Bringing Studio Quality Sound to Netflix

Starting today, when you watch Netflix on your TV, it should sound even better.

Some of the most iconic moments in TV and film are defined by their score. Without its beautiful theme music, would The Crown be as majestic? Would the eeriness of Stranger Things come across in the same way?

Often the subtlety of sound may go unnoticed, but it can have a profound impact on the atmosphere of a scene and fundamentally change how a viewer responds to it. The magical combination of sight and sound brings viewers closer to the story, and that’s why we support creative technologies and features like 4K, HDR, Dolby Atmos® and Netflix Calibrated Mode.

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.

Supporting and delivering on the vision of our creative partners has always been incredibly important to us, and sound is something we’ve been really focused on.

The Backstory

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.

It was a great example of the Netflix culture at work and doing what was needed to support our creative partners. To hear the story from our employees’ perspectives, see here:

Uniquely combining creative technology with engineering teams at Netflix, we’ve been able to not only solve a problem, but use that problem to improve the quality of audio for millions of our members worldwide.

The Member Experience

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)

We expect these bitrates to evolve over time as we get more efficient with our encoding techniques.

Additional information can be found on our Help Center. And for a more technical look at how we implemented high-quality audio and how it’s delivered to Netflix members around the world, check out our tech blog.

Preserving the original creative intent of the hard-working people who make shows like Stranger Things is a top priority, and we know it enhances your viewing – and listening – experience for many more moments of joy. Whether you’ve fallen into the Upside Down or you’re being chased by the Demogorgon, get ready for a sound experience like never before.

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