What just happened? Netflix isn't just about the visuals as the streaming video platform also spends a great deal of time working on the audio side to deliver a well-rounded experience. The latest upgrade in this department is targeted specifically at Android viewers.
Netflix recently announced that it is now streaming Extended HE-AAC with MPEG-D DRC (xHE-AAC) to compatible Android mobile devices. So long as your phone or tablet is running Android 9 or newer, you should be set.
Netflix specifically mentioned two key features of xHE-AAC - loudness and adaptive bitrate.
Whether in movies, television shows or even commercials, loudness management is a constant struggle. When an intense action sequence comes on, it's not uncommon to have to turn down the volume because it is simply too loud. In the next scene, you're reaching for the remote to turn the volume back up in order to hear the dialogue when suddenly, a commercial comes on that is way too loud and you have to mash the mute button.
Loudness management aims to play all content at a consistent volume, relative to each other. Netflix specifically said it is striving to play all dialogue at the same level, "consistent with the North American television broadcasting standard ATSC A/85 and AES71 recommendations for online video distribution."
Standalone stereo receivers have used this technique, often called "night mode," for years to great effect.
Using xHE-AAC's native support for seamless bitrate switching, Netflix is now also able to deliver higher-quality audio when network conditions allow for it, with minimum rebuffering during times of congestion.