Netflix launches high-quality audio for TV viewers

Netflix this morning announced a new feature for its streaming service focused on offering viewers better sound. The company is rolling out “high-quality audio,” or an audio experience that features a higher bitrate for TV devices that support either 5.1 or Dolby Atmos. Depending on the device and the customer’s bandwidth capabilities, the actual bitrate you receive will vary, Netflix says.

However, it will range from 192 kbps (good) up to 640 kbps (great) for 5.1, and from 448 kbps to 768 kbps for Dolby Atmos — which is available to members subscribed to the Premium plan.

Netflix says the bitrates will evolve over time as its continues to get more efficient with its encoding techniques.

Netflix’s tech blog gets into more details about the feature, noting that the high-quality sound is not lossless, but is “perceptually transparent” — meaning that even though the audio is compressed, it’s indistinguishable from the original source, Netflix claims.

The company also offered a bit of backstory about how high-quality audio came to be, thanks to sound-quality issues with “Stranger Things 2” back in 2017. In one episode, a car chase scene wasn’t sounding crisp, so Netflix tasked its sound expert and engineers to make improvements. They addressed the problem by delivering a higher bitrate for the audio. And since then, the team has been working to roll out the improved audio more broadly.

“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 company writes in an announcement. “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 feature launches today for TV viewers.