As an audio editor, the news that Netflix has introduced spatial audio to some of its most popular shows – including stranger things, The Witcher and The Adam Project — really intrigued me and I’m really looking forward to trying it myself at home.
I’ve tried all sorts of ways to improve the sound of my TV speakers over the years, and my top 5 TV audio upgrades really show what can be achieved with one of the best Dolby Atmos soundbars, or even if you bypass the built-in. in TV speakers with a fairly simple built-in stereo amplifier and passive setup.
The great thing about the Netflix system, however, is that it uses your existing TV speakers (or additional stereo speaker setups) and promises to make it sound even better. Could this really be an audio benefit where I don’t need to add anything else? That really got me excited.
Cinema sound without additional speakers
Powerful surround-sound speaker systems powered by one of the best AV receivers are hailed as the way to achieve the most immersive cinema-like sound experience at home, but in a recent post, Netflix claims that its new spatial audio support ” helps translate the cinematic experience of immersive audio to any stereo.”
I firmly believe that you don’t necessarily need multiple speakers cluttering up your TV room for a fuller sound experience, but the fact that Netflix says it can be achieved even through a TV’s built-in speakers is a taste of what can be achieved without needing anything extra made me very intrigued and eager to listen.
Free for all
Despite the expense of developing its spatial audio algorithm in partnership with Sennheiser — an audio specialist that already has experience with immersive pseudo-surround technology developed for its Ambeo soundbar — Netflix is running its spatial audio upgrade without additional costs at all subscription levels. This means that all Netflix subscribers can experience the audio upgrade, regardless of which subscription package they’ve signed up for.
Netflix Spatial Audio is already supported on iPhones and other Apple devices like the Apple TV, as well as stereo headphones including the AirPods Max, AirPods Pro and Beats Fit Pro earbuds, so understanding how the technology works isn’t really a leap could be designed to summon its magical immersive tricks and deliver them only through a TV’s built-in speakers or a pair of add-ons.
I’m a significant latecomer to the seemingly immensely popular Netflix series sticky things. How I’ve managed to overlook this show for so long is surprising. If ever a soundtrack was created to demonstrate the impact spatial audio can have on your Netflix TV experience, then this show has to be the perfect showcase for the immersive experience benefits of technology.
From the moment I started watching the first episode of Series 1, I was immediately struck by the large, dynamic soundstage the sound designers created. The show’s atmospheric soundtrack ramps up the exciting sci-fi suspense with synths to convey that mid-eighties vibe, and combines with plenty of over-the-top, broad action effects and high-octane bass to get your pulse racing while your eyes are glued to the place , as the supernatural drama unfolds on screen.
Despite the impact the soundtrack had on me in the early episodes, as far as I know only the current series actually offers spatial audio support. The opening sequence of the first episode of Series 4 certainly seems made for the immersive format, with all sorts of sound effects popping up to the left and right of the TV screen. It sounds cleaner, more dynamic and has an even wider soundstage than before to make the soundscape sound bigger, to engage me and fully immerse me in the action.
While experimenting with different content, I checked out several other spatial audio shows from Netflix, which you can find by just typing “spatial audio” into the search bar. I was hearing through my TV speakers and a Sonos amp that I paired with passive speakers that I usually connect my TV sound to. Both setups appeared to deliver improved audio performance with the 5.1 soundtrack stick things, and the action/comedy film Red notice is Also in 5.1.
The effects may seem subtle to some, but to my ears there certainly seems to be more energy and air around action effects, which helps create greater impact when the scene is staged in these immersive shows.
I’d argue that spatial audio isn’t a substitute for dedicated surround-sound speaker packages like the Klipsch Reference speaker series, powered by powerful multi-channel amplification, but it’s a great way to get a taste and tease the potential immersive formats . It’s a great starting point to highlight the benefits of immersive technology, which in the future can of course lead to expanding your TV setup with a soundbar or a full-fledged dedicated multi-channel setup.
For now, Netflix’s spatial audio content is limited to just a handful of titles, but the streaming giant says more shows are on the way. However, if you haven’t already, I urge you to try one of Netflix’s spatial audio shows and let me know about your experience.