Netflix has given the Android app an update that promises better audio quality in series and films even in noisy environments. The company talks about the innovations in an extensive blog post.
The company has on its own blog “The Netflix Tech Blog“Announced that Netflix on Android now supports the” xHE-AAC “audio codec (Extended HE-AAC). The codec is part of the “MPEG-D” audio format family and was largely co-developed by the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.
Netflix already supports hi-fi formats such as 5.1 surround sound and Dolby Atmos. But in most cases, Netflix users with high quality speakers or headphones can benefit from the high audio quality. Those who look on their smartphones while on the move have so far been left behind.
With xHE-AAC, the company wants to ensure that the optimum audio quality is achieved on Android smartphones even under adverse conditions.
xHE-AAC contains the MPEG-D standard “DRC” (MPEG-D DRC). The standard has an integrated volume management that prevents jumps between different content. This ensures that the volume in an action film is not suddenly much higher than in a drama. Differences in volume are particularly noticeable in dialogues. The self-declared goal of Netflix is therefore to bring all dialogues in the content shown to the same volume level.
The standard also allows Netflix audio engineers to adjust the volume based on device type. For a smartphone, it is necessary to increase the volume so that the relatively small loudspeakers output clearly audible dialogues. So that loud sounds – such as explosions in action films – do not overdrive the loudspeakers, the volume management regulates automatically.
In addition, MPEG-D DRC has extensive dynamic range control. This ensures that the audio playback of Netflix content remains easy to understand even in noisy environments. The dynamic range is compressed for this purpose. Audio enthusiasts don’t have to be afraid. The compression only happens when playing through the smartphone speakers and headphones, which cannot reproduce the full dynamic range. So that users do not have to keep the volume up and down to hear certain passages, DRC adapts the playback to the smaller range. xHE-AAC thus ensures that dialogues are still clearly audible on the smartphone, even on the train or in the car.
xHE-AAC has a variable bit rate that adapts to the quality of the internet connection. This ensures that audio does not break off even if reception is poor. If the connection is stable and fast, the bit rate goes up to maximize audio quality. In the best case, Netflix can achieve audio in “studio quality”, as the company writes. Previously, the variable bit rate was only available for TV sets, but now it is also available on Android smartphones.
xHE-AAC has been an integral part of the operating system since Android 9 Pie. All smartphones that run the version will get better sound with the Netflix update.