Netflix Debuts "High Quality Audio Experience" for its Streaming Service

Mike Wheatley

Netflix says it’s improving its video streaming service with a new “high quality audio” experience that produces much better sound. The new experience includes a higher bit rate for TVs that support Dobly Atmos or 5.1 surround sound, though the actual bit rate will vary depending on the TV model and available bandwidth.


The company said the new bit rate will range from 448 kbps to 768 kpbs for Dolby Atmos-supported TVs, and 192 kbps to 640 kbps for 5.1 TVs. However these bit rates will improve over time as its encoding techniques become more efficient, Netflix said.

"Today we’re excited to announce a new feature, high-quality audio, which takes our sound quality to another level,” the company said in its announcement. “We gave it this straightforward name because it fits: high-quality audio delivers audio that sounds closer to what creators hear in the studio, so every little detail is captured for a richer, more intense experience. Additionally, if you have bandwidth or device limitations, we’ve made the feature adaptive so that we will deliver the best possible audio to match your capabilities. This is similar to what we already do for video.”

Netflix also published a more technical blog post on Medium that gets into the nitty gritty of how things work. It notes that high-quality sound isn’t lossless, but “perceptually transparent”, which means that it’s almost indistinguishable from the original source despite being compressed.

The company said it introduced the feature in response to sound quality issues with its Stranger Things series. In one episode of the second series, Netflix engineers noted that a car chase scene didn’t sound as crisp as it should, so it decided to try and fix this. The problem was solved by delivering a higher bit rate for the audio. That solution has now been rolled out for all of its content, the company said.

“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,” Netflix explained.

The feature is being rolled out automatically to all viewers immediately, Netflix said.

Netflix posted the following video that explains more about how the high-quality audio experience works: