Netflix touts better quality sound for Android users

Mike Wheatley

Netflix says that viewers who stream its content to Android devices will enjoy better sound quality from now on thanks to its new support for the xHE-AAC audio codec.


The company explained on its tech blog that the codec improves “intelligibility in noisy environments”. It works by normalising the loudness volume while maintaining dynamic range for more comfortable listening, Netflix added. In addition, the codec also makes it possible for audio to adapt to variable data connections, so the sound quality shouldn’t be impacted when your signal is less than perfect.

Netflix previously adopted a similar bitrate adaptive methodology for its video streams in 2019, but this is the first time it has applied it to audio.

In order to benefit from the improved audio it will be necessary to stream Netflix on a device with Android 9 or later, as earlier editions do not support the xHE-AAC codec.

Netflix said that it’s going to apply the lessons it has learned from implementing xHE-AAC in Android to “other platforms”, so we can expect to see the enhanced audio appear on platforms such as iOS 13 and Amazon’s Fire OS 7, which also support the codec, in future.

The enhanced audio follows the global roll out of a new feature called “Shuffle Play” that began last week with the intention of putting an end to the never-ending scrolling of content suggestions based on people’s viewing history.

Shuffle Play was widely tested last year, and the global rollout was announced last week as Netflix announced its fourth quarter financial results. Netflix said it will arrive for all customers in the first half of the year.

The feature is powered by artificial intelligence algorithms that serve up content suggestions based on viewers’ previous history. All you have to do is click a button and a random title that you’ll hopefully enjoy will start playing.

Netflix enjoyed a banner year in 2020, adding 36 million new subscribers globally thanks in part to coronavirus-related lockdowns forcing people to spend more time at home. It now has over 203 million paying customers, it said.