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Stereophile's Jim Austin Says Streaming Atmos Sucks

Axo1989

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Apple also say that more than 80% of songs to have charted on the platform’s Global Daily Top 100 in the past year are available in Spatial Audio. So I think we can safely say it’s on the rise…big time.

Thought I’d better check Apple’s Global 100 and see what I might be missing, or whether there’s any overlap with their recommendations for my listening pleasure. Also, how goes the march to spatial?

Turns out the top twelve songs are from Future and Metro Boomin’s album We Don’t Trust You (which they style in uppercase but I won’t this time) before handing the baton to the above mentioned Ariane Grande (actually the single overlap with Apple's recommendations for me per the earlier post, and not a usual one) then a few recognizables like Swift, Rodrigo and SZA and some more rappers and memorabilia like Creepy Nuts and ¥$. I can’t sustain sufficient interest to check them all, but for as far as I could manage, most were Atmos (the Oz Top 100 was entirely less rap heavy, a track from WDTY appeared at number 9 but Taylor was on top, unsurprising as she’s not long departed).

Anyway lots of spatial. Much more than my non-mainstream algorithm. I didn’t click on enough to do a comprehensive tally but that 80% number was holding up. As for why spatial is happening whereas hi-res mostly isn't: obviously, spatial sounds better on headphones (whereas hi-res mostly doesn't).
 
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Sal1950

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I wonder if Atmos music being pushed by the streaming services in an attempt to get people to abandon vinyl records?
Why, they're making a ton of money with the $50 LP's ?

The Fire TV Cube outputting HDMI to my AVR is the way I'm streaming Atmos. I really have to crank up the volume to get to a normal listening level when playing Atmos tracks.
I've heard that about the Amazon Atmos streaming, no idea why?
I don't find the average levels between the 2ch and Atmos files on Apple to be very different in level?
You do have to take into account that a lot of the 2ch pop music being streamed is heavily compressed where
thankfully that isn't the case for the Atmos mixes.
So sadly streamers are stuck between a rock and a hard place for the time being,
Loudness wars dynamic range crippled 2ch files or,
Atmos files that have suffered some data compression and a slight loss of musicality.
Here's a prayer for lossless Atmos in the not-too-distant future.
I don't see much chance of the pop, rap, or hip-hop world turning away from 7db dynamic range style of mixing. :(
 

Newman

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I don't find the average levels between the 2ch and Atmos files on Apple to be very different in level?
Do you by any chance have Sound Check turned on? It acts as a level normaliser.
 
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Sal1950

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Brian Hall

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Why, they're making a ton of money with the $50 LP's ?

The streaming services don't make money off the LPs. LPs (and CDs) are their competition. All of the streaming services would benefit if LPs and CDs went away.

I've heard that about the Amazon Atmos streaming, no idea why?

I have to turn up the volume for movies and TV shows on the Fire TV Cube also. The same movies in Atmos on the Xbox Series X in the Amazon Video app do not need to be turned up as much. It is something to do with the Fire TV Cube. The Amazon Music app on the Series X does not support Atmos yet so I can't compare that.

I've been looking through the Amazon Music app more today. They have almost all of Enya's albums listed as Atmos now.

Amazon's Echo Studio does support Atmos/Spatial audio alone or paired. They actually sound really good when two are paired along with the Echo Sub and the EQ is set right on the Alexa app. They also support Tidal and Spotify streaming. Tidal's Atmos does work with them.

More streaming devices need to support Atmos, at least the binaural effect for headphones.
 

Sal1950

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The streaming services don't make money off the LPs. LPs (and CDs) are their competition. All of the streaming services would benefit if LPs and CDs went away.
Guess I was thinking the push of Atmos was coming from the labels and not the streamers themself, but I really don't know?
In any case the vinyl world and multich world seem to be more like fire and water to me.
One will have little effect on the other.
 

Brian Hall

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Guess I was thinking the push of Atmos was coming from the labels and not the streamers themself, but I really don't know?
In any case the vinyl world and multich world seem to be more like fire and water to me.
One will have little effect on the other.

We've heard about Apple offering 10% more royalties for Atmos/Spatial audio from the labels/artists.

Amazon appears to all in on Atmos also. Haven't heard if they are giving incentives like Apple, but almost everything I searched for today on Amazon Music had the Atmos label. Either I wasn't paying attention before or they are adding a lot more Atmos.
 

Sal1950

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We've heard about Apple offering 10% more royalties for Atmos/Spatial audio from the labels/artists.

Amazon appears to all in on Atmos also. Haven't heard if they are giving incentives like Apple, but almost everything I searched for today on Amazon Music had the Atmos label. Either I wasn't paying attention before or they are adding a lot more Atmos.
I really don't have my finger on the pulse of whats going on with the streamers, mainly only know what I've read.
About the only time I go there is when I want sample a new release, if I like it Ill buy a disc or lossless download.
 

Brian Hall

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Checking out some metal albums on Amazon now. They have Megadeth in Atmos and Ultra HD.

Screenshot 2024-03-24 7.04.50 PM.png
 
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Newman

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I long to be surrounded by mega amounts of death.
 

Brian Hall

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A way to listen to Atmos music on headphones:

Amazon and Tidal will only output Atmos music to "Atmos certified" devices.

Use the Amazon or Tidal app on a Galaxy Tab S8+ or Galaxy S23 Ultra (Both Atmos certified) -> DAC -> EQ -> Headphone amp.

I'm using the DAC in the Eversolo DMP-A6 so I can see what it shows. Tidal's Atmos shows 48khz. Amazon's Atmos shows 192khz.

They do sound different than the stereo versions.
 

goat76

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One of the downsides with streaming Atmos music is the restrictions on what gear can be used to play the files on a speaker system. It would have been way more accessible if I could just play the Atmos files with the Tidal Windows app and choose my surround receiver as the output device, but as it is, I'm stuck with either buying an Apple TV, an Nvidia Shield, or using the Tidal app on my LG TV which I'm doing for the moment.
The Tidal TV app is just okay, the usability would be much better if I could use the Windows app and browse the Atmos library with the keyboard instead of a TV remote, and the TV app is also severely stripped down with way too large icons and I suspect that the Tidal app on Apple TV isn't much better when it comes to that.

I tried to find videos with the Tidal app on Apple TV in use, but no luck there. Do any of you have links to pictures or videos with the Tidal app on Apple TV, I like to see if there's any point in buying the Apple device over using the TV app.

I have no idea how to check the quality of the Atmos stream but I find it sounds pretty good as it is, maybe the audio quality is less critical when things in the mixes are spread out more than in regular 2-channel mixes, I don't know, but I don't find it too bad when it comes to technical aspects of the sound quality. The fact that the dynamics are mostly intact in Atmos mixes, thanks to the format requirement of perceiving a level of at least -18 LUFS, can be another reason why it sounds good even if the stream is lossy.
 

chelgrian

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One of the downsides with streaming Atmos music is the restrictions on what gear can be used to play the files on a speaker system. It would have been way more accessible if I could just play the Atmos files with the Tidal Windows app and choose my surround receiver as the output device, but as it is, I'm stuck with either buying an Apple TV, an Nvidia Shield, or using the Tidal app on my LG TV which I'm doing for the moment.
The Tidal TV app is just okay, the usability would be much better if I could use the Windows app and browse the Atmos library with the keyboard instead of a TV remote, and the TV app is also severely stripped down with way too large icons and I suspect that the Tidal app on Apple TV isn't much better when it comes to that.

I tried to find videos with the Tidal app on Apple TV in use, but no luck there. Do any of you have links to pictures or videos with the Tidal app on Apple TV, I like to see if there's any point in buying the Apple device over using the TV app.

I have no idea how to check the quality of the Atmos stream but I find it sounds pretty good as it is, maybe the audio quality is less critical when things in the mixes are spread out more than in regular 2-channel mixes, I don't know, but I don't find it too bad when it comes to technical aspects of the sound quality. The fact that the dynamics are mostly intact in Atmos mixes, thanks to the format requirement of perceiving a level of at least -18 LUFS, can be another reason why it sounds good even if the stream is lossy.
While Dolby allow various games and streaming video to output Atmos via HDMI on Windows when the 'Dolby Access App' is installed they don't allow output from audio streaming services. To add insult to injury they want an in app purchase to enable binaural rendering for headphones.

It's like they don't want this technology to succeed.
 

middlemarch

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They don't want it copied. Thought they'd learned that lesson with stereo music, but who knows...
 

goat76

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It's like they don't want this technology to succeed.

I think it will succeed as things Apple invests in usually do, but to them, it's foremost meant for headphone listening which is their main market and what most people use for music listening in this time and age. People like us who like to take it as far as investing in loudspeakers all around us are just an afterthought at best, but we will have no bearing on the success of the format, luckily, as this format would have otherwise been dead out of the door.

As long as the large mass of headphone listeners like what they hear, this format will succeed. What's left for us is to use that success as a trojan horse and use the technology with our loudspeaker systems.
 

chelgrian

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I think it will succeed as things Apple invests in usually do, but to them, it's foremost meant for headphone listening which is their main market and what most people use for music listening in this time and age. People like us who like to take it as far as investing in loudspeakers all around us are just an afterthought at best, but we will have no bearing on the success of the format, luckily, as this format would have otherwise been dead out of the door.

As long as the large mass of headphone listeners like what they hear, this format will succeed. What's left for us is to use that success as a trojan horse and use the technology with our loudspeaker systems.
Apple are not the market leader in streaming and adding Atmos has not caused them to overtake Spotify who do not have and show no interest in Atmos thus I am not at all convinced.
 

goat76

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Apple are not the market leader in streaming and adding Atmos has not caused them to overtake Spotify who do not have and show no interest in Atmos thus I am not at all convinced.

It doesn't matter if Apple is the market leader or not in streaming (at this moment), for them it's enough that a large portion of their loyal user group is using their streaming service and buying their hardware for it to succeed. The proof of that is that they don't seem to be highly interested in providing their service outside their own platforms. As long as their users like what they hear in "Apple's" spatial audio, the format will likely succeed.
 

Sal1950

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As long as the large mass of headphone listeners like what they hear, this format will succeed. What's left for us is to use that success as a trojan horse and use the technology with our loudspeaker systems.
That's a good way of thinking about it. The same as the way the Atmos enabled soundbars play an amusing soundfield for
the folks that have and enjoy them. They all help to support the format for those of us willing to invest in a full Atmos speaker based system. The final results are awesome and more than worth the money. We also then have the ability to enjoy all the 1970+ Quad recordings now being released on high resolution BluRay.
Not to mention exciting movie nights.

Apple are not the market leader in streaming and adding Atmos has not caused them to overtake Spotify who do not have and show no interest in Atmos thus I am not at all convinced.
After years of promises they still don't have a lossless stream either.
Is anybody really serious about audio still using Spotify?
 
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