Streaming giant Netflix has introduced a new audio experience for Android users with its latest update that controls the dynamic range of audio and manages loudness within scenes. In its latest update, Netflix said that it will now stream content with Extended HE-AAC with MPEG-D DRC (xHE-AAC) audio extensions on compatible Android devices (Android 9.0 and above). The new audio experience will bring studio-quality sound on the compatible Android smartphones and will allow Netflix to control the dynamic range and dialogue levels in terms of audio.
The new update focuses on loudness management, dynamic range, and dialogue levels. Loudness is the subjective perception of sound pressure and dialogue level pertains to the audio quality of dialogues within a TV series or a movie. Netflix says that the goal of loudness management is to play all titles at a consistent volume, relative to each other. Netflix says that when loudness management is active, once a user sets their volume to a comfortable level, they may never have to change it, even if users switch from a movie to a documentary, or to a live concert. In terms of dialogue levels, Netflix said that it specifically aims to play all dialogue at the same level.
Netflix says that he loudness metrics of all Netflix content are measured before encoding. On Android, the streaming giant uses key AAC DRC target reference levels to set the output level. Further, the company said that its Dynamic range control (DRC) has a wide variety of creative and practical uses in audio production. While the company has been using adaptive bitrates in video for years now, the xHE-AAC’s native support for seamless bitrate switching has now been introduced for Android devices.
In its announcement, Netflix said that most members use the built-in speakers on their smartphones. However, when members switch to headphones, it can be a sign that the built-in output level is not satisfactory, and they hope for a better experience. For example, perhaps the dialogue level is not audible. The company said that in its test, it found out that members switched away from built-in speakers 7 percent less often when listening to xHE-AAC. Further, it said that when the content was high dynamic range, they switched 16 percent less.