More Atmos

Subject: Why you get pushback from some people about Atmos

Hey Bob,

Consumers listen to music, which includes sound. Engineers listen to sound. which includes music.

People whose priority is music don’t really care about the delivery system.

Craig Anderton


I stood down on this one though I’m with you and awaited the responses. Ezrin is where I’m at..

Michael Fremer


Ezrin nailed it.
Joe Solo


It’s about the money, not the sound!

I’m sure you know this. The best way to sell new devices is to add features that the old ones don’t have. Apple knows this, headphone manufacturers know this, studios know this, engineers know this, Harman knows this, record labels know this. They all profit from new technology purchases. Please buy new things, download new files, compare, opine, and prove how good your ears are.

Everyone in the audio business thanks you.

I agree with Bob Ezrin on almost every point, but I also believe spatial audio has it’s place in the experiential marketplace. As a fan of mono I haven’t invested the time to critically listen yet, but I expect that tracks created with the new format in mind are going to sound a whole lot better than old analog masters phased out of their minds.

Thanks for keeping the dialog relevant.

Victor Levine


Wow. Bob Ezrin has turned into the old guy who doesn’t like change. But two ears? Really? Yes there is a lot of crap out there calling itself immersive. But when it is done right, from people like Bob Clearmountain or Steven Wilson or Alan Parsons or Elliot Scheiner, it can be thrilling. It’s like hating music videos because the visual is a distraction from the music. Maybe it is sometimes. And sometimes, 1+1=3.

Bruce Greenberg


I listened to a couple sample Apple spatial remixes of Sgt. Peppers when they were released. It was THE worst thing I’ve ever heard. An abomination and crime against The Beatles. And us. What do you expect from a company that paid a billion dollars for Beats (they sound like doo-doo)?

Knox Bronson


Ezrin nailed it. The rest is just a big wank.

Hugo Burnham


This is not necessarily about Atmos specifically, but it’s related. I still have my wired EarPods from my iPhone 6, and they work great. I tried the wireless ones and they simply died within a year. Then I tried the enhanced ones with the spatial audio and it drove me nuts. The sound adjustments that were being made completely messed with the original mix and with my perception of the music. The mid range sounds nearly took my head off, but all of the lows and nice clean high end sounds completely got obliterated. The texture of the music was gone in favor of this boomy fake surroundsound that was hitting my skull.

Music is dynamic. Over compressing mixes, infusing technology that alters the sound in between the creator and the listener, completely distorts the human experience of enjoying the music in context, and from a personal point of view.

Music has a flow. Ups and downs. Energy and digression. Intensity and serenity. We have reached a point where sonic loudness and everything pushed to the hilt is absolutely destroying the ability of a listener to hear what was the originally created.

Sucks. That’s why I went back to vinyl. I still stream and I use my nine year old EarPods when I’m out walking, but I want to hear the music the way it was created, not interpreted by a bunch of nerds in a sealed pristine environment.

Jimmy Becker


Hello Bob.  I want to throw up.  Audio masturbation is the category for Atmos.  That’s what I need, media vampires telling me what I like to hear.  Yeh, right.  rwhake


Hi Bob, I’ve had good experience with ATMOS. I put together a room last year and it’s been enjoyable to listen to and mix in ATMOS. I have Dante Virtual Soundcard in my laptop and I’m able to play discrete ATMOS mixes from Apple Music directly into my system. If it’s on Apple in ATMOS I’m able to listen to it. I do think the binaural mode is a little underwhelming but listening on speakers is quite an enjoyable experience. Perhaps you’d like to come by the studio  on Olympic and check out some tracks? I’d be happy to host you and give you a tour.

Have a Great Day! Peter A Barker


I agree with Brian Malouf. He has been on both sides (label and production).

Gen Zs and beyond, brought up in the gaming world, hear music differently than most do.  Their tastes and expectations are different.

The most impressive immersive sound i’ve experienced (and there are many in LA, including Sony’s at Paramount, Atmos configurations at Spotify and at the Mix Lab studios) is Björk’s multifaceted retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art –an immersive audio and video installation entitled ‘Black Lake’.  To duplicate that, including its 44 speakers, in our homes is pretty far-fetched now or in the near future!

I also respect highly credited mixers like Niko Bolas, Greg Penny, Matt Wallace and Sylvia Massey who are keeping an open mind and ear working in this arena.

Every generation has a sound revolution, not always for the better, but it’s a revolution and with new technologies on the horizon,  it’s best to listen. And heck, if it’s helping move music and people, that’s icing on the cake!

Claris Sayadian-Dodge


Just yesterday I got to listen to spatial audio in a custom listening room, with tracks by a variety of both legacy artists (Elton John, Marvin Gaye) and new acts (Billie Eilish, A Star is Born soundtrack). As a musician and producer I think ambisonics, when done well, are wonderful and make the listening experience much more interactive and dynamic and the creative process interesting. I also must point out the technical fallacy in the comment above, that simply because audio formats were previously designed in a stereo R/L manner, that stereo is “natural.” Stereo sound is a massive reduction of the entirety of sound that we can hear in any environment we’re in. You can hear things behind you, which is why you turn your head to look, for example. Just as mono was the dominant format until stereo became more available and engineers got familiar with it, spatial will eventually become standard. It’s going to get to the point where people can’t believe we ever limited ourselves to only a right/left pan environment. Having ears on the right and left side of our head doesn’t mean we can only hear to those two directions. Our ears are powerful instruments and one of the features of spatial is that the technology can scan your head size and position and detect movement and continually adjust to deliver the sound in the best possible way for ultimate listening clarity. It’s a really cool technology!

Kela Parker


Typical of the music business “ if man were meant fly he would have had wings.” There are some great stereo mixes and some real crap the only thing that saves a crap mix is a great song. Joe public doesn’t really care about the mix. Same with ATMOS some amazing mixes some not so good. Like anything. It’s another option I guess that’s terrible? The stereo does not go away. If you don’t like ATMOS listen in stereo. For those who have not heard a good ATMOS mix you need to get out more. What’s funny is back in the day everyone complained about MP3’s compared to PCM. Same thing, this is  another option on headphones, sound bars, huge home systems and cars, Your choice. As soon as an after market car system is available for my restored Pinto I’m getting one.

Dave May


If you own a MacBook Pro and are NOT wearing headphones, here’s a test:

1) Open Apple Music, go to Settings > Playback and make sure Dolby Atmos box is either “Automatic” or “Always On”.

2) Search for the song, “Something Just Like This” by Chainsmokers and Coldplay and cue up the first result (upper left).  Don’t play it yet though.

3) Open YouTube and go here:

4) On YouTube, wait for the ad to go by and then listen to the first minute of the song.

5) Now switch to Apple Music and listen to the Atmos version.

Which do you prefer?

For me, the Atmos mix has the vocal quite buried, especially in the crucial first 30 seconds, so the song doesn’t connect with me emotionally as much as the normal YouTube stereo mix.

NOW, I don’t know if the problem is 1) the Atmos process itself (blame the technology), 2) simply a bad Atmos mix (blame the engineer) or 3) if the label had an intern run the original mix through some sort of Atmos plug-in (blame the label).

Doing the same comparison on headphones, at least the Atmos vocals seem louder than they did over my MacBook Pro speakers.

However, this is only MY opinion.  Does the general listening audience care?  And/or, are we heading towards a TikTok world where people don’t even care to hear an entire song but rather just a snippet?  Maybe Atmos will become the new normal and either the technology and/or engineers and/or labels will improve as time goes by.

I tend to believe that Atmos as it relates to music is largely hardware manufacturers wanting to sell more equipment and record labels wanting to create some excitement especially for catalogue product.  I mean, I venture to say that hearing that song over my MBP speakers in Atmos kind of sounds like ass.  Is this the future of Atmos over stereo speakers?

I do love the sound of multichannel in a room with a proper speaker setup, but I’m not at all convinced that younger people will *ever* be installing lots of speakers in their homes.  The world has never adopted multi-channel sound in its many earlier attempts.  Besides, my wife won’t let me put more than two speakers in our Palm Springs condo AND I’M IN THE FUCKING BUSINESS.

And probably most of us on this thread are music/audio people by trade and probably grew up in an era where, because music was all we had pretty much, we really cared about the quality of the sound.  I don’t see that in the TikTok – or even Spotify – generations whose lives are more focused on social media in general, and especially Insta and TikTok which are visually oriented.

John Van Nest




For what it’s worth….


I’ve been through this multichannel stuff for 20+ years, mostly on the research and playback assessment side, and not entirely on the creative side.


Perceptually we are all gifted with ability to perceive sounds pretty much the same way. I’m not talking just from a frequency perspective but also from level and direction.


As I like to point out in my seminars, our ears are like warning devices. They often help to verify what we can’t see. If there is danger above and behind, we should all get the same idea where it’s coming from, either static or moving – speed included. If we are interested in a sound, we can focus on location and further evaluate its importance.


But given all heads, torsos and ear shapes are different, how is this all done so accurately and with such similarities? Well, for those without a belief in divine evolution, we depend on research. And there is a lot of research dedicated to this. Modern day Head Related Transfer Function filtering – HRTF, is a big piece of the puzzle, but not the complete puzzle.


I agree as one of your writers wrote we are often steered to look for the sound source, especially if it is not expected. But if you are in a concert hall, one can close their eyes and just appreciate the music and acoustics. In this type of environment sounds are highly externalized. Envelopment is enhanced by subtle differences in timing arrivals in low frequencies being slightly or greatly out of phase. This is a delicate topic, and I’ll leave it at that.


Headphone reproduction is quite the opposite where most everything is internalized. Attempting to externalize the listening experience is difficult but having a good HRTF filter and a way to use it is a step in the right direction. Ear canal resonances, researched extensively by Dr. Dave Griesinger, can help equalize the headphone system to be more linear and make better use of the HRTF for binaural reproduction. Head tracking is another dimension that complicates the headphone recipe.


If you consider for the moment that attempting to shrink the natural world around your head into a pair of headphones, you’d think it was an impossible idea. We can play tricks for starters, (and have been for years) but the real test of where this is headed is the goal of making something that is supposed to be rendered in front of you, whilst listening over headphones actually sound is if it’s in front of you, not over, on top of your head.  We are still a bit away from that, but once it’s achieved, trust me, all the other pieces will fall into place.


As for the streaming business, the distribution as vastly easier for immersive platforms, rather than the old 5.1 platform which only could be played back over speakers and a CD/DVD.  I think the record companies are within their right to explore other options for playback.  If you don’t like it, listen to the stereo track.


Virtualization is just that….virtual.  A properly calibrated monitor system is the valued starting point on the creative side, but any mixer will tell you, you must rely on the headphone rendering to check what is happening at the consumer level.  Headphones will always be the final arbiter. Which headphones…? I have no idea. None of them have been accurately linearized for my ears or yours.  Sony has an interesting approach to putting the mixer close to their Renderer.  They will come to your mix room and measure your ear response to the immersive monitor setup in your room.  They will then also measure your ear response with their headphones on. They then cross correlate the two in order to provide the mixer with as good a starting point as possible when you switch between your monitor system and the headphone.  Sony consumers are instructed to take pictures of their heads and ears to which Sony then models and selects a somewhat “personalized” HRTF that lives on your phone while listening to Sony 360RA releases.


While in LA last week, I happened to pass by the Lucid dealership at the Westfield Mall in Century City. I stepped into the car, rolled up the windows and listened to a Dolby ATMOS playback – the first I’ve ever witnessed. I can tell you it’s hit or miss with a lot of mixing results.  But the cut I cued up was “Let’s Talk About It” by Queen Naija, and the playback experience was actually really good. But this is just another flame in the fire. (on the flip side the stereo playback of Huey Lewis’ “Power of Love” sounded no better than a decent car stereo.)


It’s a new world with regards to playback technology Bob.  You and I may not live long enough to witness front facing sounds to appear to be in front of you over headphones, but someday it will and along the way there will be other iterations of immersive audio to either admire or curse.




Will Eggleston

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