Netflix delivers 'studio-quality' sound upgrade for Android viewers

Sound should be more reliable on cellular, too.

Don’t be surprised if Netflix sounds nicer the next time you marathon a show on your Android phone. Netflix has upgraded its Android app to stream audio in xHE-AAC (Extended HE-AAC with MPEG-D DRC; yes, it’s a mouthful), promising “studio-quality” sound that’s also more consistent — that is, you should enjoy it in more places.

The new format offers a variable bitrate that can improve audio quality when your connection allows, and scale back when you’re on a flaky cellular link. Loudness management, meanwhile, prevents jarring volume changes (think of jumping from an action movie to a quiet drama) and compensates for noisy environments without the risk of clipping the loudest sounds. You could listen on your phone’s speakers without struggling to understand dialogue.

You’ll need at least Android 9 Pie to use xHE-AAC. While this isn’t quite as useful as it could be when you’re likely watching at home during the pandemic, it could be important if you’re determined to finish a show in bed. If nothing else, it could save you from reaching for your earbuds in noisier environments.