Netflix is upgrading its audio offering to include spatial audio, implemented in conjunction with Sennheiser, on select content such as Stranger Things and The Witcher.
Netflix is upgrading the sound: Starting with Stranger Things, in-house productions in particular, but also content from third parties will increasingly be delivered with spatial audio in the future. The feature aims to provide a more realistic sound, especially for customers listening to a series or movie through headphones. A cooperation with Sennheiser was also announced. The two companies are working together to convert the source material to Ambeo 2-channel spatial audio. The advantage of spatial audio is that no new technology is required. The existing device that must be able to handle two-channel sound is sufficient, and ideally an existing set of stereo headphones. According to Netflix, Spatial Audio “is compatible with all devices and all streaming offerings and requires no surround sound speakers or home theater equipment.”
“Netflix Spatial Audio helps bring the cinematic experience of immersive audio to any two-channel system, so the work creators do to tell the story resonates with viewers; no matter what device they use to watch Netflix,” according to the blog post. In short: the multi-channel sound becomes a two-channel sound via spatial audio, which is said to be superior to a pure stereo mix. The range of content supporting the new audio experience is severely limited at launch, but you can browse the available content by searching for “spatial audio” in Netflix’s search bar. The first offers include the productions Stranger Things 4, Red Notice and The Witcher.
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“Even though Ambeo 2-channel spatial audio is not a separate mix, content creators still have granular control over spatialization. Sound mixers can set the amount of Ambeo processing for each group separately. Set mixers to the level of processing you want, from standard stereo mixing to full Ambeo and everything in between. Dialogue can be left untouched, while maximum spatialization can be applied to ambient sounds and sound effects.”
If you have a multi-channel system at home, Netflix even supports Dolby Atmos for selected content, you will not benefit from the innovation. Anyone who invests in setups with 6 or more loudspeakers will probably not enjoy the calculated multi-channel sound anyway and will be counted among the purists. Users with headphones will probably have the greatest added value, but in the end it is always a matter of taste whether you prefer the spatial mix or the stereo mix.