Dolby Atmos is a relatively new type of surround sound audio. It creates an immersive and robust experience using spatial audio. Dolby initially released the technology in 2012, and it’s been growing in popularity ever since. Here, we’ll take a closer look at Dolby Atmos and how it works. We’ll also talk about why Dolby Atmos may very well serve as the future of entertainment audio. To learn more about Dolby Atmos versus stereo sound and what the technology holds for the future, keep reading.
State-of-the-art innovations such as wireless speakers and soundbars are becoming the norm in homes around the world. As a result, the immersive audio created by technologies such as Dolby Atmos is easier than ever to access. If you’re a technology buff, you may have heard that Dolby Atmos is one of the latest innovations available for cinema features. However, did you know that it’s also becoming increasingly accessible for listening to your favourite music? Dolby Atmos is an object-based surround sound technology. It’s a type of spatial audio. Engineers can now apply it to your favourite films—and music. This new sound format makes you feel like you’re inside a song. As a result, Dolby Atmos music streaming is one of the most exciting things to happen to subscription music services in a long time. Now, there’s a growing catalogue of Dolby Atmos music. When you listen to music streaming Dolby Atmos, you’ll feel like music and instruments are coming at you from all angles.
It offers a much more immersive audio output. It adds a sense of height and width to the sound field, something never previously before possible. Typically, you’d achieve this effect by installing overhead speakers or soundbars. Alternatively, you might use some type of speaker with up-firing tweeters. Imagine watching a movie using a Dolby Atmos-enabled audio device. You can hear the sounds moving "all around you". This is the feeling that audio engineers intended. It also works well with music tracks. Dolby Atmos places you in a 3D sphere. You may find this feature in new music. Alternatively, engineers might remaster a song for the technology. When you play a song made using Dolby Atmos, you’ll feel like you’re enveloped in a dome of sound.
Streaming music services have changed the music landscape. Still, there have been few changes in the ways that music gets produced.
For example, you might listen to music on the radio or via a digital satellite. You may also listen to music using an MP3, CD or DVD. If you’re an audiophile, you might even listen to music in lossless formats such as FLAC or DSD. Nevertheless, producers most likely created the original recording in a two-channel stereo mix. However, that’s changing.
Atmos music is a 3D rendering of a song. However, Dolby prefers the term immersive audio. Instead, the company likes to think of Dolby Atmos as an experience rather than a format. Atmos is different from stereo mixes in several ways. For instance, engineers use highly sophisticated equipment that allows them to mix on dozens of distinct channels. However, a lot of this effect fails to make it to consumers. No matter how many channels an engineer uses in postproduction, they must mix it down to two tracks in stereo—left and right. Conversely, Dolby Atmos supports 128 distinct channels. Furthermore, it can generate distinct audio, playable up to 34 separate speakers in a home theatre.
Dolby 5.1 set the benchmark for surround sound. You may remember something from the past called LaserDisc. Dolby took advantage of the extra storage space available with LaserDisc and created AC-3, which is now called Dolby Digital. This format allowed for higher bandwidth sound. It also allowed for the addition of a low-frequency channel, the “.1” in 5.1. The “5” represents the remaining speakers in the setup. Dolby Digital tracks allow for discrete playback through all five channels, plus the low-frequency channel, without matrixing.
6.1 was an effort to enhance Dolby 5.1. It added another sound channel. The idea was to place a sixth speaker at the back of the room. This speaker was the back or rear surround speaker. The intention was to give the listeners the impression that something was approaching or disappearing from the rear.
Just as consumers got used to 6.1, Dolby 7.1 came and stole the spotlight along with Blu-ray and HD DVD. Now, consumers could enjoy stereo effects from the rear. This seventh addition to the setup was also a discrete channel.
It helps to understand that Atmos doesn’t involve converting stereo into a multichannel media piece. It’s a new way of utilising the many channels available with the format. With Atmos, a music channel is considered an object. Engineers can manipulate these objects independently in 3D space. In the cinema space, DTS is Dolby’s main competitor. DTS has also created a similar object-based sound technology. The main difference between DTS and Atmos is the speaker setup. DTS uses the standard setup for surround sound. Meanwhile, you can listen to Dolby Atmos music using hundreds of available, enabled consumer devices—such as headphones, smartphones, laptops and other electronics.
There was a time when it was unheard of to record dynamic music tracks using Dolby. Now, Dolby is quite capable of delivering a remarkable music listening experience. Today, Apple Music Dolby Atmos most certainly makes the most of the technology. More accurately, it makes the most of spatial audio. In June 2021, Apple launched Dolby Atmos-specific music content. What’s more, it’s offering it to its subscribers for the price of its regular subscription. Other music services, such as Amazon Music Dolby Atmos, charged a bit more for their spatial audio content. After the Apple announcement, however, Amazon quickly backpedalled to match Apple’s price.
Apple’s early Atmos launch was also a rather good shot in the gut to the streaming music service Spotify. At this stage, Spotify is still trying to catch up in regard to delivering Hi-Fi sound. Apple is doing it first and doing it big. Its rivals will have to respond to the Apple pricing policy carefully.
With the release of its Dolby Atmos content, Apple pulled out the big guns. The company made good use of the feedback of corporate celebrity DJ Zane Lowe. Remarked Lowe, spatial audio sounds fantastic. It may very well usher in a new era of musicians who embrace its possibilities. Says Zane, he was born into stereo. However, upcoming artists will be born into spatial audio. He went on to state that he’s been waiting for this kind of game-changer for music. However, only time will tell if consumers share this excitement.
Apple is not alone in its embrace of Dolby Atmos. Amazon Music, Tidal and Deezer have all entered the Atmos playing field. In fact, streaming music services have offered Atmos for some time. Still, they have yet to reveal how many subscribers take advantage of the service. Seemingly, these services have marketed Atmos as a niche product. Furthermore, they’re charging a premium for the service. However, Apple is taking a different approach. They’re making Dolby Atmos available to the masses, who usually prefer low cost and convenience over sound quality.
With its launch, however, Apple could take Dolby Atmos mainstream. Like many of its offerings, Apple didn’t invent spatial audio music. For instance, Apple didn’t invent app download stores. The company also did not invent MP3 players. Yet, it quickly took over the market with its iPod music player. In fact, the company defined an era with its device. Nevertheless, it quickly became a leader in the field. Similarly, the company has ambitions to make Dolby Atmos the norm.
Even though Apple beat Spotify to the Dolby Atmos punch, it’s still lagging behind its competitor. Some people believe Apple’s move is an effort to outdo the competition. More importantly, Apple established the $9.99 price point for the service—or at least made it so that competitors can’t reasonably charge more for the same service. As a result, consumer acceptance of Dolby Atmos is now much more likely. Still, this move has some music industry professionals concerned. They worry that Apple might set the default price for the service, as it did when the company launched iTunes. The move also counters a movement in the music industry. Some music professionals were hoping that spatial music would serve as an upsell, enabling them to collect more royalties. Apple’s launch of Atmos at a low price point has all but dashed that hope.
Nevertheless, Apple’s spatial music launch could redefine a generation of music. The technology will give artists the opportunity to create extraordinarily immersive compositions. Already, Apple Music subscribers can listen to more than 75 million songs in lossless audio. This format is the way that artists intended for their fans to hear their songs. Now, countless fans can listen to thousands of spatial audio creations made by their favourite musicians. What’s more, they can do so for no more than the cost of their current subscription. Meanwhile, consumers will have the pleasure of listening to songs that sound like they’re coming from all around and above them. Apple is pushing Dolby Atmos hard.
It will play the music format automatically on all Air Pods and Beats headphones with an H1 or W1 chip. The company will also automatically stream Atmos content over its newest iPhone, iPad and Mac devices. Furthermore, Apple will continually add Dolby Atmos-enabled tracks to its music library. The company will also curate specialised Dolby Atmos playlists for its subscribers.
Apple Music subscribers can listen to thousands of songs in spatial audio. Using the service, they can listen to Dolby Atmos tracks from a wide range of genres, including:
Again, Apple’s working directly with artists to add new releases to its library. Furthermore, it’s encouraging artists to create pieces specifically for spatial audio.
Dolby and Apple are working together to promote Atmos technology. They’re making it easy for musicians, producers and engineers to create songs using Dolby Atmos. For example, they’re working together to offer educational programs about Atmos technology. They’re also providing resources for independent artists who want to work with Dolby Atmos. The companys’ hope is that Dolby Atmos will revolutionise the music industry. Furthermore, they want to transform the way that people listen to music.
Ultimately, consumers will decide whether Atmos is the future of music. From a marketing perspective, the introduction of Atmos has been a success for Dolby. It’s difficult to imagine that this trend will reverse. Together, Dolby and Apple have successfully positioned themselves as innovators in sound technology. As a result, Apple may become many consumers’ go-to source for high-quality spatial audio at home and on the go. The ability to play Atmos content via an enabled AV receiver or soundbar without any additional equipment is an attractive proposition for many consumers. With time and continued focus on innovation in spatial audio, we may very well see more immersive experiences offered by companies such as Apple.
Now you know more about Dolby Atmos music versus stereo and what the technology holds for the future. If you want to take advantage of Dolby Atmos spatial audio, you’ve come to the right place to find an expert in the field. Foxhill Arts is a full-service audio production company that specialises in sound design, music composition, mixing and mastering. We have the expertise to take your project from start to finish.
With our team of professionals, we can provide you with high-quality work. We want to help you create the best sounding product possible. Whether it’s an album, music track, podcast or film score, we’re here to make sure your vision comes through loud and clear. Let's talk about your project, book a short 15-minute meeting with us today!