From audio streaming to physical music, Dolby Atmos has become the ultimate listening experience.
For many artists and fans, the immersive audio format from Dolby Labs has become an essential part of the modern music ecosystem, as well as podcasting. And now it is being more widely adopted with major artist releases set to reveal the huge potential of Dolby Atmos in the streaming era.
So what is Dolby Atmos?
The immersive audio format is a new way of working with sound that gives artists the control to make music that fulfils their vision. Dolby Atmos Music allows creators to place discrete audio elements or objects in a three-dimensional sound field, which is not possible in stereo. The format enables fans to listen to music in unparalleled clarity that matches an artist’s original vision in the studio.
For artists and producers, Atmos is quick and simple to learn. All the existing studio skills apply - you’re just adding new capabilities. Producing in Dolby Atmos is easy because it works with the same tools: Logic, ProTools, Nuendo, and more. It means that artists can future-proof their recordings. Recording in Dolby Atmos means artists and their team derive all required deliverables for legacy systems and the latest immersive technology from the Dolby Atmos master.
Legendary London recording studios such as Abbey Road, Eastcote and Dean Street have joined the surround sound revolution with state-of-the-art Dolby Atmos mixing facilities for producers and artists. High-profile artists such as Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson and Max Richter have realised the power of the immersive audio format for their own projects.
Since Dolby launched the audio format with REM’s Automatic For The People reissue as the first major release in 2017, Dolby Atmos has been embraced across the music industry.
As well as classic catalogue such as The Beatles’ Revolver in a new Atmos mix from producer Giles Martin, major releases in the format in recent months include Robbie Williams’ No.1 XXV, Easy Life’s Maybe In Another Life and Hot Chip’s Freakout Release. And with the current boom in dance music, fans can listen to the Apple Music catalogue in Dolby Atmos.
What has excited me about working with Atmos is this idea of being able to place sound in space
Dolby Atmos Music enables artists to capture their music and create a fully immersive mix that scales to provide the best listening experience possible for each type of device. Listeners hear the music exactly the way it was intended when the tracks were laid down in the studio.
In an interview with Dolby, legendary producer and artist Brian Eno explained his approach to recording his new album FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE with Atmos.
“I make records because I want to change people in some way,” he said. “I want to give them a set of feelings that they haven’t had in those combinations before.”
Speaking about the working process, Eno said: “What has excited me about working with Atmos is this idea of being able to place sound in space - in a proper space. When I started mixing this record for Atmos, I thought, ‘Well, I’m not a spectator looking at something in front of me, I’m a visitor in the middle of something.' So, I thought, I want this music to be all around.
"Sometimes on the album, I have very few things going on but they're in quite different places and that gives you a sense of a whole ocean of space in between. I never really had that sense with stereo. In terms of density, this suggests an era of both greater density and less density. It's like the range just changed. They actually have increased the options for minimalism."
In October 2022, electronic music legend Jean-Michel Jarre released his new album Oxymore in Dolby Atmos.
"I started by placing my sounds all around me and that's, of course, a total game-changer in the result," he told Dolby. "The first reaction of really producing this project was the feeling of opening doors on virgin territories.
"With Dolby Atmos technology you go back to a very natural way of listening to sounds. The beauty of 360 degrees is the fact that you can put [in] lots of sounds, more sounds, and they have enough space to exist."
He added: "Immersive technology is a key to create the music of the future. The main point of immersive sound actually is that it's going to generate new styles, new types of musicians, a whole new ecosystem in terms of sound engineers, in terms of producers and musicians. If we start by thinking immersion from day one, it's a whole new galaxy of possibilities for musicians."
Steven Wilson, recording artist, producer and immersive audio mixer, had his own studio designed for Atmos after he was “blown away” by hearing The Beatles’ Abbey Road in the new format for the 50th anniversary reissue.
As an immersive audio mixer, he told Music Week last year that artists can immediately see the possibilities.
“I was putting all sorts of things in the back speakers, like backing vocals,” he said. “I was being a bit gimmicky in the beginning. I’ve calmed that down and reined that in, I’ve understood the things that work and the things that stand up to repeated listening, rather than the things that just dazzle you but you don’t want to listen to again. So I’ve kind of learnt by my mistakes in that way.”
Atmos is becoming more widely adopted across the industry, including smart speakers, streaming platforms, smartphones and even cars. Mercedes-Benz is the latest automobile manufacturer to incorporate Atmos as part of its in-car audio experience, as part of a partnership with Universal Music Group and Apple Music.
Global streaming platforms including Tidal, Amazon Music and Apple Music have made Atmos an integral part of their offering in recent years at no extra cost to subscribers. Fans now expect to hear their favourite artists in the immersive audio format.
New and upcoming releases in Dolby Atmos from major artists include Pink’s Trustfall, Gloria by Sam Smith and Ava Max’s Diamonds & Dancefloors, as well as singles such as Voices by KSI (feat. Oliver Tree), Body Better by Maise Peters and Here by Tom Grennan.
As more musicians embrace Dolby Atmos to deliver their artistic vision, it opens up the technology to even more listeners who can connect with acts on a whole new level.
Ultimately, Dolby Atmos means no more compromises.
Click here to read our interview with Dire Straits’ Guy Fletcher on how Atmos is reinvigorating the band’s catalogue.
And click here for key insights from Steven Wilson and Atmos mixer Jan “Stan” Kybert, as well as executives from Dolby and Universal Music Group.