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Stereophile's Jim Austin Says Streaming Atmos Sucks

chelgrian

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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.
Except I'm completely in the Apple ecosystem but I use Spotify rather than Apple Music because there is no equivalent of Spotify connect in the Apple system. If Apple did have an equivalent then I'd have Atmos turned off as it's actively worse than lossless stereo for the kind of thing I listen to.
 

Sal1950

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If Apple did have an equivalent then I'd have Atmos turned off as it's actively worse than lossless stereo for the kind of thing I listen to.
How did you determine that since you've had neither lossless nor a full Atmos system to listen to?
 

goat76

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Except I'm completely in the Apple ecosystem but I use Spotify rather than Apple Music because there is no equivalent of Spotify connect in the Apple system. If Apple did have an equivalent then I'd have Atmos turned off as it's actively worse than lossless stereo for the kind of thing I listen to.

Apple Music doesn't work for me either, I need a streaming service that is supported by my streamer which is an important part of my main 2-channel rig, so the choices for me are Qobuz, Tidal, Deezer, or Spotify. Last week I realized that the Tidal app on my TV does support Atmos playback so I changed back to Tidal from Qobuz (which I have used for the last two years) just to be able to play music in Atmos as well. Music in Atmos will just be a side thing for me, most of my listening will still be 2-channel audio as the type of music I mostly listen to will likely never come out in Atmos.

I just have a 5.2 surround system so I can't fully judge how good or bad the Atmos mixes truly are. While some of the mixes sound great in my system and take the music to a whole another level, others sound strangely mixed as if some of the studios had a completely different level match between the channels than I have in my system, which in some cases puts way to much of the mix in the surround channels. But again, the reason for that could simply be the fact that my system is just a 5.2 system and not a full Atmos system, so the sometimes strange balance can maybe be the lack of side channels in my system. I don't know.



What type of music do you listen to that you don't think would work well for Atmos?

In my book, every type of genre should work with Atmos, it just depends on how "tasteful" the mix is done to best suit the type of music at hand. Some types of recordings will work with a more "creative" type of mixing with sound objects panned all around the listener, while others will work better if the surrounding speakers just help to create more spaciousness, room sound, and atmosphere around the listener.
What type of music wouldn't benefit from a tastefully done Atmos mix?
 

chelgrian

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How did you determine that since you've had neither lossless nor a full Atmos system to listen to?
I do have lossless as I also have the majority of the music I listen to as HiRes FLAC downloads, the Spotify subscription is for things that don't warrant being bought as a download and for deciding if a performance is good enough to warrant buying as a lossless download. The 320kbs stream from Spotify is sufficient unless you run in to problem samples of which there are some for all lossy compression mechanisms.

I do have access to a full Atmos monitoring system but in a studio with creation tools plus some horrible hacks to be able to run QA on the lossy encoded versions. Dolby really do not make this easy.
 

Sal1950

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I do have lossless as I also have the majority of the music I listen to as HiRes FLAC downloads, the Spotify subscription is for things that don't warrant being bought as a download and for deciding if a performance is good enough to warrant buying as a lossless download. The 320kbs stream from Spotify is sufficient unless you run in to problem samples of which there are some for all lossy compression mechanisms.
That's not the way you made it sound, be straight with your posting ?
Spotify is about the only streamer left that isn't doing lossless and offers you less for your money that any
of the current majors. They've lied to the user base for years now, I listened to the BS for a long time but the minute
Apple came along with lossless plus HiRez plus multich for less money, I didn't have to think about a switch twice.
If Apple did have an equivalent then I'd have Atmos turned off as it's actively worse than lossless stereo for the kind of thing I listen to.
So if you do have a Atmos system at hand, you still didn't answer our original question, what kind of music do you listen to that you can't find anything available that you would go so far as to turn it off? AFAIK all genres are pretty much covered.
Sounds more like you just want to throw eggs for some personal reason.
 

chelgrian

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That's not the way you made it sound, be straight with your posting ?
Spotify is about the only streamer left that isn't doing lossless and offers you less for your money that any
of the current majors. They've lied to the user base for years now, I listened to the BS for a long time but the minute
Apple came along with lossless plus HiRez plus multich for less money, I didn't have to think about a switch twice.

So if you do have a Atmos system at hand, you still didn't answer our original question, what kind of music do you listen to that you can't find anything available that you would go so far as to turn it off? AFAIK all genres are pretty much covered.
Sounds more like you just want to throw eggs for some personal reason.
Firstly you are making entirely unwarranted assumptions. It is entirely reasonable assume that someone posting on ASR does not *only* have streaming as a source of music rather than making the opposite assumption has you have done.

Secondly as a system which delivers a proprietary, lossy compressed sound field Atmos must justify why it should be used rather than the status quo rather than why it should not be used.

I am entirely willing to discuss the technical merits of the internal workings of immersive audio however I am not going to discuss my exact musical tastes.
 

mhardy6647

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Quad, baby!
I know this isn't news for all y'all multichannel music stalwarts -- but it's made it all the way to Stereophile, so it must be completely irrelevant have some legs!
;) :cool:



(scanned from pg. 28 of the 1975 LRE catalog -- a pdf scanned version of the whole catalog is available at https://www.worldradiohistory.com/Archive-Catalogs/Lafayette-Catalogs/Lafayette-1975-750.pdf)
 

Anton D

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Quad receivers had the best little display scope - cute as heck! Great for staring at and using those LP fold out covers for what they were intended for.

The two things that really drew me to quad were the extra cost and inconvenience.
 

mhardy6647

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Quad receivers had the best little display scope - cute as heck! Great for staring at and using those LP fold out covers for what they were intended for.

The two things that really drew me to quad were the extra cost and inconvenience.
smarmy 1970 salesguy:
"Hey, Louie -- what if I told you that, instead of just sellin' two... we could sell four speakers at a time?!"

Dolby Atmos:
"Hold my beer..."
 

Sal1950

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Quad, baby!
I know this isn't news for all y'all multichannel music stalwarts -- but it's made it all the way to Stereophile, so it must be completely irrelevant have some legs!
They're finally starting to wake from a very long coma over at Stereophile.
Last month (March2024) was a big interview with "Steven Wilson: A Master Of Immersive Music" !
Much of the same is now active at TAS.

One of these days they'll finally open their eyes to what J. Gordon Holt told them so many years ago in his interview with John Atkinson.

"I remember you strongly feeling back in 1992 that multichannel/surround reproduction was the only chance the industry had for getting back on course. JA

With fidelity in stagnation, spatiality was the only area of improvement left. JGH

As you were so committed to surround, do you feel that the commercial failures of DVD-Audio and SACD could have been avoided? JA

I doubt it. No audio product has ever succeeded because it was better, only because it was cheaper, smaller, or easier to use. Your generation of music lovers will probably be the last that even think about fidelity." JGH


The only thing Gordon didn't see was the explosion of Home Theaters and Headphone listeners propelling todays boom.
 

kemmler3D

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After years of promises they still don't have a lossless stream either.
Is anybody really serious about audio still using Spotify?
If you're REALLY serious about audio you know the codecs Spotify uses are transparent almost all the time.
 

Sal1950

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Is anybody really serious about audio still using Spotify

If you're REALLY serious about audio you know the codecs Spotify uses are transparent almost all the time.
Seriously, LOL. I made that comment simply due to the fact that most of other guys are now offering not only straight
lossless (16-44.1), but some sort of Hi-Resolution, and Multich files for the same or less money.
But I do understand the attraction of Spotify, IMHO they do offer the best User Interface there is, and if you have
a long playlist history, etc; any sonic advantage from lossless may be of little value. I stayed with Spotify for a long time after
they made the first "HiRez Is Coming" post and continued to complain loudly on their forum about the constant delays, but still I was hanging in there.
But being a near 50 year multich user, when Apple came along with their Atmos, etc; streams I immediately jumped ship.
I've never owned another Apple product but for me, getting a Atmos 4K TV streamer box was a no-brainer.
YMMV
 

kemmler3D

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Seriously, LOL. I made that comment simply due to the fact that most of other guys are now offering not only straight
lossless (16-44.1), but some sort of Hi-Resolution, and Multich files for the same or less money.
But I do understand the attraction of Spotify, IMHO they do offer the best User Interface there is, and if you have
a long playlist history, etc; any sonic advantage from lossless may be of little value. I stayed with Spotify for a long time after
they made the first "HiRez Is Coming" post and continued to complain loudly on their forum about the constant delays, but still I was hanging in there.
But being a near 50 year multich user, when Apple came along with their Atmos, etc; streams I immediately jumped ship.
I've never owned another Apple product but for me, getting a Atmos 4K TV streamer box was a no-brainer.
YMMV
You make good points here, I don't really disagree. There are many reasons to ditch Spotify, I just think audible sound quality isn't foremost among them. I'm considering moving to Tidal mostly because they pay artists more, and maybe 1% because they offer proper lossless out of the box.
 

Brian Hall

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Quad receivers had the best little display scope - cute as heck! Great for staring at and using those LP fold out covers for what they were intended for.

The two things that really drew me to quad were the extra cost and inconvenience.

My dad had some brand of Quad receiver back in the 70s. It had a joystick for changing the balance between the four speakers to center it on your listening spot.
 

MattHooper

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Nice Interview (done by Darko) with Steven Wilson about his experience mixing dolby atmos. Against skepticism, Wilson makes some nice counter arguments in favour of Atmos:

 

goat76

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The concern Darko has about Atmos Music based on previous failed attempts at multichannel audio for music isn't taking the fact that Atmos is an object-based audio format. Previous formats have failed because they were dependent on a large number of consumers to invest in multiple speakers set up in the living room, and that was always doomed to be a failure as the large mass of consumers would never do that as even two speakers set up in the living room seems to be a stretch in most households.

This time around with an object-based format that will adapt to the system no matter if it's just a pair of headphones, a soundbar, or a full-fledge speaker system of 7.2.4 or more instead of the requirement of a 5.1 system, is that the only thing it takes now for this format to succeed is that the large mass of headphone listeners like what they hear, and if they prefer it over the normal 2-channel version this format will likely stay.
The nice thing about all this is that we, the super audio nerds who are prepared to invest in multiple speakers in our listening rooms can ride on that success and use it as a "Troyan horse", as the format will likely survive just based on the popularity among the headphone listeners.

One of the greatest things about Atmos is the built-in specification of -18 LUFS as Steven Wilson says in the interview, so if this format succeeds in being a standard format for music, we can at last say bye-bye to the loudness war.
The real downside of Atmos is that it's a propriety format, Dolby will likely always have the last saying in how this format will be played as they want to have control of the revenue. I find it a bit frustrating that I can't just use whatever gear I already have that is technically fully capable of playing the format, instead, I had to buy an Apple TV to be able to play the Atmos tracks from Tidal. Another problem is that the format is very expensive to produce as it both requires a recording suite from Dolby and a full Atmos system which is a major investment for smaller studios. This will risk setting the larger studios in an even more dominant and exclusive position and may alienate the smaller ones, so small alternative artists will probably never afford to release their music in Atmos. Those things talk against the format being a major success in the long run.
 
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