It all started with season 2 of the company’s popular series Stranger Things, which begins with a car chase. When watching the first episode in a living room environment, show creators Matt and Ross Duffer noticed that the audio wasn’t coming through as crisply or cleanly as it did on the final sound stage in which it was mixed.
They turned to Netflix to solve this problem, and the streaming giant not only obliged, but put a team of engineers on the task of improving sound quality throughout the company’s programming.
It took a while, but today the high-quality audio feature has been given to the masses, allowing those of us who take sound quality as seriously as we take image quality an even more immersive listening experience when watching our favorite flicks.
The high-quality audio feature works by improving the bit rate at which the company streams audio to TVs and connected devices with support for 5.1 or Dolby Atmos audio. Devices that support 5.1 audio (the traditional surround-sound setup for most) will get between 192 and 640 kilobit per-second audio, and premium subscribers with Dolby Atmos devices will get between 448 and 768 kbps.
The differences between the older, lower bitrate audio and the newer, high-bitrate audio will be somewhat subtle to most, but higher bitrate sound will add increased nuance and subtlety to the sound of films and TV shows, allowing you to feel even more immersed in the story.
As with most things to do with the way Netflix delivers content to your screens and speakers, the company says that it will continue tweaking the encoding and compression algorithms behind its audio, meaning that the high-quality audio feature will likely improve over the coming months and years.
For now though, it’s nice to know that the company is taking the sound quality of its original creations as seriously as it is taking the image quality. After all, what is an awesome action sequence like a car chase without tire squeals, crumpling bumpers, and the roar of engines?