Initially displayed at CES 2020, Dolby Atmos for Music is recognized as the latest 3D audio format. It makes music more mesmerizing and lets the users feel that the sound originates from and all directions. Conventionally, music is played in a stereo format wherein sounds originate from either the right or left channel. Dolby Atmos Music can support a maximum of 34 individual speakers and 128 theoretical tracks. The corresponding experience is identical to the one that you obtain from Dolby Atmos systems in cinemas when listened through onboard speakers of your smartphones or via conventional headphones.
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We can expect that number to rise significantly shortly. Dolby recently teamed up with Universal Music Group (UMG) to release thousands of “new songs, current hits, and legendary tracks” in Dolby Atmos, spanning a wide range of artists and genres. Dolby hasn’t said precisely which tracks are being published in Atmos Music. Still, we can expect works from Bastille, The Beatles, Billie Eilish, Elton John, Lady Gaga, Luciano Pavarotti, Marvin Gaye, and The Weeknd.
As well as remixing enduring songs, new songs will be composed using Dolby Atmos. According to Dolby, these will span genres such as “hip-hop, pop, and rock through jazz and classical music.”
UMG’s studios are now kitted out with Dolby Atmos Music mixing tech, including Capitol Records Studios in Hollywood, Abbey Road Studios in London, and Nashville’s Berry Hill Studios. Which will help future tunes utilize the tech.
Dolby has posted a series of YouTube videos of producers talking about working with the technology. Above, you can see the one featuring Deadmau5. Others include Metrik, Kerri Chandler, Hospital Records, Solarstone, and Yousef.
The recently announced Amazon Music HD music streaming service plan will be a severe outlet to Dolby Music, expected to give subscribers access to a growing library of Atmos-mixed music.
The iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max all have Dolby Atmos. Other mobile devices include the OnePlus 7 Pro, Nokia 6, Samsung Galaxy S10, Sony Xperia 1, and Amazon Fire HDX 8.9.
To simply put, it’s a way of remixing songs using the Dolby Atmos technology.
Originally released in select theatres in 2012, the Dolby Atmos is an object-based surround sound tech that started in cinemas but has since made its way into home theatre systems worldwide. It differs from standard 5.1 and 7.1 channel set-ups by adding extra overhead channels (for example, speakers mounted in the ceiling). The result? A much more gripping sound, creating a dome of audio with the user at the center.
It’s much more precise than conventional surround sound. Thanks to the new calibration, sound designers can precisely place sounds at various points in the soundstage, rather than just pumping them through a select audio channel. It makes for a much more realistic and immersive home cinema experience.
And now it can do the same for music.
Digit Magazine interviewed Pankaj Kedia of Dolby, and here are some excerpts. You can access the full interview here. To gain more insights about this technology, they spoke to Mr. Pankaj Kedia, Managing Director, Emerging Markets, Dolby Laboratories. In that interview, we learn more about the latest technology, its technical facets, things users require to experience, etc.
Dolby Atmos for Music: Everything you need to know:
Digit – Firstly, can you explore what precisely Dolby Atmos for Music is? And what difference do users find in their listening experience due to it?
Mr. Pankaj Kedia – Dolby Atmos for Music is a new approach to producing music and a novel approach to experiencing it. To begin with, it exposes new details in the music which we haven’t listened to. It may be certain riffs, specific instruments, bass beats, or simply the singer respiring into the mic. Hence, there are some details which we have not listened to in songs; they will be exposed. Another thing is there is an outstanding amount of detail, clarity, and separation amongst the various elements of music.
From an experienced viewpoint, the listening experience is more affluent and employs a more powerful emotional connection. Furthermore, it plans to convey the fan or audience closer to the artist. The user attains a feel as if they are sitting in the studio in which the song was recorded. Consequently, it brings artists and fans closer. This is why it is an excellent approach to creating music as well as experiencing it. They can get a music listening experience on PCs, mobile devices, living rooms, in cars, etc.
Digit – Can you also explore a few of the technical facets of how Dolby Atmos for Music works?
Mr. Pankaj Kedia – We will discuss the creation and experience of music. When it comes to the creation viewpoint, Dolby Atmos for Music offers new tools and methods to people who create music. These people can be artists, producers, or mixing engineers. With the help of these new techniques and tools, it eliminates plenty of limitations obstructing creating music.
Currently, the music exists in stereo, which is essentially two channels of sound. When it comes to what you can do with that, there are plenty of considerable limitations. For instance, you wish the vocals to be heard, and therefore, you cannot make instruments stand out since the vocals would get obscured. Hence, there is plenty of imperfections. In Dolby Atmos for Music, they create music in a fully 3D sphere. Essentially, it is a room in which they generate music. Subsequently, they can place sounds and instruments as individual objects surrounding the listener and move them around accurately. Therefore, not just the placement but even the movement is accurate. This implies that few additional speakers are required for people who create music if they are working on it in a studio. However, if they are doing that on headphones, they can mix it on headphones. Therefore, there are diverse ways of generating music.
Now discussing the experience, from a consumer viewpoint, one of the most typical use cases of music listening is with a mobile device through headphones. After that comes the listening experience through PCs and living rooms. Dolby Atmos Music functions with any smartphone compatible with Atmos and any headphones pair from a mobile viewpoint. Hence, it is not dependent on headphones. It would work on any wired or Bluetooth headphones, provided that the mobile device you use is Atmos-enabled.
Currently, leading manufacturers exist who include Atmos capabilities on their smartphones. Samsung has widely deployed Atmos capabilities on many of its smartphones. Moreover, manufacturers like OnePlus, Oppo, Xiaomi, and Huawei also included Dolby Atmos capabilities. In India, we can observe a considerable number of devices accessible. The fascinating aspect of mobile phones is that we like to upgrade them very often. Hence, if your current smartphone does not support Dolby Atmos capabilities, then your next phone must have it. Therefore, ascertain that you search for a smartphone with Dolby Atmos capabilities. If a song is made in Atmos and accessible on a streaming service through Atmos, you can play it back on an Atmos mobile using either a pair of headphones or onboard speakers.
You will experience not only the sound originating from two-point sources but all directions around. You will dive deep into the music like a song bath taking place surrounding you. When viewed from a technical viewpoint, it broadens what we term the soundstage. Hence, it is a relatively larger soundstage you are listening to. You identify the direction from where the sound approaches as if you were present in the center and the band plays around you. The most recurrent feedback we listen to is the novel approach to the music listening experience. Also, you can not at all go back to stereo. We anticipate that Atmos would be the new approach to producing and experiencing music. It will be trendy in the future.
Digit – Dolby Atmos Music was displayed at CES 2020; ever since, what are a few of the enhancements being made to the technology?
Mr. Pankaj Kedia – Dolby company focuses on innovation, continuously innovating and enhancing things over time. In 2020, we displayed Atmos Music, and several services are already delivering it in the US, like Amazon Music and Tidal. Presently, with the launch of Apple Music, Atmos Music has now become more widespread. It is accessible throughout the world and has become more approachable. The corresponding improvements are taken place on multiple fronts.
From the creation perspective, there have been noteworthy enhancements in the tools. In Dolby, every time we develop any technology, we always place the content creator in the center of it. Technology is created with the content creator as the central focus. Therefore, we have connected with new content creators and artists. Based on the feedback we received from them, we have continuously enhanced the technology regarding creation. Lockdown imposed due to pandemic resulted in inaccessibility of plenty of studios. Hence, people mixed music at home, which resulted in plenty of mixes generated on headphones because the homes are not equipped with many speakers. Ultimately, it implies enhancements on the headphone mixing side related to better understanding how to mix the songs with headphones.
Not just the creative side but the playback side was also employed with improvements. Software and technology used in the devices for the playback are also constantly evolved. A renderer and a virtualizer take an Atmos song and subsequently deliver this experience around the head. Furthermore, there are enhancements on this side to ascertain a more precise translation from creation to playback. Therefore, what you heat is precisely how the creator has developed it.
Digit – What are a few devices and tools that a user will require to experience Dolby Atmos Music?
Mr. Pankaj Kedia – There are principally 4 listening use cases we can consider from a music viewpoint. The first one is the mobile experience that can be conveyed from onboard speakers or headphones. Fascinatingly, we have observed plenty of data that depicts that listening from onboard speakers is quite common than what one will envisage. Certain services mentioned that up to 50% of the listening is done via onboard speakers. That’s why it is a critical use case. When it comes to a second use case, i.e., mobile, you require an Atmos-compatible mobile phone, which is quite simple to find. The majority of the manufacturers have a broad assortment of devices that are equipped with Atmos capabilities. The devices don’t need to be costly.
An adequate number of devices (with Atmos capabilities) are available on the market with prices starting from INR10,000 onwards. Hence, they are easily accessible. With those devices, you can use any pair of headphones; there is no headphone dependency. However, each headphone works uniquely because they come with their typical frequency response and unique tonal profile. But to attain an immersive experience, you can try any pair of headphones.
If you are using a phone with Atmos compatibility, it will play Atmos Music directly from the speaker. It is possible to hold the phone right in front of you, and it would make you feel as if the sound is emerging from behind you and from all directions keeping you in the center. Since onboard speakers are compactly designed, what we can obtain with these speakers is pretty breathtaking.
Secondly, when it comes to PC experience, you require a Dolby Atmos compatible device. It is possible to listen to it through headphones or on onboard speakers. For instance, Lenovo presents plenty of models supporting Dolby Atmos. Thirdly, when it comes to living experience, you can watch it from a smart TV or set-top box connected to it in the living room. Currently, all the streaming apps come with living room apps too. For example, if Apple Music is on your Apple TV and an Atmos soundbar is connected to it, you can obtain a rich listening experience in a living room.
The fourth use case is the one we are working on; it is new for us, i.e., the automobile side. In this domain, lavish music listening takes place. It is a fascinating area on which are working to convey the Atmos experience to different automobiles. When people see our demos, they cannot believe how decent and unique it sounds.
From the mainstream viewpoint, this is a mobile phone use case. For that, you require a phone equipped with Atmos capabilities. Also, you need a streaming service like Apple Music which can stream Atmos content.
Digit – Are any other streaming services currently available on mobile which can stream Dolby Atmos content?
Mr. Pankaj Kedia – Internationally, there are few such services, and the list is expanding. Therefore, you will observe plenty of streaming services emerging in the future which can flawlessly stream Atmos content.
Digit – Discussing Apple, the company lately proclaimed spatial audio on Apple Music with Dolby Atmos for Music. Can you enlighten us more on this partnership and things users can anticipate?
Mr. Pankaj Kedia – The Apple partnership is a unique partnership for us. We have already worked closely with Apple for a long time. Apple has implemented our technology on the audio side with Atmos and on the video side with Dolby Vision. The brand has utilized our technology for an extended period on all of its gadgets. In respect to this declaration, Apple Music is one of the topmost global music streaming services. They made a huge move in regards to reevaluating the music listening experience for their customers. For a long time, the music experience has stayed untouched in a unique way.
During the era of CDs, MP3 collapsed since we got low-quality music, and most of our recordings were lost. Along with this, piracy issues also arose. It is currently coming back wherein streaming services are presenting high-quality content. Apple offers an immersive listening experience through spatial audio driven by Dolby Atmos Music. Hence, all of the spatial audio experience concerning Apple Music is the Dolby Atmos experience. Moreover, those labels and artists who have created their music in Dolby Atmos would playback as a spatial music experience on Apple.
Digit – What things would people be experiencing from Dolby Atmos Music in India? Will there be more services and platforms? What can the Indian audience anticipate?
Mr. Pankaj Kedia – From the Indian viewpoint, Apple Music is now available, and we also have access to other services. In the future, we might have more services. From the Indian perspective, the thing most significant for our team is letting. All the artists use atmos in different languages. Irrespective of the language, we intend to ascertain that artists gain access to music creation in Atmos. Moreover, we intend to make platforms available on which they can publish their music through Atmos capabilities. Here, our focus is on extending the content availability.
Earlier, we have launched plenty of Atmos titles with renowned artists like A. R. Rahman, Divine, Amit Trivedi, and Badshah. Every day and every week, new tracks are created. Therefore, our focus is to extend it and extend it on all languages in India. Though music is global, it is local as well. Consequently, we wish to ascertain that whatever music you hear, you must have an option to listen to it in Atmos.
Digit – What are the steps to create music in Dolby Atmos if you’re an artist?
Mr. Pankaj Kedia – Fundamentally, it is a procedure during the mixing of the song. Many steps are involved in creating a song. These stages can be conceptualizing, programming, and several other steps. From an Atmos viewpoint, while mixing the music and placing all the elements collectively, Atmos comes into play. Remember to ascertain that it is created in Atmos and combined with Atmos techniques and tools. We observed this in OTT and cinema, too, wherein creating music in Dolby Atmos is a post-production process.
Over time, artists begin comprehending this tool more intensely. They begin getting more acquainted, and it gradually explores more opportunities for them. Therefore, when they create their next song, they will realize that they can bring out something new which was never done before. The same will contribute to complete creative experimentation. We design such wonderful tools for content creators. Subsequently, we are astonished by the way they are being used. Artists use the tool and develop wonderful things based on it. We have already perceived that in the case of television, movies, and presently in music. Now we are curious to see what users will create with this.
Digit – Let’s conclude with any plans from Dolby Atmos and what users can anticipate?
Mr. Pankaj Kedia – We are just beginning in music. Apart from entertainment, the music genres span education, well-being, and other areas. Right now, we are just at the beginning, and we have just discussed some listening cases. Those cases can increase with time. Moreover, we are carrying out excessive exciting work on the audio & visual side with OTT and television. We felt the Atmos experience in the living room and cinema. Still, we are observing plenty of work in conveying the Atmos experience to the AV content on mobile devices. Our DNA is focused on innovation, so we are sitting still, and we are continuously innovating. Therefore, users will observe plenty of fascinating things delivered from us in the future.