It’s In Dubly

[compiled from multiple sources]

Dolby Atmos technology allows up to 128 audio tracks plus associated spatial audio description metadata, which includes sound type, location, movement, intensity, speed and volume.

One of the reasons other highly touted surround sound technologies like 5.1 and 7.1 failed to catch on is because they required a specific speaker configuration. Dolby Atmos, however, is scalable and can adapt to a variety of setups.

The first Dolby Atmos installation was in the El Capitan Theater in Los Angeles for the premiere of Brave in June 2012. As of October 2022, there were over 10,000 Dolby Atmos enabled cinema screens installed or committed to.

Dolby Atmos has also been adapted to a home theater format and is the audio component of Dolby Cinema. Most electronic devices since 2016, as well as smartphones after 2017, have been enabled for Dolby Atmos recording and mixing. Apple has emphasized playback on its AirPods and Beats Fit Pro devices, which all offer a version of the Atmos experience with dynamic head tracking (where the sound shifts along with a user’s movement) in the $200 to $500 range. 

“In general, you have to try to put the tracks into a speaker array so it doesn’t sound too jarring or gimmicky,” a sound engineer said. “The goal is to feel like you’re sitting amongst these musicians as they’re performing. Like all mixing, it’s subjective, and how you approach it really depends on the music itself.”

Susan Rogers, a longtime engineer for Prince, was invited to Dolby company headquarters in San Francisco to listen to a new Atmos mix of Prince’s “When Doves Cry,” a track she originally worked on. She observed that music is a potent form of communication in large part because the consummatory phase happens entirely in the listener’s head. Having clearer and more sound sources can actually make it harder to know what to pay attention to. “That was what I noticed listening to ‘When Doves Cry’ in Atmos,” Rogers said. “It sounded amazing, but it was more difficult to assemble it into a unified whole in that private place I listen to music. I found it distracting.” Her “knee-jerk reaction was ‘do not want,’” she said. “But over time I may learn to like it.”

Any of you esteemed audiophiles care to weigh in? Anyone tried it out?

3 Replies to “It’s In Dubly”

  1. I wondered if the sound engineers on your recent Grammy-eligible album had brought this up.

    Also your whole back catalog needs to be reissued in ATMOS.

  2. From the description, I don’t think I’d be crazy about it. You can’t get a coherent sound if you’re in the middle of the players. You need some distance. Would the most die-hard Dylan fans really want to hear him singing right in their faces?

    Also, I tend to distrust remixes for new formats. Back at the dawn of stereo, many mono recordings were reprocessed for stereo with horrendous results. No one wanted to spend money on proper remixes, they just wanted to get product on the shelf that said “stereo.” Same with many early digital reissues, although some have been corrected. If Atmos becomes something marketable, sloppy remixes could become an issue.

    It might be that an Atmos remix done well would be wonderful; I wouldn’t know, as I haven’t heard it. I’m happy with stereo and mono, so I’ll let someone else check it out.

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