What you are missing is directionality. What you call “punch” requires a fixed sound source, not some frequency-selective phase shifting —

One of the reasons Quad failed was because it had no “punch.”

In fact, mono was (is) better than stereo. Dolby surround in movie theaters is an aural illusion, just like this crap.

as an example:  the vocal gets “lost:

In stereo mixes, to achieve the effect of a sound, usually including the lead vocal, coming from the “center” — one combines left and right to create an aural illusion that the sound is in the middle. But of course, there is no true “center channel” no middle speaker. When the whole mix is “spatial” there are endless phase shifts occurring simultaneously, and the sense of a center is diminished, and – the lead vocal, drifts and seems to disappear.

David Rubinson


As you probably know, Atmos was created so the audio in any given Atmos movie theater is identical, precisely the way the director intended it. They accomplished this by treating every sound in the movie’s track as an individual element that can be placed anywhere within the theater’s spatial dimension: left, right, front, back and — importantly — up and down. It’s made mixing movie soundtracks incredibly complex: there are usually hundreds, and sometimes thousands (any MCU film), of elements, and the mixer uses a joystick to place (or move) each element wherever the director wants it. The secret sauce, if you will, is that as long as the theater is Atmos calibrated — whether 50 or 500 seats — the sound is identical: the bird the director wanted chirping, slightly in from from the left rear upper corner, shows up exacky there… in every theater!

That’s great for movie theaters, or obsessive home theater junkies. But the notion that consumers in general will have Atmos-calibrated systems (which require up-firing speakers) is ludicrous. That said, there are some interesting baby steps happening. The Atmos mix on the new Plastic Ono Band box set not only sounds great, but includes a spatial diagram of where each track was placed. Who knows what John Lennon would have thought of it. Someone who certainly would have been intrigued was George Martin, who in the early days of Quad was making experimental pyramid mixes: left, right, rear and top…

Tom Zito



I tend to be a heretic re audio quality, and despite making some of the excellent gear a lot of the world’s music is mastered on, I see the reality of the consumer mindset.

Today, they want convenience first, and bragging rights second.  Audio quality is way, way down the list (don’t believe the market research, check the questions and context the public was asked).They are really, really, happy with 192k+ MP3/AAC, and can’t tell the difference between this format and CD.  Indeed, done blind many audio pro’s can’t hear the difference, let along hi-res vs CD res.  Now, professionally, there is a need to work in hi-res in the studio, because of all the processing we do, but the consumers just doesn’t need it, or want it.


But unlike hi-res, spatial audio will sound different, or there’s no point to it. And whereas a stereo mix is mixed and mastered by music caring humans on speakers, to provide depth and width, and retain/enhance the musical performance, the Atmos process will upmix the stereo to Atmos, and downmix this to stereo by computer algorithm.  It will a one size fits all algorithm, because it’s not being mastered, but bulk processed.  And it will be designed to sound different, so it can be demonstrated and sold.  It will need to throw instruments and reverb into weird locations to emphasise the technology, or it’s no different from stereo.


Remember, Atmos is designed for theatres and immersive environments for effects, not music.  Even in film, dialogue is anchored to the centre speaker for intelligibility – if you start being creative with it, people can’t hear the actors speak properly. I can see Atmos being used in concerts and even clubs for 3D effects and experiences, but in your ears to listen to music? Bonkers!


Kind Regards

Crispin Herrod-Taylor
Managing Director, Crookwood


I’m not a sound engineer, but I’ve listened to music my entire life and spend 30 plus years programming large market radio stations. I get my hearing tested every year and I still have hearing that is almost perfect. Not bragging, just giving you background.

Early today I listened to all that Apple stuff in the Dolby Atmos sound with wired headphones and a computer and a headphone amp and within three songs I canceled Apple Music. They’re welcome to do what they want, but the songs that they remixed in spatial audio are not the songs that the artist put out and certainly not the songs that average people would remember if they heard these versions.

It’s like when everybody took mono songs and ran them through a stereo synthesizer and re-released them on CD. Remember when the first batch of Motown music on CD was released out of phase? Or, even worse it’s like when people thought it would be a really smart idea to take all those black and white movies and colorize them.

I made the choice not to watch It’s a Wonderful Life in color and I made the choice to cancel Apple music today.

Mark Edwards Edelstein


Atmos is to music what colorization is to film.


Marvin Gaye’s ‘stationary’ mono mix, I’d call cohesive. The way it was meant to be heard.

Stacy Baird, former Oceanway Engineer.

Hi Bob, the exact same thing that’s going on with Spatial Audio has been going on for years with Tidal’s mQa Masters. Most of the music goes through the big cloud converter and right to the consumers. Artists, producers, mastering engineers, etc… who worked on this stuff we’re all bypassed in order to get catalogs published.

Worse that Spatial Audio, mQa is a solution looking for a problem and it actually degrades the sound. Follow the science, it shows mQa is a format created for the labels to tax music listeners who have to pay royalties via hardware to hear the master (which couldn’t be farther from the real master).

Chris Connaker


Audiophile Style


Hey there Bob,

As I just crossed the 200 mark today on mixing Atmos for UMG. I can’t say that I agree with you on this. I started mixing back in the summer of 2019 for the UMG Atmos project and have dedicated a large amount of my time to this.  As I have been an engineer here in Nashville for about 30 years, I take great pride in everything I do. We absolutely have to as the competition here is fierce!!  I know pretty much everybody involved in the Atmos mixing project for UMG between Nashville, NYC, LA and London. We go thru an intense QC process on our mixes and often times are asked to make mix revisions.   We have weekly discussions about how to best mix and preserve the original intent of the stereo mix, yet make the Atmos mix a better experience. The binaural counterpart (headphones) has improved greatly since 2 years ago.

I would love to invite you to hear some mixes here in Nashville at UMG Studios  or at Blackbird studio C.

As more and more hardware is becoming available to multi speaker setups in the home environment it will only make the consumer experience that much better.  Wireless speaker setups and soundbars make it much easier to setup and enjoy the Atmos experience than the previous days of 5.1 wired setups.

Mills Logan
Nashville TN


I spent 12 years at various divisions of Sony Music. As I’m sure you know, the mass cramming of product into the record labels’ pipelines is a historically “sound” (no pun intended) method of hitting the required numbers of an individual division.

Now I don’t know if the artists are involved here; it doesn’t sound like they are from what you’re telling us. And that is never a good thing when it comes to the label working well with their talent. Duh.

It reminds me of the time I was product managing a new “Super Hits” release for an artist from Epic who had many big hits in their career.  The “Super Hits” series, as you probably know, was Sony’s budget priced hits series and it purposely gave a few of the hits—but not all—so as not to cannibalize the higher priced, better A&R’ed hits packages.

Anyway, it just so happened that the artist in question didn’t have a manager at the time so I had to speak to them directly.  It was a courtesy call, even though the contract stated we didn’t have to get artist approval. When this artist saw the artwork and track listing, they basically yelled at me, told me they weren’t approving this “piece of shit,” and then hung up on me.  We put the record out anyway, we made our numbers, and I felt like a total asshole; the reason I loved those jobs was that I live for music and great artists—I always considered it a privilege to work with some the great artists I was lucky enough to be involved with.

I sure hope that isn’t what is happening here…it’s certainly bad business and it might sabotage what could be a cool format if the artists were involved and supportive.  Otherwise it might end up like those product lines that were dead on arrival—like CD Plus.  Remember those? Ha ha! Probably not.

Mark Feldman


Bob, the past is the past. We don’t scan the Mona Lisa, and bump up the saturation so it’s more “vibrant.”

Only in the past 150 years has music been able to be preserved. For the 35,000+ years that humans have been creating music, it was evanescent. Sculptures, cave paintings, writing on stone tablets…they’ve survived for millennia. Music survived only in the memories of listeners.

If you missed Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 when it debuted in Austria, to herald the changeover from the 18th to the 19th centuries, you missed it. No albums. No MP3s. No leaks. No streaming.

I can guarantee it was a magical moment for those who had seats at the Burgtheater on April 2, 1800.  You knew Beethoven had studied with Haydn, was a virtuoso piano player, and had gotten attention for his piano trios. But nothing could have prepared you for what you felt when that orchestra hit you full blast, at over 100 dB, in TRUE surround, with no data compression, on a spring evening, after riding in horse carriages over cobblestones, and watching the gaslights start to light.

You tried to explain to people who weren’t there what you experienced. You couldn’t.

Doing Beethoven in Atmos will never take us back to that moment.

Atmos is for artists who want to create in a medium for the future. And I do! But I’m not going to touch what I did until now. It’s done. It’s of the moment. Music is of its time.

Craig Anderton


I couldn’t agree more. I tried it out the other night. A couple of songs sounded pretty good, albeit different.  For the vast majority I was not loving it vs. the original.  As you suggest, producing for Atmos from the start might be the key. I’m willing to wait and see.

Trevor McPherson


I for one as a mixer am excited about Atmos. Until you have heard it in a proper space on a proper system you’re not going to get it. Listening on headphones in binaural is like listening to what we mix in stereo in the studio on Spotify. It sounds like shit after Spotify dumbs it down and rips out it’s soul.

I listened as well to the roll out on Apple and can understand what you are saying. Pretty much the same way I feel when I hear something I spent a year on in the studio get released only on streaming. It sucks. But with that being said I did hear some good mixes as well.

You should try streaming from an Apple TV to a home theatre setup. The mixes will be closer to what the mixer intended it to sound like.

Nobody sends a mix to Dolby to make a fake version in Atmos. The mixes are done by professional mixers. Most those mixes on Apple have been on Tidal and Amazon HD for a few years. They are not from last week.

I just finished mixing a project for the 30th Anniversary of Mr Big’s record “Lean Into It”. I have to say it was as fun as when I first started mixing. Working in a format that isn’t squished to death from the loudness wars and actually has dynamics like records is refreshing.

There is so much potential for this format when in the studio creating a new recording as well. It is something that the artist can use to express their art in a whole new way.

Also the lossless versions in stereo are so much closer to what we created then that garbage we were stuck listening to on streaming for years.

Chris Bell


When I first read this Atmos press release, like many, I was excited. I had to know more about it so I called up a good friend, mastering and tech guru, Scott Sedillo at Bernie Grundman.  He informed me that in order to get the desired audio effect, you need at least thirteen (13) speakers.

Scott is a self-proclaimed audio snob. He makes his own amazing esoteric gear, maintains Bernie’s entire studio in addition to mastering U2’s recordings. He was skeptical after all the 5.1 hype as to his ears many never got it quite right in his opinion.  He was very impressed by Atmos.  You can really hear a difference but, his BIG caveat is how many people are going to go out and buy thirteen (13) speakers.

My guess? – – not many.

Tom Lewis


Thanks for this email and the link. Yes the “snap” of the snare sounds very good, but the space between instruments sounds ..wrong. The song loses something.

So Nope. I don’t want it. I realize I’m terribly “old school”, but the Beatles made the record, you bought it, you played it and YOU MOVED around the room. The music did not. It didn’t need to.

I’ve no problem with new music being made in this new format. But “jiggling the music around” on “historical” recordings is not gonna replace/duplicate the excitement I got hearing the originals for the first time. .How is this gonna work on Elvis’ Sun recordings? On Phil Spector productions? The Drifters?  “Pet Sounds”?  Marvin Gaye’s recording is just fine as it is.

The first note of B.B. King’s “The Thrill Is Gone” says it all. It’s a whole world in that one note. BB nailed it. Nothing can improve it.

Joe Haus


Those that have experience mixing in the format are crushing it. I had the immense honor of hearing a handful of Giles Martin’s mixes at the Dolby theater almost 3(!) years ago and it was a truly amazing listening experience. But there are a lot of mixes I’ve listened to in my a/b testing that sound confusing – some sound like they’ve been a quick (and automated?) job.

What’s true of every new format is that it takes a unique set of artists and producers to create new works that make the format matter – because it wouldn’t sound “correct” any other way. That is surely yet to come, and it will be thrilling when we hear/see it!

Ryan Taylor


i already feel the same way about
the new 50th anniversary version
of ‘All Things Must Pass’.
after hearing the promo video.
It’s too clean. no magic.
i don’t need to hear someone else’s
version. It’s like cleaning up
a Van Gogh and having some art student
wiping away the excess paint drips.
fuck that.

Rob Preuss


It also sounds like trash most of the time

Evan Taubenfeld


Amazon HD is the way to go. Apple music has always been

cheap and weak and now they’ve made it even worse.

Harold Love


How does it sound on Neil’s Pono system? Oh, wait…

Bill Fitzhugh


I just want to contribute my two cents for whatever it’s worth.
Dolby Atmos for music is a new format.  There will be growing pains as there once was for stereo, and even HD video.  It does seem like there is a lot of content out there suddenly, and although it’s uneven in spots I think the potential is there and will likely be fully revealed when we make new recordings which are made conceptually with Atmos in mind.

Rich Costey


Hmmm. Rewriting history is almost always wrong. Adding to history with facts-ok.

Bob Brookie


Remember when Ted Turner wanted to colorize Citizen Kane for his then-new classic movie channel? Hopefully, this “Spatial Audio” business is a similar passing folly.

Cole Coonce


I’ve had numerous managers and labels reach out about Atmos mixes. So I downloaded all the software and learned how to use it so I can mix my own productions in atmos, rather than some person I don’t know doing it to my stems. Atmos is truly enjoyed with a proper speaker setup and some different sound bars. Through headphones it’s not the same.

Jay Ruston


Thanks so much for sharing this!

I completely agree with this email you received.

Roy Hendrickson


This reminds me of QSound.

Remember when, that was going to change our world?

I have not listened, but this IS a gimmick.
But then I think ‘surround’ is a gimmick.

We have 2 ears, that makes stereo good enough.
Listening to a killer mix on a killer system is pretty
hard to beat.

‘Different’, almost never equates to ‘better’ in these cases.

Also, many mixes once they get to us as MP3, are no longer
true stereo. I have tried cutting and pasting L/R bits and
you cannot tell the difference.

As you mentioned, most people listen on earbuds and not
at the higher end, quality wise.

Remixing, in most cases is a crime against nature and a slap
in the face to the original production crew and artist.

Mitch Nixon


Excellent points.

I’m not that into current over-produced pop music, so I went to Apple’s Jazz in Spatial Audio playlist to hear how it sounds.


I was listening on my new MacBook Air that supports Dolby Atmos. When I got to Moanin’ by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, all of a sudden the piano sounded like it was in a different room. That is clearly not how Art and his producers intended it. It’s an aberration to apply this sort of mix to music that was never meant to sound like it.

I think the reason Apple is pushing this is because, even if you listen on a computer, it sounds like you’re listening on headphones, and that’s where most people listen to music today. So they wanted to create first a more spacious sound with headphones, but also to reproduce that “music in your head” sound when you’re listen on computers (or other Atmos capable devices).

Kirk McElhearn



Paul Donsanto


Here’s to hoping Spotify doesn’t jump on that wagon. Or clearly marks which is which. Maybe if creators and consumers kvetch loud enough Apple will give them both options or an opt out.

Sure hope your email gets to JBJ somehow and he hears what you hear. He can bark louder than any of us can!

Dan Millen


Quick two cents from a guy working in the writing/producing/mixing space

I have no problem with evolving formats, but trying to make music recorded in (and for) an older format fit a newer one doesn’t really make sense, although one can see why they tried to roll it out this way (legacy music having a much more powerful gravitational pull than new music).

My gut says when the ad campaign doesn’t make sense, it’s often because the product doesn’t.

I remain open to the various iterations of surround sound for music, but have yet to come across anything that sells me.

Hugh Davison


Agree with all your points. However, there ARE some benefits I’ve found. St Vincent’s new album in spatial audio is miles better. Give it a listen 👂


Adam Hartley


I’ve been listening to various classical recordings with Dolby Atmos and lossless versions on AppleTV, thru my very good sound bar and speakers, and thru my iPhone with good wired headphones (with and without a separate DAC).

The mixes in some cases are terrible. If you think pop and rock are a miss, you should sample some classical music. Only a few recordings shine, mostly piano sonatas and other single-instrumental pieces.

I am also concerned that even the “lossless” mixes are being tampered with.

I was planning on getting rid of my vinyl and CDs, but now I’m not so sure.

It would be fine if they labeled new mixes as they do with the separate Abbey Road mix (2019), which was also released on Blu-ray.

Alex de Soto


Apple’s Spatial Audio is nothing new.  AM & FM music stations have been adding audio compression, EQ, reverb, stereo enhancement and pitch control since the rise of Top 40 radio in the late 1950s.  The practice continues today, as each station attempts to sound louder and brighter than their competition on the radio dial.  It isn’t always the Top 40 stations either.  New Yorkers in the mid-to-late 1970s may recall the dense processed sound of album rocker, WPLJ.   I’ve never heard an artist complain about how their music sounds over the air, many of them seem to dig it.  I’m not sure what Apple’s motivation is, but to me, that’s the sound of “radio”.  I say Atmos is a gimmick.

Scott Lowe

Audacy, Inc.

New York


I have NEVER understood why anyone who grew up with the music would want any sort of remix of the original recordings. I bought them as they were. I don’t care WHAT they did to it. I wanna hear what I know.

Kevin Kiley: Dinosaur


Totally agree. Just because we can do something does not mean it’s good to do. This will be one of those rabbit trails we’ll look back on with some embarrassment.

Nathan Peterson


I’ve listened and think it’s sort of like fake boobs.  Different, sometimes technically impressive, but hardly ever as wonderful as the real thing.

Mike Donahue


Completely agree with you. It certainly can be another format but not “THE” format.

Marty Tudor


Spatial Audio / Dolby Atmos seems to work great with my AirPods. I’m no engineer and I can see where they (and the artist if they’re not involved) would be annoyed by this, but there are definitely some that I was missing really cool underlying instrument tracks that have been revealed. I thought “Slow Burn” sounded really good.

Shawn Kennedy


Apple should not force this down our throats. Give us the option to not use ATMOS. It’s like me fucking with eq’s and panning at home. They  also boosted the volume on the Weekends Atmos preview.   An Atmos mix needs approval by the artists.  It’s not the way the artists intended their music to be mixed. This is insane.

Alan Childs


And the next thing they’ll try is colorizing our classic films like Citizen Kane and It’s a Wonderful Life!


Bob Mori

Los Angeles, Califorina


JFC. Can you imagine if Steve Jobs were still alive? This bastardization would be stopped dead in its tracks.

Remember when Jobs made fun of Microsoft because they had no taste? Tim Cook seems to be demonstrating the same lack of it, by letting this crap happen.

So Apple is now requiring Spatial Audio versions for tracks sold in their store?

What the actual fuck are Jimmy Iovine, Dr Dre, and Trent Reznor doing? Lending their prestige and counting their money?

Spatial Audio is going to go the way of 3D TV. No one asked for it, and it’s driven by capitalism and the need to differentiate themselves from the competition.

It’s yet another example of the Silicon Valley boys with toys flogging a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.  (Remember when Lyft decided to reinvent THE BUS?)

However it’s even worse when that company owns the platform (iPhone) and the Marketplace (Apple Music).

Ellecer Valencia


Got to agree with you here. None of the creative people on the project have input. Not good.

Matt Forger


At some point you said, “The artist supervises the entire process.” Are you sure of that? Because I can’t think of any reason why any artist would be okay with the “brick walling” style of mastering that has taken over the industry in the last 20 years. It makes the music virtually unlistenable and results in listener fatigue. For the life of me I’ll never figure out why this became the norm or has lasted as long as it has. I don’t care if you record a song at Abbey Road or in your parent’s basement. Why would you master it with all the levels maxed it out to the point that it removes all the dynamics and makes it a miserable experience for the listener.

Neil Johnson


Listening to an Atmos mix on an audio system/listening environment designed for it truly can be a magically-immersive, transcendent, exhilarating experience.

But of course, well over 99% of the population does NOT have a system/environment designed for it, and will never experience it as it was intended.

As a producer/mix engineer myself, it’s already frustrating enough that the overwhelming majority of listeners are never able to hear and appreciate the fidelity and subtleties of our work in the simple stereo format, because they’re listening to a compressed stream or an mp3 on a $15 pair of earbuds.

I have a hard time seeing Atmos having anything more than a nerdy cult following, like the handful of hardcore audiophiles who will spend five figures (or more) on a pair of speakers or a boutique, uber-high end turntable.

Mike Froedge
Atlanta, GA


Spatial audio works on AirPods Pro and AirPods Max.


Bill O


Just listened to Prince’s “When Doves Cry” in Atmos. Sounds like a different song. Not in a good way. The drums totally lose the go go swing that made the song so unique.

Might be a great technology, but needs work. Lots.

Jonathan Cohen


I completely agree. I even own a pair of Beats headphones with the right chip set to support Atmos playback, so I pulled up the demo tracks and was astounded. Astounded at how lifeless and lost the music sounded all of a sudden. It‘s definitely time to say no to Apple and Dolby trying to make this a new standard.


Stefan Hartmann


Having a helicopter view, Spatial Audio is all a bit of a smokescreen to detract from the fact that no Apple hardware natively supports hi-res lossless audio. The current Apple flagship headphones, AirPods Pro (Bluetooth only) and AirPods Max (Bluetooth and wired option “re-digitizing” to maximum 24-bit/48kHz), can’t play hi-res lossless audio, but both models do indeed handle Dolby Atmos (Apple’s Spatial Audio) however, unfortunately at iTunes 256k resolution when using Bluetooth. https://support.apple.com/en-au/HT212183

Apple say that most people wouldn’t be able to hear the improvement with lossless audio. Humbug! Given equipment that handles higher resolutions, most people WOULD be able to feel the missing magic and hear the heavenly difference!

The Beatles and Brian Wilson all preferred pure mono mixes to experience most of their masterworks.


David Bowe


Spatial audio on Apple Music with positional context/head tracking is coming this fall to Apple’s AirPods Pro & Max offerings. Gimmicked. As. Shit. And lossy to boot!

I wouldn’t even have a problem with it IF they were just letting you pick the Atmos version with a tap, but right now you’ve got to go into settings and make an apply-all choice for the Music app. The notion that Atmos audio will supplant the original mono or stereo versions is marketing fuckery. Where are the picky protective artists? Where’s Neil Young??

If we’re going down this road of Dolby mixes and spatial audio, I’d far prefer having artist-authorized surround mixes that have typically been the realm of specialty formats (SACD, DTS CD, DVD-A, BluRay Audio) streaming at their highest resolution through an Apple TV or Fire Stick connected to my home theater setup. Amazon has Atmos AND Sony360 tracks in their library, but currently only accessible on their $200 Echo Studio speaker. Hoping they’ll let them run free on the fire stick 4K for us nerds. Beats chasing down some of these OOP discs on eBay. Hell, I’d buy the tracks through Amazon or Apple if they offered them.

Dave Conklin


Imagine if significant consumer segment decides they prefer it. Not predicting that, per se. It just might be a bet that pays off and eats incremental marketshare.

Aaron Ford


It sounds like you just described what happened with quadrophonic sound, and you could sub atmos for quadrophonic. People listen to music in stereo, more or less, unless they are sitting in the center of musicians with musicians behind them, but when does that ever happen in real life even in your buddy’s living room? it’s not a real or desired representation.

If apple’s whole catalog is gonna be 2-track atmos stuff, then it sounds like even a luddite will be like, this is whack whickety whack. The Beatles remasters were a revelation and they are smart enough to put the OG masters on the same release with maybe a little cleaner/wider sonic fidelity. And they were pioneers, even by today’s standard.

People listen to music on a lot of shitty equipment. if someone could figure out how to make it better we would get somewhere, but rather than convert music to atmos, why the hell can’t anyone figure out how to get 96khz flac into the bluetooth spectrum into your headphones? If the bluetooth technology really, truly can’t handle it, then why don’t they get away from that on our phones, the way the headphone jack disappeared, and use something where we can listen to 96k flacs on the devices people carry around with them every day? Even someone who isn’t paying attention on the subway would notice the difference.

Jeff Gorlechen


Hey Bob – you couldn’t be more wrong about how Dolby Atmos works if you tried.  Dolby has nothing to do with the final product.  There is no secret sauce.  The engineer bounces a final ADM file that is sent directly to streamers.  This includes the entire Atmos session.  The playback device then detects what kind of down mix is necessary, if any.  What you are hearing on your headphones is what is called a Binaural Mix (headphone mix).  If you listen on a system with more speakers then it adjusts accordingly.  As of now, it doesn’t replace stereo and I think most artists will have two versions of each song sitting on itunes and the playback device will respond accordingly.  As for not liking songs that have been re-done from the past, that’s fine.  Obviously mixing is a very creative and individual process.  You might like how one person does it and not another.  It isn’t the technology’s fault.  There is nothing that you can do in stereo that you can’t do in Atmos.  It’s just an engineers decision to put a vocal here or a guitar there.  Trying to show people with songs of the past is just a way of starting to show people and music makers what is possible.  As we go forward, albums will be made with Atmos in mind and the artists and producers of the world will grow and change.  It’s so new, the tools and plugins are still being invented and created for the most part.  Also, you can set it up for 20-25K and don’t think for a moment that people aren’t already spending that kind of money on their “bedroom” studios.  It is also quite common to create a stereo mix and then work with an engineer to create an Atmos mix.  Slow your roll on shitting on the future.

-jonny wexler


Man I’m gettin old, I generally hate modern music, it just sounds off and distant. I bought a new car recently and as I usually do I drive straight from the dealership to my favorite car audio shop in my town and spend six thousand dollars to rip out the crap that comes in a new car and replace it with the best components I can get at that time, not bass heavy trunk rattling gear by the way. Oh I have subs in the car to make sure I have the bottom end but the right components to give my music the most accurate sound stage I can. In other words to hear it how the artist intended me to. I am dismayed to hear what Apple is doing to the albums. Those of us that grew up listening to hi fidelity analog, in your face with heaviness music have to keep listening and fighting for the accuracy of our music, appreciate you always bringing this to the attention to all the ear bud folks.  They truly don’t know what they are missing. Keep up the good work.

Jay Headrick


As someone that’s slowly beginning to build my name as a mastering engineer I was intrigued when I heard about Apple introducing Spatial Audio. 2 months ago I read an article where Dolby talked about their excitement in introducing Spatial Audio to the general public via audio recordings.

I thought ok cool. I’ll have to learn how to do this so that I can offer it to clients. Then I started to read a bit more and the negatives began piling up.

For starters it can’t be transmitted through Bluetooth headphones/earbuds (which is what a large portion of people listen to music through). Typically you would need a wired connection and a pricier pair of headphones to truly appreciate the effect. That was bad enough but the deal breaker for me was that you had to send the file to Dolby in order for them to convert it into a Spatial Audio track.


I can’t think of one mastering engineer that’s going to be happy with changes to where things sit in the 3D field especially if they’re radically different from were they were placed to begin with.

The fact that you can only get it done through Dolby smells like an algorithm they’ve developed that scans the audio and then makes adjustments based on where things sit in the step field.

It’s a great idea but it’s never going to be perfect because you need the human element to say when that spacing does/doesn’t work and what elements near to be adjusted. I would imagine with the volume they’re expecting that just won’t be feasible but maybe I’m wrong.

Can you treat music like a movie? I don’t think so but I’m sure there’s a segment of the population (much like those that enjoy HD) that would enjoy it and splash out the cash for the hardware to listen to it on.

Time will tell but historically it’s never worked out well when the consumer has had to buy new equipment for what they consider a frivolous enhancement to the audio when they’re already happy with the way the audio sounds.

Keep on keeping on Bob.

Anik Townsend


Thank you so much. I had a dear friend, a brilliant guitarist, whose rallying cry, back in the early 70s, was, “Back to mono!” As an aficionado of the Beatles’ mono mixes, I still agree.

The KLF, in their brilliant book, “The Manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way),” instructed their disciples that the first order of business was to get “A record player (the crappier the better as long as it actually works). Mass appeal records can always transcend any apparatus they are played on; the expensive set up is only for judging coffee table records.”

Apple does not know anything about sound. They paid a billion dollars for “Beats” headphones, which completely and irredeemably sucked.

I trust you’ve read “Perfecting Sound Forever: An Aural History Recorded Music,” By Greg Milner. He does not like what digital recording has done to music, to put it mildly. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.

Back to mono!

Knox Bronson


I’ve been involved in music production — both live and recorded — since the 70’s. During the 80’s I managed one of the most successful remixers. As former musicians, one thing that we were always trying to do was to bring some of the live feeling into the final produced mixes.

When I listened to music well produced in discrete and other quad formats in the late 70’s I enjoyed being surrounded by the music. It was closer to listening to the artist or band from the first row at the Forum or the original Universal Amphitheater, or on the stage at the Greek Theater. Music was to be experienced.

After I read about Dolby Atmos music, I played it at home on my simple Sonos Arc system with subwoofer. I was blown away by Bruce Botnick’s Atmos mix of “Riders On the Storm”. I found that music was bigger, clearer and more powerful than the original mix…the music sounds more like the Doors sounded when I heard them play live. I like the idea of spacial audio…if it is done right. And Bruce was with the band in the studio then and knows what they intended.

I’m a 30+year member of the Recording Academy, and member of the Producers and Engineers Wing. From a creative and legal standpoint, I think that the artist or an original production team member (if alive) should be involved in the remixes. In my humble opinion, the original intent of the artist must be the driving force behind the surround remix or any remix.

Even though we sometimes — for good reason — did not allow a new artist (or band) to participate in the original mix, and the artist and sometimes even the producer was not involved in the “single” remix, we always kept true to the original vision of the artist. At times, if an artist was not initially happy with the mix, their opinion changed when the song went into heavy rotation on the radio and stayed there. They had the production team to thank for that.

But we have moved temporally well past the original hit single mix for a lot of these surround remixes. Now that it is likely that the original music can be ruined by a bad or thoughtless remix, it is important for artists to negotiate some control — or at least have some reasonable approval rights — over the future remixes of their original recordings…At least my clients will request it from now on.

David Chatfield


I am writing re spatial or immersive sound from the context of my involvement with this for the live event world.

I am sure we all recall standing watching a show with an instrument or voice blaring out of the left speaker while the performer is on the right. It provides a complete dislocation of the connection between sight and sound. Our stereo world is inherently flawed. Try standing in the middle of your stereo and listening to a voice coming from the centre. Now take a step to the left and see what happens. All of a sudden the voice is on the left.

For the live event world the ability to place musicians and their instruments into a sound field whereby every audience member is able to pin point each player , each singer relative to their seat in the house is a completely transformational sound experience. True democracy for the listeners at last.

I have worked in this industry all my life, studios, touring, clubs, the lot. I was  Head of Sound for the Sydney Opera House, then Technical Director, I have never experienced anything like what spatial mixing of a live show does for the quality of the audience experience and the artist connection. And I can say very proudly that the sound system simply disappears and all that you are left with is the music and a far deeper connection to the artist. Moving sounds around is a trick and it suits some art forms or artists better than others. But the maximum benefit comes from a distributed array across the stage in place of the usual left right hangs, together with some pretty incredible algorithmic magic that allows  the sound mixer  to “place “ sounds into a dimensional field. Its staggering when you hear it.

To date we have done major tours with artist such as Bjork and Kraftwerk both indoors and out, scaling this technology from 2,000 to 20,000 seats and a whole swag of arts, worship and club installs. Our Soundscape systems are pretty much standard on Broadway and the West End where this “immersive” story telling through sound is so critical. This is the next standard of how we will experience live event sound. Once you hear it, there’s no going back.

Here’s a link to a story of a new NYC club opening up with such a system.

New Music Venue ‘Unlike Any Other’ in the Country Coming Soon to Bushwick

I think i know what the future  Pink Floyds , Pepper era Beatles, Kanye’s or Kraftwerk kids will do with this in their studios. And then they will want to do it live. The audience is the winner, a new standard has arrived.

David Claringbold
Chief Marketing Officer
d&b audiotechnik


I’ve seen a huge uptick in Apple’s recent foray into high res music. I was converted years ago with Neil Young’s now extinct Pono. I’ve also been a fan of surround music since the DVD Audio days. But here’s how I see it – these will never be definitive and should never be considered as such. Many are revelations! Roxy Music Avalon, Pink Floyd Dark Side – incredible surround mixes. I find them an interesting listen as an immersive experience and as a way to hear various parts of the music often set back in the mix. But – perhaps set back in the mix on purpose. These are great options to have and if they get more people to participate in actually buying and listening to music, have at it. But I will not be jumping on the Apple bandwagon. There have already been many companies paving the way for high quality digital music.
And – I know no one who has a 5.1 setup never mind Atmos. Seriously? The majority of the listening public has a sound bar, Alexa or Sonos. These devices are for musical convenience not sound. Engineers spend hours of great intensity mastering these albums for the nuance of sound and most households are listening through a soup can with a string. No matter how much work they do to beef up the sound, they have no control over the inferior source equipment in most households. And they need a DAC I assume too?
Don’t get me started. I love my high res music. I buy it and I am a listener. The sad truth is, too many people will never invest the time and money required to squeeze all the potential out of studio masters in stereo – never mind Atmos. I could go on…

Glad to see this topic come up.
All hail better sound – but make it about the stereo master first!

Marc Mcdonald in Boston


When has a new format not been like this? Many of those stereo Beatles mixes that we’ve all lived with for decades were total throwaways, done by engineers without the band present. The mono mixes were the real, canonical, band-approved versions. The label wanted to have stereo to sell too so they let the engineers loose and we ended up with these insane mixes that have the band on one side and vocals on the other, etc.
What else could they do? There wasn’t a lot of true stereo info on the multitracks because the songs were produced for mono mix down.

It is definitely lame and unsatisfying (outside of a 30 second demo) to go back and remix mono or stereo songs from prior decades. But, the format is interesting and has merit. Creative people can and will produce awesome experiences from the ground up with intent to explore this extra space.

So I’m not sure I agree with extensive catalog remixing but I understand the challenge. How else do you launch a new format like this? Wait for creatives to discover it or try to jump start the ecosystem/interest by remixing catalog material?

My hope is that the correct, original un-atmosfied mono or stereo versions can be served to those who know what they want via in-app settings. Disk space is infinite and basically free so it shouldn’t be a burden.

Jeff Yurek


Was waiting to hear your thoughts on this. 🙂 I agree with your general conclusion, but Spatial Audio is optional …

Of more interest to me are the new lossless options. I can’t get Amazon HD where I live, so have been waiting on this for a long time. To test the difference between the regular 256kbps AAC and the new lossless formats with a $500 pair of headphones plugged directly into my iMac (admittedly not the best set-up). Paul Simon’s Spirit Voices, Simple Minds’ Sense of Discovery and AC/DCs Thunderstruck all sounded noticeably better, and they were already great! I’m no professional though, so will be interested to hear opinions from those who are.

Best regards,

Peter Jennings


If you have nice gear, what you’re really happy about is lossless. I haven’t set up anything that can do 24/192 yet, but I’m not that fussy and the 24/48 or even standard CD level tracks are an improvement over 256 AAC on a decent system; the more you listen, the more you hear that. Very simple solution to all this: turn off Atmos and turn on lossless for critical, as in non-Bluetooth listening with good headphones or audio systems.

That said, some of the Atmos tracks on an actual Atmos setup are a bit cool in a “let’s show off the system” sort of way. Some more tastefully mixed tracks even sounded “musical” for lack of a better term, but I’d never default to listening to these versions. That “What’s Going On” demo was sad and laughable for instance, and nothing I’ve listened to on AirPods Pro that fake the Atmos effect sounded decent at all; to my ears they were terrible and a clear step back. You need a full Atmos setup to really attain what little value there is out of the new format.

Even after all these years, most people mixing haven’t figured out how to mix in stereo well let alone Atmos. I don’t see this trend sticking, but at least we get lossless for the same price we were paying now. That’s the real win from this new Apple Music feature set.

Elliot Kleinfelder

P.S. The funniest thing about this to me, and it’s so Apple these days, is their brand new and still fairly overpriced Apple TV 4K box that came out about a month ago can’t take full advantage of the High-Res Lossless tracks. As referenced, the max output from it is 24/48, at least currently, though I don’t believe they made any mention of a software update to address that.

P.P.S. No place did the Atmos tracks sound worse than with stereo-paired original HomePods which are supposed to simulate the Atmos effect. I think they sound quite good for smart speakers in stereo, but they flat out made the music sound broken in Atmos. It was so bad I wondered if anyone from Apple even listened to it. Clearly some major bugs, but hey, that’s Apple these days.


Atmos was originally intended to add a height element to movie soundtracks. It requires either ceiling speakers or surround speakers with top-mounted, firing towards the ceiling speakers. Even for home theater I’ve had no interest in adding that. However, fine, for movies. The Atmos for music think is absolutely ridiculous. The “Atmos mixes” on Beatles albums consists of recording speakers placed around the Studio 2 room at Abbey Road playing back the music tracks. The resulting recordings were then mixed into the multichannel versions as the “height” and “space” element.

Tastefully used it produces a sense of “envelopment” but it’s one I can surely do without. A properly set up two channel system can actually do that beyond what most listeners who have haphazardly set up system can possibly imagine until they hear it.

These Atmos mixes are totally absurd and unnecessary IMO but as long as they are choosable options on a Blu-ray disc, no harm done.

Surround sound works great for classical music recorded in a concert hall. It can convincingly put you in the space, though at great expense just to get “ambience”.

Classical music represents a tiny fraction of recorded music sales and only a tiny fraction of listeners would ever consider adding either surround channels or Atmos speakers.

The rock and pop story is the height (pun intended) of absurdity. For the first few years—maybe a decade or more—of pop and rock and jazz “stereo” production, it was really 2 track mono with “stuff on the right channel and “stuff” on the left channel, which is why mono Beatles albums are mostly preferable to the panned left/right stereo “mixes” (that The Beatles didn’t really care about of participate in). In jazz when I talk about great Contemporary albums like “Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section” I like to point out that on that record Art Pepper never really “meets” the rhythm section! Art is on one channel and the rhythm section is isolated on the other. As with very early Beatle albums the intention was to have control over the vocal/instrumental mix to mono.

The “thrill” of hearing different “stuff” in each channel was so great circa 1958-late 60s that most listeners didn’t even realize they were hearing a disjointed, sonic mess. Now many do, which is one reason there’s been a renaissance in older mono recordings. Most of the Atlantic jazz recordings in “stereo” sound much better in mono.

Then came “surround sound” rock. It was back to isolated, disjointed mono but instead of two unrelated tracks we got FIVE of them with instruments and background singers pan-potted to the rear corner of your listening space. It’s so LAME!! Thank G–D there were competing formats that helped this crap to fail!

And now we have speakers arrayed around a room playing back music and having it recorded by a microphone in that room to create an “Atmos” mix. How pathetic.

I got to hear an Atmos mix of Miles Davis’s classic “Kind of Blue” original recorded to 3 tracks at Columbia’s legendary 30th street studios (former church). Since the church couldn’t be used for the speaker playback thing, they used Capitol’s big Hollywood room. The resulting mix did produce the illusion (of sorts) that you were listening to the legendary group from within the 30th street studio but of course if you knew what that actually sounded like, this mix probably sounds “off”. And again who needs it?

I don’t use Apple Music but what you’re saying is that two channel Atmos mix is now supplanting the original mix and there are no options? No thanks.

Apple and good sound have always been mutually exclusive.

It’s difficult enough convincing people to spend enough to hear two channels properly played back. Asking them to dilute their expenditure from 2 decent speakers to five crappy ones and five crappy amplifier channels is just an awful idea…unless you are Dolby Labs I guess. Good cables alone will cost you…oh, I know “cables can’t make a difference” but finally a research paper from the University of South Carolina (of all places) presents the evidence that cables do matter! PTL. It’s here: https://bit.ly/2TSM7Jw

Michael Fremer


Twitter link: https://bit.ly/3xg2iip

I share this document in the hopes that while you might not understand everything contained within, you might get the sense that UMG wants some form of discipline when mixing music – especially legacy tracks- into the ATMOS format to keep some sort of sanity and keep the artist happy.

There are so many places to check, double, and even triple check while mixing, that keeping it under control with all the technical aspects requires a fair amount of work and concentration. A single mix can take days.
The first ATMOS experiment I attempted to mix was Whole Lotta Love which consisted of only 7 mono tracks. Keeping the intent of the stereo mix is about all I could do except in the middle breakdown section. Since then I’ve had more interesting tunes to learn from. It’s not easy if you want to do it correctly. Takes short cuts and YOU WILL FAIL.

Nobody walks into this and gets it right the first second third or even the forth time. We saw this rush to remix catalogs +20 years ago into 5.1 formats for music releases on DVDs. The difference now is the delivery technology is entirely different for the consumer.

Then there’s the transfer from a fully immersive monitor setup in a control room, to a well implemented sound bar, or to headphones, with or without special considerations for each individual’s sense of spatial hearing.

You may not be aware of the research that has been going on for years to understand how each of us with different shaped ears and heads still manage to pretty much agree on direction of sound and envelopment. The biology behind it is fascinating.

Standard everyday headphone listening is an “in the head experience”. There is no externalization. For example when you put on your headphones and listen to music, the voice comes from the (top) middle of your head. Left and right are stuck on your ears.

Listening on speakers is entirely the opposite. So you can imagine what sort of dsp AND compensation for your individual physical attributes must be considered in order to properly render an accurate “externalized” listening experience over headphones and get the center channel to appear in front of you.

We are still a long way off from making it perfect, but research and technology will make it a whole lot better. It could be that mixing legacy tracks is a dead end, but tomorrow’s musicians won’t be encumbered or biased by good old stereo.
I’ll add listening to a well mixed video game that can utilize your own personalized Head Related Transfer Function filters on your computer is pretty compelling.

Dr Dave Griesinger – The godfather of digital reverb among other things, has given us in our office the opportunity to hear some stellar binaural classical recordings that fully externalizes the headphone experience without sacrificing tonality differences between different concert halls. But in order to make it work you must do a comparative listening setup first. It takes about 10 minutes. He also has an application that will properly render a binaural recording very nicely on close field speakers.

Short story here is there are so many ways to make new listening experiences possible and we are only scratching the surface.

Stay tuned…..


Will Eggleston


Extremely agree with you. However in our world of endless marketing and money grabbing what should we expect to be different?  Also proves that classic rock is still a source for money making.  Looking forward to you printing the many responses you are sure to receive on this topic. It’s going to be very interesting….

Roy Liemer


Ha boom who else touches plain truth like this?!  RS?  NYT?  LAT?!  Ah, different paradigm— go Lefsetz go

Joshua Hall

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