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Netflix just announced a huge audio upgrade — and you can try it now

Netflix logo on a TV screen with a remote pointing at it
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Netflix has begun to roll out a massive upgrade to the audio of some of its most popular shows including Stranger Things, The Witcher, The Adam Project, the Fear Street trilogy and Castlevania that will enable you to hear them in spatial audio without a Dolby Atmos speaker.

Thanks to some help from Sennheiser, Netflix is enabling standard two-channel speaker systems — like, say, your basic soundbar, headphones or even your TV’s built-in speakers — to produce spatial audio sound without the need for a surround system. Spatial audio adds extra immersion by creating a 3D sound space, making noises sound like they're coming from above you as well as on the left and right.

"Netflix spatial audio helps to translate the cinematic experience of immersive audio to any stereo, so the work creators do to bring you into the story happens no matter what device you use to watch Netflix," the company said in a post (opens in new tab)

To find spatial audio-enabled content, all you have to do is search for “spatial audio” in the Netflix search box and you should be able to see a list of all the titles available.

You can also read about how I tried the free Netflix spatial audio upgrade — and it blew me away.

Is this the death of Dolby Atmos? 

Not at all. While the roll out of spatial audio support on two-channel audio devices might seem like it could be a death sentence for higher-end systems and formats, you’re still going to be limited by the power output, speaker direction and clarity of your audio system. 

Although clever audio algorithms might allow you to play spatial audio from two 10W TV speakers, it won’t hold a candle to full 5.1.2 systems with upfiring speakers. To that end, you’ll still probably want to invest in one of the best Dolby Atmos soundbars at some point to get the most clarity out of the spatial audio content.

What it does do, however, is introduce people to the idea of spatial audio who might not have tried it before. It’s a similar tactic to what Apple has done in the past by making spatial audio available via Apple Music and it opens the door to future innovation in the audio space.

Looking to buy a better sound system? Check out the Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3 or the Sonos Arc, two of the top pick in our guide to the best soundbar.

Next: Thinking of cutting the cord? I just canceled cable TV and replaced it with this. And see why the MCU is floundering with Thor: Love and Thunder, and how one Netflix show is proving popular despite being torn apart by critics

Nick Pino
Nick Pino

Nick Pino heads up the TV and AV verticals at Tom's Guide and covers everything from OLED TVs to the latest wireless headphones. He was formerly the Senior Editor, TV and AV at TechRadar (Tom's Guide's sister site) and has previously written for GamesRadar, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade. Not sure which TV you should buy? Drop him an email or tweet him on Twitter and he can help you out.

  • ddf200
    Enjoying surround sound audio, as it was authored and intended to be experienced, requires physical speakers positioned correctly around the listener. NOTHING else can accurately reproduce surround audio.
    Reply
  • Bigjeff3889
    So is this basically Dolby Pro Logic and Pro Logic II? Seems like the author could've delved more into the nerdy specifics of the surround sound processing technology being used here. I think a big miss was stating how this would work with 2.1 stereo systems or pc speaker/subwoofer systems since Netflix is available on computers. If the lfe channel is actually separated properly this would be great on my computer! (For when I don't want to use the home theater setup in the living room)
    Reply
  • Chris Leiter
    I’m sure it’ll sound just amazing (sarcasm).
    My family room setup is a Sony HT-A9 w/SW5 and it’s MILES above any sound bar I’ve ever owned/tested, but still doesn’t come close to the experience a dedicated surround system can bring you. My dedicated 135” screen movie theater is a 7.2.4 setup with 2 subwoofers, floor standing fronts, a massive center, 4 surrounds on 3 foot tall stands, and 4 in-ceiling speakers run from an x6500h denon

    Nothing beats a real surround setup. Though I do have to admit that spatial audio with AirPods Pro and Max can be pretty convincing in some instances.
    Reply
  • d0x360
    ddf200 said:
    Enjoying surround sound audio, as it was authored and intended to be experienced, requires physical speakers positioned correctly around the listener. NOTHING else can accurately reproduce surround audio.
    Thank you! I don't get this horrible obsession with sound bars. Also Atmos sucks with upfiring speakers. I know I have 4 of them that thankfully can also be wall mounted and when they are it's amazing and next level.

    I've built my system up over the years, right now it's an 11.2 Atmos set-up and it's like being there. No sound bar or TV speakers or headphones will ever come close. Believe me I've tried basically all the spatial audio headphones and they are basically terrible.

    If you think they are actually good it only because you haven't experienced the real thing that's been properly setup which requires accurate measurements and careful calibration.

    There is genuinely nothing like a great bombastic movie or game in Atmos... Real Atmos. DTS X is also quite nice.

    I'm not even an audio snob and I know this 2 speaker crap is just that... Crap. I'd take pro logic 2 over fake atmos any day. At least it requires actually having speakers
    Reply
  • Snorgalicious
    Enjoying surround sound audio, as it was authored and intended to be experienced, requires physical speakers positioned correctly around the listener. NOTHING else can accurately reproduce surround audio.

    Binaural recordings do exactly what you claim cannot be done. Playback on 2 channels will still allow for the listener to hear which direction a sound came from. Front, rear, left, right, above and below.
    Reply