Netflix today announced that it is bringing spatial audio to all devices. It will allow users without multichannel speakers to experience surround sound with just stereo speakers.
On non-Apple device, the feature can utilize the standard stereo audio track and turn it into 3D spatial audio. To do this, Netflix has partnered with Sennheiser to incorporate the same 3D audio technology found on the Sennheiser Ambeo soundbar.
The spatial audio will work on any non-Apple device, such as smartphones, tablets, and televisions, as long as you are accessing the stereo track. No special feature is required on the playback device, as all processing is done within the Netflix app.
Currently, only a limited amount of content is available in spatial audio. To find all the supported content, you have to search for “spatial audio”. As of now, the only available content is made by Netflix.
To know if the content is playing in spatial audio, you have to make sure there is no 5.1 or Dolby Atmos logo on the title screen. If you see these logos, it means the device will instead play the surround sound audio track, and spatial audio won’t be enabled. On most televisions, for example, the device will automatically play the surround sound track with no option to manually switch, so you will not experience the Netflix spatial audio but rather just the TV’s internal audio processing.
If this sounds needlessly complicated and counterintuitive, that’s because it is. Fortunately, things are a lot simpler on Apple devices. Here, Netflix simply uses the built-in spatial audio feature present in iOS, iPadOS, macOS, and tvOS devices and it works on all content with 5.1 or Dolby Atmos tracks. All you need is a recent device with spatial audio support and compatible Apple headphones, including the AirPods 3, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, and select Beats models.
Spatial audio content is now live globally for all subscription tiers and can be accessed by searching for “spatial audio”.