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Netflix Introduces ‘Studio Quality’ Sound, Making the Watching Experience Much Better for Viewers

Nick Dimengo

Netflix announced a major upgrade to its streaming experience, bringing a “studio quality” sound to its viewers, which recently rose by two million last month. The streaming service is increasing its audio bitrate up to 640 kbps on devices that support 5.1 surround sound and up to 768 kbps for Dolby Atmos. However, for the latter, users will need a Premium subscription.

The company is also bringing adaptive streaming, which is a feature Netflix has used for video, to users’ speakers. This means that audio bitrate will be based on network conditions and device performance limitations, with the goal to make sound more crisp, bringing the “viewer closer to the story.”

Speaking to Engadget about the new sound quality, Sean Sharma, Netflix’s director of engineering, said the upgrade is all about user experience.

“The challenge is bringing this to the most members possible — When we think about how much we care about delivering brilliant experiences, that’s when playback starts right away, it’s at great quality and never stops unexpectedly and never re-buffers… We had to take a same approach for audio. In the TV space, we’ve brought it to smart TVs, set-top boxes and game consoles.”

For those users with a slower Internet connection, the newest Netflix update is critical, as the adaptive streaming can scale down audio quality, rather than stopping the video to forcing it to re-buffer. Netflix added that its high-quality sound feature “is not lossless, but it is perceptually transparent.” With the audio on Netflix content now compressed, users won’t notice the difference between what your surround sound system delivers and the studio version, so says Netflix.

The suggestion to increase sound quality came to Netflix from the Duffer Brothers, who created the popular show Stranger Things. Apparently, the duo was invited by the company to watch Stranger Things 2 in a living room and were less than thrilled with the audio quality. After Netflix boosted the bitrate for the show, the company has been working on bringing the improvements across the entire platform.

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