Atmos music is the future?

  • 24 February 2021
  • 9 replies
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Ran across this article and thought it was an interesting topic of discussion.  

https://www.musicradar.com/news/an-audio-engineer-explains-why-dolby-atmos-music-is-definitely-going-to-supersede-stereo

Do others agree that atmos is going to supersede stereo?  I don’t, for a few different reasons.

1 - We have decades of music recorded in stereo, music which is still highly consumed.  Attempts to modernize that music in to Atmos (Tidal) simply don’t sound right.  Of course, that doesn’t mean new music can’t be recorded in atmos, but unlike movies where you can upgrade to atmos and the audio comes out ‘right’, the same can’t be done for music.

2 - Live music comes from a stage, not from all around you. I would argue that even when you can an original track in atmos, it doesn’t sound right to the brain since we instinctively know that music comes from a stage.  It always has throughout history.  Again, movies are different.

3 - Keeping with the live music aspect, I don’t know that artists want to record music that is impossible to recreate live.  While it sounds neat to have drums playing above you, you can’t realistically create that live.

4 - Atmos essentially requires the listener to remain stationary, in a limited area for the effect to be realized.  That’s fine for movie watching, but music listeners don’t stay stationary like that. 

5 - Setting up an atmos system is much more expensive than a stereo setup.  Indeed every home, automobile, headphones, etc are all setup and easy to get in stereo. Atmos, not so much.  It’s hard to say that a society that actually downgraded auto quality when they embraced streaming audio is going to embrace atmos so quickly.

6 - While I understand that part of the appeal of Atmos is that it can be reproduced on any set of speakers, including stereo, I don’t think this means producers are going to go through the effort of recording everything in atmos.  Again, your mainstream audience won’t be hearing the atmos version, it can’t be reproduced live, and is not the way humans are trained to consume music...so why bother?


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Meh. While in general, I agree with you (surprise!), you could argue many of the same statements were made about the switch from mono to stereo, way back before we were born. 

I do think it’s more of a ‘gimmick’ like 3D Movies or even Quadraphonic were, so I’m unsure as to how ‘sticky’ it will be, but I think there’s already one streamer that’s carrying some content in that format. 

It will be interesting, and likely painful, to watch the discussion around this. 

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I had A Tidal trial for a few months and did get to play with Atmos music on the Arc plus rears and sub as well as using a traditional AVR system. It was a very unique experience. In some ways better, unique and exciting and in other ways not necessarily worse, just difficult to explain with words. 

I took a trial Tidal subscription a couple of months back, specifically to try Atmos Music on my Arc-based HT system.  It was interesting and enjoyable as a brief experiment.  But my conclusion was that Atmos Music is the future of music in the same way that 3D was the future of movies.  I really think 3D is the closest parallel, because in both cases I find that my attention is on the effects rather than the content.  

Yes it is clever that that chord seems to swirl around my head, just as it was clever that that butterfly seemed to fly out of the screen and disappear over my left shoulder.  But in a way it detracts from the music / film itself.

I assume that most / all Atmos music currently available is entirely the result of remastering by engineers, with no input from the musicians.  Maybe musicians will be more involved in future, but somehow I cannot see it becoming commonplace.  Of course, we all have a tendency to prefer the familiar, and I may be guilty of that.

So I agree with pretty much everything that Danny said in his original post, and I am even more impressed that he spelled ‘supersede’ correctly.

I think it’s rather telling that people are trying it out, think it’s interesting, but ultimately, not worth keeping your subscription for.

 

Meh. While in general, I agree with you (surprise!), you could argue many of the same statements were made about the switch from mono to stereo, way back before we were born. 

 

 

I think the jump from mono to stereo was a more natural evolution because it actually comes closer to what you experience in a live performance.  It’s natural to hear guitar from the left side of the stage, and vocals from the right, for example.   I would say the jump from mono to stereo is more like the jump from black and white to color video.  It’s easily accepted because it actually comes closer to reproducing what you experience in reality rather than creating a brand new reality.

 

I do think it’s more of a ‘gimmick’ like 3D Movies or even Quadraphonic were, so I’m unsure as to how ‘sticky’ it will be, but I think there’s already one streamer that’s carrying some content in that format. 

 

 

I think 3D could make another resurgence when the technology gets there.  It would be more holograms than tricking the brain to see 3-D images.  I think the problem with the current 3D tech is basically two things.  One is that it puts a lot of strain on the eyes, so the experience tires you out more than relax at times.  The other is that most titles didn’t feel fully committed, so you end up with some 3D images over a flat background...which doesn’t make it feel more realistic.  I remember seeing Avatar in 3D and that was very well done...but very tiring.

 

I assume that most / all Atmos music currently available is entirely the result of remastering by engineers, with no input from the musicians.  Maybe musicians will be more involved in future, but somehow I cannot see it becoming commonplace.  Of course, we all have a tendency to prefer the familiar, and I may be guilty of that.

 

 

That was kind of my point before.  When it comes to musicians creating music, I don’t think there are going to be as inclined to produce music they can’t play live.  I know it happens to some extent already, but this would take it a step beyond.

 

So I agree with pretty much everything that Danny said in his original post, and I am even more impressed that he spelled ‘supersede’ correctly.

 

It took me 3-4 attempts to get close enough for spellchecker to recognize the word I was trying to spell.

 

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The engineer interviewed in the article stated “Atmos for music is actually a dynamic format so when I create an Atmos mix, it will adapt to the device that it is playing on. Play it on your Sonos Soundbar which is 5.1.2, and it will optimise to play on that device. Play it on your Sennheiser 660 headphones and you’ll get the binaural mix and so on.”

I am not sure how realistic his characterization is, but that alone sure *seems* like it would provide new production efficiencies and a substantively improved user experience for the consumer across different platforms (Or in reality, maybe not.. 😂).

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Unless people experience live music by sitting right in the middle of a circularly arranged orchestra, the. Is there really a frame of reference for Armos music? 
 

for a movie things move, but on stage even if the guitarist runs from on end of the stage to the other, or the drummer spins around in a cage, most of the sound comes from static amplification. Not the same as for moving objects in movies that naturally benefit from a link between the visual and audio placement. 
 

as for mixing. Well I guess anything that could be re-mixed/mastered from the multi tracks could be given the Atmos treatment. But unless ot becomes a bigger part of the creation process -  i can’t see the money being invested for back catalogs. So tend to agree. A nice experimental gimmick, but not the mainstream future. 
 

one exception could be electronic music where it would be relatively easy for it to become mainstream. As the spacial encoding could be ‘written’ into the arrangement as part of the process and even used to evolve sound pallet a bit like sound sculpting, filters, effects and panning do already. I could easily see the Chemical Bros and other similar acts using it live to add another dimension to the experience. 

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Been reading up on the tools, workflow and implications for music production. Seems this area is gaining a LOT of traction. So maybe not as much of gimmick?

Some of us are old enough to remember the attention Quadrophonic sound received. Or, for that matter, the marketing of 8-tracks. We will see in a few years if it receives the same traction as 3D movies on TVs, or more.

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Some of us are old enough to remember the attention Quadrophonic sound received. Or, for that matter, the marketing of 8-tracks. We will see in a few years if it receives the same traction as 3D movies on TVs, or more.


When I watched a presentation video yesterday after reading this initial post above, I realised one key difference with Atmos vs many of the other gimmicks of the psst - much of the baseline tech to make it deliverable and accessible to consumers is already present - so the ability to scale content from phones/headphones right up to a ‘high end Atoms’ experience is already there and the same content package can be used. So it may not entirely replace stereo anytime soon - but I think it has a better chance than 8 track or 3D tv had as there are few drawbacks associated with consumption. But time will tell.
 

It’ll be interesting whether Sonos adopt spacial audio in their upcoming headphones or whether we have to wait until 2030 for the Gen 2 version for that lol. 
 

 

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