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Netflix adds spatial audio to select movies and shows for all subscribers

Netflix has announced that it has added spatial audio to a variety of movies and shows on its streaming video service. The audio format is available to all subscribers regardless of their subscription tier or their country. To find spatial audio-enabled content, type “spatial audio” into the Netflix search bar. Any of the titles shown in the results will support the feature, according to the company’s blog post.

Spatial audio refers to any audio that goes beyond the traditional stereo or 5.1 surround sound experience. Until now, the only way you could hear spatial audio on Netflix content was via Dolby Atmos, which is a spatial audio format that requires content that has been recorded in Dolby Atmos. It must also be played on a device that specifically supports Dolby Atmos. On top of that, Netflix only makes Dolby Atmos versions of its movies and shows available to its highest subscription tiers, further limiting who can access it.

But with this new announcement, Netflix has effectively democratized immersive audio through a technology partnership with Sennheiser. Sennheiser’s Ambeo platform is capable of taking spatial audio content, like Dolby Atmos, and rendering it through a standard set of stereo speakers using a technique known as binaural recording. Binaural can simulate what it’s like to have multiple speakers in multiple positions through as few as two speakers.

Dolby Atmos can do this too, but again, you would need access to Dolby Atmos content and use a Dolby Atmos-capable device to hear it. With Netflix’s spatial audio launch, any TV, computer, or tablet with stereo speakers will be able to deliver a more immersive version of a soundtrack. It will likely work best when using a set of stereo headphones or wireless earbuds.

Netflix says that if you’re using stereo speakers, you’ll automatically get the spatial sound version of a soundtrack when it’s available. If you’re using a 5.1 or better system, the company still recommends sticking with its 5.1 or Dolby Atmos versions if they’re presented as options.

As is usual for Netflix and most other streaming services, the company did not give us an answer when Digital Trends asked how many titles are available in spatial audio. Instead, a company spokesperson told us, “the plan is to grow our spatial audio support across our catalog.”

Curious as to how spatial audio sounds on Netflix? Citing the importance of immersive sound design, the company name-dropped its runaway success, Stranger Things 4, asking (spoiler alert), “would Eddie Munson’s epic guitar scene bring the ǝpᴉsdn uʍop to life the same way?”

Speaking of Eddie Munson’s guitar scene, it seems that fans of the show have caused a huge spike in interest in Munson’s guitar itself, a B.C. Rich Warlock-inspired design that epitomizes 80’s metal sound. Used music gear marketplace, Reverb, claims searches for “stranger things” increased by 202% since July 1, the date Netflix dropped Season 4, Volume 2 of the show.

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Simon Cohen
Contributing Editor, A/V
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like…
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