Netflix spatial audio is the latest offering from the movies and TV streaming powerhouse to help make that home cinema experience all the more immersive. This takes your current TV and speaker setup and makes it even better – without you having to do a thing.
Netflix announced the spatial audio update as part of a team-up with audio specialist Sennheiser, which has helped come up with the smart processing that makes this new audio system possible.
But what exactly is Netflix spatial audio and how can it affect your home viewing experience? This guide will lay out everything you need to know so you're getting the best audio experience when using Netflix on your devices, be that on the living room TV or beyond to smartphones, tablets and soundbars.
What is Netflix spatial audio?
Netflix spatial audio gives you the audio experience close to that of a surround sound system but without the need to shell out on - and wire in - speakers. This uses smart algorithms to deliver the audio to your stereo speakers in a way that allows them to create a 360-degree audio sphere. All that means a more surround sound experience from your standard TV speakers.
This smart system means audio objects can be placed at certain points in the room for a more realistic and immersive 3D audio experience. Imagine watching a gig and hearing the individual instruments being played from different positions in the room, as if on a real stage. This new system can now do that, delivering each part of the audio ensemble as separate objects in the room – rather than cramming it all down into the two-dimensional dual channels of stereo.
It's much like that which Dolby Atmos already delivers, only without the need for specialist speakers. A single soundbar, for example, can now deliver far more pinpointed audio using Netflix spatial audio than it may have been able to before.
To be clear, this isn't meant to be as good as a 5.1 surround sound system or a Dolby Atmos setup. Rather, this offers as close to that using standard stereo speakers as is possible. That means if you're using your TV or smartphone you should be able to enjoy a more immersive audio experience without having to change anything.
What does Netflix spatial audio sound like?
To understand Netflix spatial audio it pays to have an understanding of Dolby Atmos. This uses a selection a speakers, dotted about your room, to fire sound at you from different locations – all of which creates this sound sphere you're within. So a helicopter flying over, on screen, will sound like it's passing overhead in your room.
To avoid the faff of wiring in speakers on the ceiling and all around the room, a clever bit of algorithmic smarts was created to allow this to work using a soundbar with upfiring speakers. These bounce the audio off walls and ceilings to make it sound like parts of the audio are coming at you from above, the sides, behind and so on. This is that Sennheiser part, which it developed for its Ambeo soundbars to create 360-degree audio with no other speakers needed.
The next step is Netflix spatial audio, where it does that but without the need for a specialist upfiring soundbar even. The result is that you can watch something tuned for this audio format, like Stranger Things 4, and hear beasties coming at your from all sides as if you were really in the Upside Down.
What can I watch with spatial audio?
Netflix has announced that from now on all titles coming to the streaming platform will have spatial audio as standard. That means you could find you're using it without even realising and certainly without any setup effort.
Although if you have a 5.1 surround of Dolby Atmos setup it will output that as standard. Essentially, Netflix will check with your device and stream the highest standard it can handle. Hassle free for you then.
The full list of existing titles you can watch with Netflix spatial audio is an eclectic mix - there is hopefully something for everyone here. So far, Stranger Things, Jennifer Lopez’s Halftime, The Fear Street series of movies, Red Notice, Kate and Lulli, The Adam Project, Raising Dion, Slumberland, Keep Sweet Pray and Obey, Locke & Key, Castlevania, Interceptor, The Witcher, The Unforgivable, Warrior Nun, Selena the Series, The Order, The Haunting of Bly Manor, Black Summer, Seoul Vibe, The Good Nurse, Archive 81 and Resident Evil.
How do I use Netflix spatial audio?
Netflix spatial audio couldn't be easier to use as it will output to your device as standard. But there are some steps to take to make sure you have it right away.
This audio will be delivered on all qualities of streaming, meaning no matter what level of subscription you're paying for, you'll be able to enjoy Netflix spatial audio.
To find shows and movies that will output in the new audio format you will need to do a search for "spatial audio" in the search bar. Then all the titles that appear will be formatted to offer that to your device.
While this does work with standard TV speakers, it will likely offer a better and more immersive experience if you use a soundbar, which has more speakers as standard so it should be able to separate the audio more effectively.
Netflix already supports spatial audio on Apple devices including iOS linked AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, Beats Fit Pro and third gen AirPods as well as Apple TV. This Netflix spatial audio update with the Sennheiser Ambeo tech makes a version of that now available to non-Apple devices also.
See our article discussing the pros and cons of Netflix vs Hulu.
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Luke is a veteran journalist and editor of over two decades where he has written about everything but specialises is technology, science, health and fitness, smart homes and health. He contributes to Real Homes, T3, Tom's Guide and TechRadar, among many other titles. As a father of two, any spare time he gets is enjoyed surfing, reading, hiking, camping and generally getting out in nature.
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