If you’ve just installed a high-end home cinema into a client’s home, the last thing you want is for them to complain that the latest series of Stranger Things sounds no different from their old TV. Unfortunately, Netflix has a history of limiting the audio quality on its streaming platform, meaning no matter how good the speakers were, there was always a limit to the clarity of the audio track. Thankfully, Netflix is changing its approach, offering significantly boosted audio streaming, although it’s completely dependent on the user’s internet speed.

Netflix stopped short of offering lossless audio streaming, much to the disappointment of audiophiles around the globe, although the company claims that the compressed audio track should not be noticeably different from the studio version. The streaming service tested a variety of bitrates, and decided that for Dolby Digital Plus, 640kbps was the sweet spot. Netflix claimed that anything higher than 640kbps offered imperceptible performance boost. For Dolby Atmos, the company decided to stop at 768kbps.

Homes with slow internet speeds won’t be able to take full advantage of the new high-quality audio streaming, although they could see a slight boost. That’s because Netflix is now supporting adaptive audio streaming, which will vary the bitrate depending on the user’s internet speed. That’s a departure from the company’s old strategy, which was to adapt video quality but to always stream the audio track at a consistent bitrate. That old bitrate was just 192kbps; significantly worse than what users could benefit from with the adaptive audio streaming.

Netflix’s boosted audio quality can be attributed to the Duffer brothers, the creators of Stranger Things. The streaming service received critical feedback from the duo, claiming that Netflix’s compression meant that in some scenes there was a reduced sense of where sounds are located in the 5.1-channel stream, as well as audible degradation of high frequencies. Considering the company was streaming the audio at 192kbps, down from the original 1mbps bitrate, it’s hardly a surprise.

For those wishing for even higher bitrates, well Netflix said that it had to compromise. It argues that the processing power for bitrates any higher would have caused devices to slow down. As it is, Netflix is only committing to bring high-quality audio to the ‘vast majority’ of devices, although said that ‘a Netflix-capable device with either Dolby Atmos support or a connection to an audio system supporting 5.1 surround sound’ should be good enough to stream at the higher bitrate. Then you just need to find content with the Dolby Atmos or Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 logo to benefit, although even then there’s no guarantee that every episode of that season or every language mix will be at the higher quality.

The high-quality audio track is available now, you just need to have a Netflix premium subscription to take advantage.

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