Starting today, Netflix sounds better.
That’s the message anyway from a new blog post by the streaming service which looks to announce and explain its latest new audio feature, “high-quality audio.”
The name itself is fairly straightforward and Netflix explains this was an intentional move to ensure people understand exactly what they are now getting: a higher quality audio experience.
At the more technical level, this is an adaptive feature and in that sense it is not one that will apply equally to all users. Instead, the feature will look to adapt the audio experience to better match the individual's unique environment. It’s more of a tailored sound, and the first element of that tailoring is the bandwidth.
Like anything that’s sent as data, the quality of the received signal can impact on the quality of the service. Whether that is in terms of speed or in this case sound, the greater the bandwidth support, the typically the better the overall experience.
Therefore, Netflix’s new high-quality audio feature will adapt based on the user’s bandwidth. Those who are able to receive a greater bitrate, now will, while others will see a bitrate more in line with their current limitations.
In addition, this will vary depending on the user’s setup. For example, Netflix points out that those using a 5.1 setup can expect a bitrate as low as 192 kbps or as high as 640 kbps. The latter of which Netflix describes as “great/perceptually transparent.”
This compares to those with a Dolby Atmos-supported system who can expect the bitrate range to come in between 448 kbps and 768 kbps. Although this will also be largely dependent on the user having subscribed to the service’s “Premium” plan as that is the only Netflix plan which currently supports Ultra HD in any fashion.
It's worth noting these are just the current parameters and measures for expectation with Netflix stating it expects bitrates improve as the company’s encoding techniques also improve over time.
The whole point here is Netflix is trying to raise its audio game to be better in line with its video. The company has, as to be expected, prioritized video technologies above all else over the years and is now trying to rectify this.
Netflix is acutely aware that viewing is only half the watching experience and has been making a number of moves like this recently to ensue it offers its customers a more balanced product.
This is even more pertinent in the world of streaming where quality in some areas can often be compromised to account for others. For example, audio at the expense of video. .
Considering Netflix has never been more expensive than it is now, making sure the product is as premium as it can be is likely going to help the company ensure it retains the extensive subscriber base it currently does. Especially as the streaming market is now busier than ever with multiple companies now vying to be part of your monthly subscription quota.
A market that’s only going to get more crowded in the near future when some big-hitting services land.