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Stereophile's Jim Austin Says Streaming Atmos Sucks

teched58

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Stereophile Editor-in-Chief Jim Austin has a new As We See It column, entitled Dolby Atmos: A Bleak Shadow?

Here, Austin is continuing his one-man crusade against Atmos as it's currently streamed by Apple Music. (To be clear, Austin is criticizing "lossy" Atmos as streamed. Not lossless Atmos as on blu rays.)

OH, the irony! Stereophile supported lossy MQA up the wazoo. But apparently lossy Atmos is a no-go.

Anyway, I'm getting bored with my long attempt to explain, so let's go to Austin's column itself. I excerpt:
"Far and away the most common distribution method for Dolby Atmos music is streaming, mainly via Apple Music. That Dolby Atmos, though, is lossy-compressed, to 768kbps. Note that that's the total bitrate and not the per-channel bitrate, and this form of Atmos supports up to 128 virtual channels. That's in contrast to the version of Atmos typically provided in "deluxe" Blu-ray packages: the "TrueHD" form."

<snip>

"As I write this, the December Stereophile hasn't been out that long, but the opinion we expressed has already proved controversial. Some perceived it as a "get off my lawn"–type judgment on immersive audio generally, or even of multichannel music, which of course it was not."

<snip>

What, then, is [2L record's engineer Morten] Lindberg's judgment on the version of Atmos disseminated by Apple Music? 'The lossy version of Atmos is to me a bleak shadow of the real, uncompressed source.' "

We have an excellent response in the form of a comment over at the article by our friend @Sal1950 :

"Why the constant negativity towards Atmos or anything multich for that matter? Rather than promote the SOTA in immersive audio and then encourage a change to a lossless stream, all you can do is continue to berate."

"Lossless Atmos files are huge and very demanding of bandwidth but it could be done if the market demands. It took us decades of asking for the lossless streaming of 2ch before it became a reality."

"Stereophile has had its head on backwards towards surround sound ever since J. Gordon Holt left over the issue and the loss of Kal's Rubinson's "In The Round" put the final nail in its coffin at this magazine. [ASR OP Note just fyi: Kal has said that it was he who decided to sunset his column.] While over at The Absolute Sound multich coverage continues and expands with things like Robert Harley's October 2023, eight page article on the building of the new HT/Music room in his home."

"Mr Austin, your short sighted vision of High Fidelity's SOTA is slowly leading this magazine into the stone age and its demise. I highly suggest you step down and turn the reins over to someone with a wider view of High Performance Audio." -- Sal1950
 
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GXAlan

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@Sal1950
Thanks for echo'ing your thoughts. Magazines like Stereophile do thrive on controversy. Just like politics, an "us vs. them" riles up the fanbase more than the "work together" approach. We see that here even.

I think everyone's "right" in that lossy Atmos is still pretty enjoyable and the advanced encoding means that more of the dynamic range is preserved which is a win for everyone. That said, there is an advantage to physical media and many of us have separate home theaters (where we have Atmos) and listening spaces (where the big TV as a surface reflection can be avoided).

I think buying those Beatles limited edition Blu-Ray's with Atmos and 2L Atmos mixes are some of the best ways to ensure that hi-fi Atmos exists and we're not limited to streaming sources only. As everyone now appreciates, streaming costs are only going up not down.
 

Sal1950

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I think everyone's "right" in that lossy Atmos is still pretty enjoyable and the advanced encoding means that more of the dynamic range is preserved which is a win for everyone. That said, there is an advantage to physical media
I too feel the version of Atmos on Apple is very enjoyable and listenable but that said would also much prefer lossless.
I continue to use streaming, 2ch or more, in the same manner I always have, to review & preview music I'm interested in.
If the album is something I really enjoy, I look for an avenue to own the recording whether on hard media or lossless download.

All this said I continue to shake my head on what the mission really is at Stereophile and the reasons behind their position on
multich audio. They'll support and applaud lossy MQA but attempt to discredit Atmos over "Apple's" lossy stream with zero effort
put towards praising or even discussing it's lossless version. Simply an axe job aimed at the multich market. The sound quality of lossless Atmos in 24/48 and 5.1 in 24/96 on DVD and BluRay is incredible and offers a listening experience far beyond that of 2ch CD, let alone vinyl LP.
So what is the mission at Stereophile, to advance and promote the SOTA in home music reproduction?
Or for whatever the reasons, to continue this dubious marketing approach from their little boys club cult?
 
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Dimifoot

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There’s a noticeable and annoying sound quality degradation with Dolby Atmos lossy streaming compared to physical media Dolby Atmos.
Personally I always prefer upmixing the 2 channel lossless version with Auromatic (Auro3d) than streaming the lossy Atmos through Tidal.
Please note that I never listen to 2 speakers only, it’s always Atmos/Auro or upmixed stereo.

Right now I am listening to this, on Pure Audio (disc) Atmos
0516B62B-F5C4-4CC6-98BB-73C88F71DB68.jpeg
 

GXAlan

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So what is the mission at Stereophile, to advance and promote the SOTA in home music reproduction?
Of for whatever the reasons, to continue this dubious marketing approach from their little boys club cult?

I'm confused as well. It's already pretty clear from US "audiophile shows" that diversity is lacking, the younger crowd is being priced into headphone setups and it's almost like Stereophile is digging its own grave.

Stereophile doesn't even need to promote SOTA. From a pure business standpoint, if you've reached your 'end-game' 2 channel setup, you are now selling more amplifiers and speakers if multichannel takes on. The home theatre guys are smart. Remember when Dolby Surround came out and you just had stereo front and mono rears? And then when places like Circuit City introduced the Kenwood Home THX setup that had the THX WOW laserdisc on loop? How awesome was that?

Fast forward another 30+ years and instead of the original 2-ch upmixed to 4.1 w/THX processing, we now have people wanting 16 and 32 channel systems. Is it better? Sure. Would you still be happy with that original 4.1 THX system? Probably. Maybe that's the problem. Once you get good-enough home theater, the upgraditis slows down.

Still, we went from Dolby Surround to having discrete 5.1 where DD and DTS bitrates were the challenge to having lossless audio to Atmos. Now, we're saying we need quad subs, and with things like Dirac Art, we'll be going from "just need bed layer to handle down to 80 Hz" to "try to go with as many full range speakers"
 

Sal1950

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Well, it can’t be the expense. ATMOS lovers have no issues paying that fee.

Sound quality, cost, plenty to disdain for both.
You obviously have no idea what your talking about.
Why don't you put a cap finding ways in a attempt to trash multich.
Is this all about your hate for me you that even follow me to other sites to spread your displeasure?
Grow up
 

Anton D

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Hey, buddy. Don’t flatter yourself.

Streaming ATMOS just isn’t there yet. No hate for multichannel, it’s a fun toy. (No disparagement, this is all toys.) I’ve tried it many ways, starting with the original Yamaha DSP-1.

No issue with high rez ATMOS, either, it’s the flavor of the day. It’s the low rez stuff that people claim to be ‘audiophile’ grade that needs the bugs shaken out. You certainly wouldn’t call that audiophile yet.

It will get there someday.

Also, if you are going to post behind me somewhere, figure who’s the follower.
 
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teched58

teched58

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WHOPPER ALERT!

Jim Austin has just posted the following comment on his Stereophile column. (Click here for link.)

That first sentence is a doozy: "To summarize, MQA is lossless at all frequencies where music (and music-related sounds) exist."

Clearly, he is just trolling us now.
1705709872960.jpeg
 

Somafunk

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All of my musical choice could be considered electronic noise.
 
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Sal1950

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kemmler3D

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WHOPPER ALERT!

Jim Austin has just posted the following comment on his Stereophile column. (Click here for link.)

That first sentence is a doozy: "To summarize, MQA is lossless at all frequencies where music (and music-related sounds) exist."

Clearly, he is just trolling us now.
View attachment 343212
As I understand it he's more or less right about this. MQA used a lossy stream for the high-frequency stuff, but PCM for everything else, right?

That said it's a little funny to see him implicitly dismissing the entire concept of high-res audio here.

As far as degradation of Atmos with 768kbps to go around, I think it's possible. If you have more than 5 channels going with high frequency content or transients in each one, I could (loosely) imagine there being some small audible artifacts. OTOH my mental benchmark for this is MP3 and presumably they're using something a bit more current.
 

Anton D

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WHOPPER ALERT!

Jim Austin has just posted the following comment on his Stereophile column. (Click here for link.)

That first sentence is a doozy: "To summarize, MQA is lossless at all frequencies where music (and music-related sounds) exist."

Clearly, he is just trolling us now.
View attachment 343212
It seems the MQA epoch was rather fleeting. What would anybody say to convince us it is still (or was) necessary?
 

kemmler3D

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What would anybody say to convince us it is still (or was) necessary?

Here's what it would take for me to get interested in MQA: The existence of magic is scientifically confirmed, and furthermore, we are able to verify that MQA has had a magic spell cast on it that makes your music sound better, despite all objective evidence to the contrary, and FURTHERMORE we learn that the creators of MQA knew this all along and weren't just working on a fundamentally dishonest scheme to reintroduce DRM to music downloads, to the detriment of everyone except their investors.
 

Sal1950

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