3D sound on Netflix: surround sound from any stereo device thanks to Sennheiser AMBEO | News

Almost a year ago, streaming provider Netflix opened the way to enjoy 3D audio (also known as surround sound) via AirPods Pro and AirPods Max. Look here. Until now, this feature has always required special Apple hardware. The condition for recovery in this case is:

compatible Apple device

  • iPhone 7 and later with iOS 15.1 or later
  • iPad Air (3rd generation or later) with iPadOS 15.1 or later
  • iPad mini (5th generation and later) with iPadOS 15.1 or later
  • iPad Pro (3rd generation and later) with iPadOS 15.1 or later
  • Apple TV 4K or later with tvOS 15 or later

Compatible Apple headphones

  • Airpods (3rd generation)
  • Airpods Pro
  • Airpods Max
  • Beats Fit Pro

With these devices, Netflix supports surround sound to extend 5.1 surround sound and Dolby Atmos sound for “immersive” surround sound.

Future 3D sound for Everyone (Stereo) playback devices and available on all streaming subscriptions

The key to this is the AMBEO technology developed by German audio specialists Sennheiser. It is a codec that transforms two-channel audio into a surround effect. Sennheiser himself writes:

“AMBEO 2-Channel Spatial Audio Renderer translates original mixes into 2-channel audio with a surround sensation that goes far beyond stereo. Netflix is ​​the first streaming platform to offer such a vastly improved experience for select titles. ”

Sennheiser AMBEO technology is compatible with all devices and all Netflix streaming subscriptions, and requires no surround sound speakers or home theater equipment. Note the following as Netflix explains in its explanations:

  • If there are no surround speakers, 3D sound is automatically turned on when playing a compatible title with stereo sound.
  • For speakers with surround sound, it is advisable to play series and movies in 5.1 surround sound or Dolby Atmos.

Pay attention to the sound settings of the TV. If the audio output is set to 5.1, 3D audio (ie AMBEO conversion) is automatically disabled. To enjoy 3D audio via AMBEO, the output must be set to stereo playback.

How is this supposed to work?
Sennheiser explains it this way: “The rendering software runs in the encoding pipelines of the cloud streaming service and creates AMBEO 2-channel surround sound from existing ADM or IAB files, both open industry formats. The tool allows the mixer to re-record to compare stereo to AMBEO during post-production and adjust the rendering settings according to trunks / channel groups since change. For example, the dialogues can be kept 100% or slightly modified to suit adjacent immersion scenes. Overall volume is also preserved and the music mix can be kept for the left and right channels, while immersive AMBEO playback for all added to the other channels. Of course, all signals are time aligned to match the original content. ”

From standard stereo mixing (left) to full AMBEO effect (right), the re-record mixers have full spatial control and tuning.

AMBEO 2-channel surround sound rendering software preview tool. The object preview window in the lower right corner shows the fixed speaker positions around the edges and the individual renders as blue dots. Bright spots are augmented sound sources.

To better visualize the effect, Sennheiser has shared the following video:


Does it work with all streaming content on Netflix?
no As described above, the offer must first be prepared for AMBEO or 3D sound. Netflix plans to gradually adapt its content. Users can easily find out which of them are already delivering 3D sound by typing “Surround Sound” in the search box. At the time of publication, this search returned the following results:

Netflix Spatial Audio offer from 7/9/22

Fortunately, some titles like “Stranger Things” and “The Witcher” are already included, as well as some of Netflix’s bigger movies like “Red Notice” and “The Adam Project” (both with Ryan Reynolds).

How do I recognize tracks with 3D audio and turn them off?
Looks like Netflix hasn’t done their homework on this. Titles are usually preceded by a symbol such as “5.1” or “[Dolby]ATMOS “. But only if the TV is set to 5.1 output. For AMBEO or 3D or surround sound with stereo speakers, the TV must be set to stereo output as described above. However, then no symbol with the corresponding titles is displayed.

As far as we know, it is also not possible to switch content with AMBEO / 3D audio to normal stereo. Here, however, I still lack empirical values ​​to make a final statement. Unfortunately, due to lack of time, I was unable to check if and how well the whole thing sounds in a stereo system. I’ll make up for it in the next few days. The episode of “Stranger Things” is scheduled for tonight …

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