Dolby Atmos Music hasn’t completely taken over yet, but it’s planting the seeds for the future of audio. It’s is a three-dimensional format, and for film and television, it’s already pretty well established. We’ll take a dive into the fully immersive experience it creates, covering the basics of Dolby Atmos Music.
What is Dolby Atmos Music?
Music mixed in Atmos makes it feel like individual sounds and instruments are coming from multiple angles. In traditional 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound systems, you get a similar effect; however, these arrangements are still considered two-dimensional. Atmos, on the other hand, adds height to the sound field for a three-dimensional experience. This is done through either dedicated ceiling-mounted speakers in advanced setups, or through soundbars and home audio speakers with upward-facing drivers. The audio can shoot up to the ceiling and reflect down to your ears to achieve the effect.
In traditional stereo recording, each individual track is eventually mixed down into just 2 channels: the left and right speakers. Atmos music exponentially increases the possibilities, providing up to 128 channels across as many as 34 individual speakers. You don’t need 34 speakers to hear the effect, of course, because the 128 placements can be simulated different ways for various playback systems. The possibilities are impressive, and it’s all part of the future of entertainment which Dolby describes as immersive audio.
- SEE ALSO: Mixing in Dolby Atmos with Dave Way
High-fidelity audio is an essential part of compelling entertainment, whether it accompanies visuals in film or television, or stands alone as a recorded piece of music. Superior sonics captivate listeners by providing them a heightened sensory experience. In this way, a quality soundtrack is entertainment in and of itself. The level of immersion that the highest caliber sound delivers cannot be understated. Imagine hearing songs in a completely new way, and you’re starting to understand the capabilities of immersive audio and Atmos music.
Quite frankly, the future of recorded audio, and even more so live sound reinforcement, lies in the immersive music experience. From a technical standpoint, its Atmos Music’s ability to place sound in a 360º configuration, beyond the limits of more traditional 5.1 and 7.1 surround, that makes it such a unique and powerful tool for mixing audio.
Dolby Atmos Renderer
Mixing in Atmos requires their Renderer software. The Renderer works in your DAW to create 128 inputs to place objects all around the Atmos sound field. The most cost-effective option is to invest in the Dolby Atmos Production Suite that not only includes the Renderer but allows you to work in Atmos on just a laptop and headphones.
No dedicated hardware is necessary, but you can still render Atmos audio and metadata. It’s a way to pre-mix in Atmos before hitting a dedicated Atmos soundstage with the appropriate hardware and speaker configurations.
Dolby Atmos Music Panner
The Atmos Music Panner plugin can be used to create Dolby Atmos Music; used alongside the Renderer, it allows tempo-synced positioning of objects in the mix. The Dolby Atmos Music Panner plugin is optimized for mixing music and includes unique panning patterns, unique mirror patterns on stereo tracks, and the aforementioned sequencer for syncing object movement to the session tempo.
Listening to Atmos Music
To consume music mixed in Atmos, you’ll need access to a subscription service that supports it, like Amazon Music HD or Tidal Hi-Fi. Then you’ll need a playback device that supports Atmos. Remember, you don’t actually need a massive speaker arrangement because home playback devices have found clever ways to simulate the Atmos experience without actually having speakers mounted all over the place. The effect may not be quite as impressive, but it’ll surely be more interesting than regular stereo.
Amazon Music HD currently only supports Atmos playback on its dedicated Echo Studio speaker. With Tidal Hi-Fi, you can experience Atmos Music using any modern device, such as the Sonos Arc soundbar. Keep in mind that Atmos Music is relatively new, and not everything has been re-mixed to meet the format. That means you won’t have access to your full music library in Atmos right away.