the QoL change as announced in their recent 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.
After updating to the latest version, users will be able to enjoy the same audio quality which the content creators originally intended during the production process in the studio.
Netflix is of the view that though modern digital devices come with high-end audio hardware but dropped bitrates due to bandwidth limitations often affect the best possible listening experience.
This prompted the company to conduct a series of tests to determine that sound relayed at and above 640kps through 5.1 speaker systems, the quality of audio coding is transparent albeit perceptually. Anything above this range would not add value to the overall listening experience even when using higher bandwidth. Dolby Atmos powered hardware is capable of pushing at a higher 786 kbps bitrate but that feature is available only to the subscribers to the premium plan.
Therefore, to get the most out of Dolby Atmos quality, Netflix had this to say in its official announcement:
Most TV devices that support 5.1 or Dolby Atmos are capable of receiving better sound. 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)
Netflix Adaptive Audio Streaming
Netflix also made it clear that low bandwidth or devices with insufficient audio hardware will not encounter issues after the introduction of adaptive streaming for audio. Adaptive technology automatically adjusts according to the user’s network connection to deliver the best optimal output. Until now adaptive streaming was limited to videos on Netflix. As bitrates continue to evolve, the package is sure to get better with time.
The switching of adaptive bitrate takes place imperceptibly during streaming, so users should notice a better sound only. If the network is fast, best possible audio will be served up. On slower networks with low bandwidth, the audio quality will drop in line with the available bitrate.