[Update: This rumor has now been quashed by Netflix. In a statement, a Netflix spokesperson said that "it's not currently testing spatial audio support, and has no plans to make public at this point in time". Read the full story here. The original story follows below.]
If you own a pair of AirPods Pro earbuds or the new AirPods Max headphones, then you could be in line for a Netflix audio upgrade in the near future – the streaming service is rumored to be working on spatial audio support for the Apple devices.
The report comes from iPhoneSoft, quoting an anonymous Netflix developer, and says that the feature has been in testing since December. A launch in the next few months is mooted, with a small selection of titles set to support spatial audio to begin with.
For the uninitiated, spatial audio essentially creates a more immersive surround sound experience. Surround sound signals that would usually be sent to multiple speakers – encoded in 5.1, 7.1, or Dolby Atmos format – are interpreted to work on a pair of stereo headphones instead, with directional cues applied.
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The acoustic trickery gives the impression that some sounds are coming from different directions, even though you only have two speakers on either side of your head. You need the AirPods Pro or the AirPods Max, plus an iPhone or iPad running iOS 14 or later, in order to be able to enjoy it.
Sounds good to us
While the upcoming spatial audio support has only been reported by one source so far – so don't treat it as a given just yet – it makes sense for Netflix to support the format. Netflix already offers multiple surround sound standards with its content, so it presumably wouldn't be too difficult to add another.
Plus, spatial audio is already supported by services such as Disney Plus, HBO Max, and (of course) Apple TV Plus. Netflix won't want to be left behind when it comes to the features it offers subscribers, whether that's spatial audio or anything else.
Based on the feedback we've heard since spatial audio first made its appearance on the AirPods Pro back in September, the end result is actually quite impressive – it is, as advertised, almost like having an entire surround sound setup in two earbuds.
Neither Netflix nor Apple have made any official comment on whether the upgrade is coming soon, but we'll keep you posted as soon as we know. In the meantime, you can check out the best movies on Netflix while you're waiting.