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Spatial Audio -- warning from a producer/engineer

DWPress

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All the more reason to hold on to that +/- 2TB of ripped media that forms the base of all my streaming services.
 

Billy Budapest

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So "remixing" for Atmos and MQA are about the same level of expertise/commitment to the final product? At least Atmos has a multich effect? Don't see buying into bullshit like mqa myself and wondering why I'd want to for "Atmos". If it's a good multich mix great, if it's a matrix applied with little thought...meh.
MQA doesn’t require remixing. I believe it requires little more than opening a digital stereo master into the MQA software, setting some parameters, and letting the program do its thing.

Atmos requires going back to the individual tracks or stems and remixing using Atmos object-based surround authoring tools. There could be an Atmos upconversion program for music files where only the stereo masters are available rather than stems or multitracks.
 

DavidMcRoy

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The “mono” cut they used was obviously just a folded-down version of the stereo cut. I don’t think that a true mono mix of What’s Going On is even available on Apple Music. However, the question is whether Apple took the stereo mix of What’s Going On and handicapped it by adding distortion, as one person claimed. That is highly doubtful, not to mention unethical and potentially illegal (if the demonstration track is construed as an advertisement for Apple Music spatial audio tracks).

If you listen carefully with headphones, there is a “stereo reverb” effect applied to the mono downmix. It isn’t a monaural file.
 

dmac6419

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Sony (SACD), Tidal/Dolby (Atmos) and others have started the trend for multichannel audio well before Apple -- not sure why you single Apple out? In the crowded music production and distribution business everyone is looking for a differentiator, in this case it is Atmos, and such music has been available on DVDs, Blu-rays and now 4K discs again for many years. Spatial Audio itself is the "cream on the cake", i.e. the ability to have the imaging locked into position even when you move your head and use headphones.

What hurts is that the job is rushed, then again this is no surprise, have you seen the quality of the DVDs to hit the market in the first few years of availability? Not a pretty sight, but they perfected the tools and technology over time, to a point that a DVD with good upscaling is watchable on a 75+ inch screen from typical watching position.

My take is, the dust will settle, and the producers will have polished the tools and the methodology to produce Atmos versions that are on par with the two channel versions of the same music. Until then, I may turn off Atmos in my Apple Music settings. :D
Apple trying to take charge like they invented Atmos/spacial and some folk ate it up,but denigrated Tidal for having Atmos/spacial and MQA,so the question to the many is why should Apple get a pass.
 

dmac6419

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So, I’ve sampled most of the 100 or so Atmos demo tracks on Apple Music.

Some do not sound noticeably different than their stereo counterparts.

Many others sound like they have different balance between the instruments and different EQ, but they do not sound more enveloping.

A small minority of the tracks do, in fact, have sound effects that appear somewhat hazily to come from behind or above your head.

I would not describe the effect as “uncanny” in realism, as some have.

The only tracks that I have found to be engaging are ones that are primarily vocal, with sparse instrumentation. Norah Jones’ first album (which although she has a pretty voice, I find boring) is actually improved by the effect.

I do not think the problem is the Atmos remixing. Atmos sounds fine in multi speaker surround sound systems. The problem is the virtual surround algorithms used by Apple to simulate surround sound in headphones. They just don’t work as well as they are being touted.

To sum up: “spatial audio” does not sound like the revolution in audio that Apple marketing folks are making it out to be. Perhaps they can improve the technology. At this point, although the “spatial audio” tracks sound different than the stereo versions, they don’t create a convincing surround experience.
If you listen with the right setup (not headphones) some of the Atmos tracks sound pretty good on Tidal and Amazon, on Apple Music can only listen thru headphones via a Samsung tablet, but I don't do Atmos thru headphones.
 

Chrispy

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MQA doesn’t require remixing. I believe it requires little more than opening a digital stereo master into the MQA software, setting some parameters, and letting the program do its thing.

Atmos requires going back to the individual tracks or stems and remixing using Atmos object-based surround authoring tools. There could be an Atmos upconversion program for music files where only the stereo masters are available rather than stems or multitracks.

I thought it was the mqa folk that call it remixing (or specially mixed).
 

DimitryZ

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Apple trying to take charge like they invented Atmos/spacial and some folk ate it up,but denigrated Tidal for having Atmos/spacial and MQA,so the question to the many is why should Apple get a pass.
Indeed.

It seems like Dolby had a stealth takeover plan they are executing in plain sight.
 

Billy Budapest

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Apple trying to take charge like they invented Atmos/spacial and some folk ate it up,but denigrated Tidal for having Atmos/spacial and MQA,so the question to the many is why should Apple get a pass.
Indeed.

It seems like Dolby had a stealth takeover plan they are executing in plain sight.
Apple has such a close history working with Dolby that I think sometimes they get confused. ;)
 

Head_Unit

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going to think of it as an improvement, because some of it is intentionally reflected off the ceiling.
I think this is a very small use case. Maybe on forums like this some folks spend a lot of serious listening time in an Atmos setup but actually I doubt that is really so often. And for the "general public" (whoever that may be) it's all about headphones (who mentioned Apple-owned Beats? ;)), where I'd hazard a vast majority of listening happens, followed by cars. Well actually a lot of listening is probably out of small Bluetooth speakers and even just out of the phone but never mind that. So if it sounds more "immersive" on headphones, that will probably sound "better" to a lot of people compared to how some recordings really don't sound so great. And who knows, maybe Spatial sounds "better" on little Bluetooth speakers too, like those old stereo-enhance buttons some boomboxes used to have.
 

Head_Unit

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the What’s Going On demo...Both the stereo and spatial audio versions are “meh.”
I gotta compare the DVD-Audio version to this Spatial one. Hmmm, how would one do that exactly? Too late in this time zone, my brain is failing me. Not that the time really has anything to do with that ha ha
 

Head_Unit

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In proper 3D your eye focuses at different distances for things closer or further away. With 3D "TV" it is a fixed plane and hence stereoscopic. It is also why some people
...think it SUCKS mostly, looking at YOU James Cameron. The only 3D I liked were U2 and Up. Others I've seen, everything looks weird. Like that animated one where the kid lives in the train station, everyone's head looked football shaped.
 

MrPeabody

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I recall from a very long time ago (late '70s) a physics professor was making some simple holographic images by exposing some regular photographic film but using lasers, a prism to split the beam, and some mirrors. It was intrigued and asked immediately whether the effect involved individual focusing of the eye. He told me that it did. One of my grandmothers had one of those old stereoscopic viewers, which I recall playing with when very young. These things were a popular parlor activity at one point. Modern 3D viewers such as ViewMaster are the same thing of course. To the best of my knowledge, true holograms are the only technology where individual eye focusing adjusts and remains in the natural relationship with the aiming of the eyes. With every other 3D technology, including the ones that use polarizing projector and polarizing filters for each eye, the focusing of the eye has to stay fixed on the fixed distance to the screen, while the brain uses parallax to perceive depth. I think that this is the reason why many people do not like 3D and say that it gives them headaches.
 

valerianf

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For now as I have a old AVR and I am listening Amazon music hd using Dolby Pro Logic II music as up-mixer.
My config has 5 speakers.
When soon I will buy a new AVR, I will switch to Atmos

It is the obvious technical track.
Dolby Atmos will be supported on every devices including the car audio systems.
All the technical chain including sound recording will evolve in the coming years.
It will stop to be centered on a stereo optimization: time has passed.
Sorry for that.
 

charleski

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I think spatial audio only really works for music that’s been composed specifically for an immersive experience. And even in such a situation we’re still quite early in the process and the majority of productions are not entirely successful. The vast majority of music is still dominated by a paradigm that puts the musicians on a stage in front of us, and spatial audio has very little to offer that apart from some subtle reinforcement of the room acoustic.

I’ve only really heard two pieces of ‘immersive’ music that truly broke out of this mould: a surround version of ‘Burning Down the House’ by Noah Hawley that was used at the end of an episode of Legion, and (just last night) the music over the end credits of Quiet Place II. These were spectacular pieces that would lose their entire point in being mixed down to stereo, but they’re rare (though I’m sure there are many other examples if you go looking for them). They provide a solid justification for the format and I’m very interested in seeing more artists thinking of their music in this way.

But I just can’t see the point in taking music that was conceived for a stage and giving it a ‘spatial’ treatment.
 

valerianf

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"I think spatial audio only really works for music that’s been composed specifically for an immersive experience. "

The main question is what do the streaming companies (Amazon, Apple...) receive from the music industry.
Is it a stereo tape recorded following the Red Book standard?
In that case the remastering to Dolby Atmos is a non sense.
From the beginning it needs to be a sound recording oriented for Dolby Atmos rendering.
It seems that we are still far from there...
 

charleski

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The main question is what do the streaming companies (Amazon, Apple...) receive from the music industry.
Is it a stereo tape recorded following the Red Book standard?
In that case the remastering to Dolby Atmos is a non sense.
I’d like to hope that such efforts are at least remixing the audio from the individual stems rather than just playing around trying to extract surround channels from a stereo mix. But even in such a case it’s a wasted effort, as music for a surround rather than stage experience is a fundamentally different thing.

Of course we all know that in the majority of cases they’re just going to be throwing some effects boxes at a stereo mix, which is a waste of time.
 
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