Netflix users on Android just got a major audio upgrade. The streaming giant has updated its Android app to allow for the xHE-AAC audio codec.
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The Extended HE-AAC with MPEG-D DRC codec, or xHE-AAC for short, is an adaptive bitrate audio compressor/decompressor that aims to bring uninterrupted audio streaming when on the go. It allows for seamless bitrate switching, meaning that audio quality can shift to a lower standard smoothly during sudden bandwidth drops.
So, if you're on the subway and go into a tunnel, the codec will switch to a lower bitrate to ensure your stream of Stranger Things goes uninterrupted. Bitrates can range from 12 to 500 kilobits-per-second.
It's not just dynamically shifting bitrate that xHE-AAC brings to Android users. The movie-watching experience is also improved thanks to dynamic loudness management. Let's say you're watching an action movie. You might have the volume up to hear the dialogue. But if there's an explosion, you might be scrambling for the buttoms to turn the volume down. Loudness management aims to have relatively consistent volume across the board.
"When it is working effectively, once you set your volume to a comfortable level, you never have to change it, even as you switch from a movie to a documentary, to a live concert," per the Netflix Technology Blog.
Netflix has also implemented Dynamic Range Control. This feature essentially allows the app to optimize your listening experience based on what audio devices you're using. If you have a home theater setup, then you'll be given the full range of sound. But if you have a cheap pair of headphones, or are listening through your phone's speaker, then that range is reduced so that the most important pieces of audio make it through.
Ultimately, Netflix has made the aural experience that much better for those on Android devices. Whether you're using cheap gas station earbuds a fancy home theater, this new update should make constantly adjusting volume a thing of the past.
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Imad is currently Senior Google and Internet Culture reporter for CNET, but until recently was News Editor at Tom's Guide. Hailing from Texas, Imad started his journalism career in 2013 and has amassed bylines with the New York Times, the Washington Post, ESPN, Wired and Men's Health Magazine, among others. Outside of work, you can find him sitting blankly in front of a Word document trying desperately to write the first pages of a new book.