Apple Joining the Atmos streaming game!

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wilberforce55

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Respected Music Blogger just posted this to his subscribers

I got the following e-mail from a producer/engineer:

"I just want to try and alert you to the potential seismic scam happening with this Atmos roll out. Atmos catalog remixing is being done by the truckload in a handful of Nashville, LA, and NYC rooms right now and has been for a couple of years, and almost none of it is being overseen or approved by the artist or original producer or mixer. And these versions- according to Apple- will be the new standard versions, superseding the original versions, now designated by Apple to the dustbin of history.

I have heard some Atmos mixes which were indeed an improvement. However, most are not. And I would like to steer you toward this demo from Apple to get a sense of their mindset

Introducing Spatial Audio

In the rush to make content for Apple, labels are jamming this crap out with little QC and -again- almost no input from artists. This format has real potential but if they continue to try and tell us that shit like this 'new' version of 'What’s Going On' is better than then original, then it will be seen as a counterfeit and a fraud, and will go the way of the Home Pod. I know how you feel about catalog being remixed and this has potential to be a worst case scenario."

And then my inbox filled up with more, and iMessage started to ring from other professional engineers.

Now wait a second, this was supposed to be a breakthrough. But is it more of a marketing gimmick? A way for Apple to gain subscribers?

So I pulled it up.

You can hear it, it definitely sounds different, but is that a good thing?

And here's where I venture out beyond the limits of my knowledge, to what these people are telling me.

There are over a hundred reference points in Dolby Atmos. As in this is far beyond conventional 5.1. Think of a movie theatre, where the sound moves around, now you get the idea.

But that's movies. We're talking about music, sans pictures.

Now the truth is almost all music today is ultimately released in stereo. You record it, someone mixes the multiple tracks down to two, and then a mastering engineer EQ's it. The artist supervises the entire process. But when it comes to Atmos...

Let's say you have the equipment and ability to make an Atmos mix. My understanding is right now, you send the end product to Dolby and they use their special sauce to create the final product. Furthermore, they have special sauce to turn the same Atmosfied music into two track stereo. So, in a business where how it sounds is critical, Dolby is the ultimate arbiter.

The writer at the top is right. It is sacrilegious to remix/Atmosfy classic tracks. They weren't cut that way to begin with. It even bugs me that they're using remixed tracks from "Abbey Road" to Atmosfy, now you're multiple steps from the original.

Now if we look at the history here...

The big breakthrough came in the mid-sixties, when there were two formats, mono and stereo. At first albums came in both iterations, then stereo only. And the goal was to buy the best home stereo you could afford, so you could hear the end product the way it was made, so you could get closer to the music.

Then they introduced quad. There were two competing formats, they both failed.

And then, this century, there was surround sound, a lot of money was dropped and consumer adoption was extremely low. Once again, the albums were being bastardized, this is not how the band and producer and engineers envisioned the sound to be, this was an afterthought. And it also required a special system to hear, which most people didn't own, the script had flipped, from buying ever better, more expensive stereos to boom boxes and then headphones. And right now the standard is AirPods/earbuds, which ironically don't even work with Apple's Spatial Sound/Dolby Atmos. But if you have a wired connection...

I fired up Apple Music last night on my iPad. There's Zane Lowe's dog and pony show linked to above, but there's also 127 demo tracks, as in Apple is trotting these out to demonstrate the greatness of Spatial Audio. I pulled up ones I was familiar with.

Now I was listening on wired Sennheiser headphones, which retail for about $300, far better than what most punters are listening on, never mind the bass-heavy, distorting of the music Beats, talk about a marketing job.

And the tracks were, as I said, definitely different. Not radically different, but there was more space...

But then I started getting reviews e-mailed to me.

And just now I went back. Now I'm listening via my computer, with $700 Audeze headphones with a separate headphone amp. And what I've learned is...the Spatial Audio and stereo versions are not only different, the process affects the punch, the essence of the originals!

I compared Spatial Audio tracks to their HD equivalents on Amazon Music and I found exactly what one writer said: the vocal gets lost. Instead of being up front and in your face, it's buried more in the mix.

Let's start with Apple's demo track, "What's Going On." In the stereo mix Marvin Gaye is up front, the band is backing him, in the Spatial Audio version, the band is surrounding him, on the fringe, background vocals popping up way up to the right, Marvin is just an element, not the essence, it's a cornucopia of music, but it's not the legendary track, it's absolutely different, a sacrilege.

Same deal with the Doors' "Riders On the Storm." Pat Benatar's "We Belong."

Let's talk Bon Jovi's legendary "Wanted Dead or Alive." Listen to the stereo version and it's like there's a band on stage, the members are not all standing in the same place, but they're definitely on stage, in front of you, you've got a cohesive sound. Now on the Spatial Audio take... It's like you're in the arena and sounds are not only coming from the stage, but off to the right and left of it, from other places in the arena. It's an immersive experience akin to a...movie. But is music a movie? I don't think so. And in this movie, the instruments dominate, Jon Bon Jovi is fighting for attention, and he's losing the battle.

Wait, it gets worse. Forget the big budget records, more and more music is being made by individuals in bedrooms, home studios, on a budget. They have neither the equipment nor the skill to mix in Dolby Atmos. As for just sending the file to Dolby to be processed...that's like finishing a painting and having an amateur come in and completely change it, make it 3-D.

Actually, the more I listen to these Spatial Audio cuts, the more offensive they become. Kind of like those Beatles remixes. These are not the original records, they've been messed with, they're not even facsimiles, they're bastardizations.

Now the truth is this is a headphone genre. Which at the moment doesn't support Bluetooth, which is how most people listen to music on headphones today. So they can't hear the space, but somehow they're going to listen to two channel Atmosfied mix-downs. Oh, there could be two takes, like with mono and stereo in the sixties, but that's far too confusing, we need one standard, the marketplace needs one standard.

So, maybe there's a future for Spatial Audio...if it's mixed that way to begin with. But as demonstrated now, it's a hell-bent drive in the wrong direction.




Interesting. I tend to agree with him. I always come back to the originals, not the re-mixes
 

HomerJAU

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Respected Music Blogger just posted this to his subscribers

I got the following e-mail from a producer/engineer:
A lot of these comments we’ve heard before:

How can surround be better than stereo? The original stereo is how it should sound, why is the music not in the front only. Blah, blah.
 

jonfo

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The writer at the top is right. It is sacrilegious to remix/Atmosfy classic tracks. They weren't cut that way to begin with. It even bugs me that they're using remixed tracks from "Abbey Road" to Atmosfy, now you're multiple steps from the original.
Wow, missing a lot of facts here. The Atmos variant of Abbey Road was painstakingly remixed by Giles Martin (son of the original producer) from the original source 8-track tapes into this immersive format. See: ‘Abbey Road Is Music in Surround Done Right
I've been listening to this music since it first came out, and I assure you, this Atmos variant is the absolute best version of it ever.

Steven Wilson has been remixing the classic Progressive Rock canon into multichannel for the past decade, and those are the best variants of those albums as well (all original artist approved).

What I fear is that some studios will just grab a 2ch master, run it through an upmixer and call it a day. But if they actually remix to immersive from source multi-tracks, then that is a valid Atmos track. Some producers will knock out of the park, as Gile Martin did, and others will make a mess out of it. But that is a knock on studios that get sloppy, not on the value of the format or companies that make playback solutions.
 

IMachine

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Fact is there are good and bad Atmos mixes around. Yello is reference along with the Kraftwerk mixes for me. All I Wanna Do is also very good.
But I agree….songs like Wanted Dead Or Alive or Silent Licidity were not done with passion. But it is like surround mixes were done. Some are good - some are nothing special or even worse than their stereo counterparts.
 

beerking

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One new Apple 🍎fan boy here.
Been avoiding anything Apple apart from a touch IPod.
No specific reason just comfortable with Windows I guess.

This presentation by Apple knocks Tidal for 6.

Had a little glitch where I couldn't sign in, just kept in a loop.
Got help from Apple support to solve it.
Turns out the Wi Fi had a better connection than the ethernet one!! Who would have thought.. :unsure:

All good now, have been sampling what's on offer, including the glorious Yello album.

It has everything I need. No volume issues, great tunes, all in Dolby Atmos.

As IMachine said some great mixes , some not so.
But in the main, this is light years away from where we were with Tidal, a year ago.

For us in the UK , I bought my 4K box from John Lewis, as it comes with a 2yr warranty.

By the way, Yello's Point is definitely a Dolby Atmos reference mix.

The future is bright the future is Spatial Audio!! :cool::SB:rocks
 

bracelis

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Since Apple is really marketing this in terms of using the psychoacoustic renderer to render Atmos/multichannel audio sources to orientation-sensing headphones, there's very little -explicit- discussion of the technically simpler rendering to a static multichannel speaker array. However, as JediJoker has reasonably inferred, if multichannel Atmos content is going to be rendered on the Mac into "Spatial Audio" (multichannel presented as variable two-channel based on orientation) by the psychoacoustic renderer, it's not far-fetched at all to imagine Apple will be enabling the path for multichannel Atmos to a static multichannel speaker array.

Consider:
  1. The Mac has long had the ability to be configured for 5.1/6.1/7.1 via an external interface with multiple outputs, like my Focusrite 18i20 gen 3.
  2. The AV and Core Audio frameworks allow apps easy access to those speaker arrays.
  3. CoreAudio already has kAudioChannelLayoutTag_Atmos_n_n_n tags for a variety of channel layouts.
  4. The Music app and even Finder Quick Look already properly render various multichannel audio files to multichannel speaker arrays on the Mac.
  5. Apple has clearly licensed at least some aspects and uses of Atmos technology and branding from Dolby.
  6. Apple's "TV" app on the Mac plays movie and television audio in proper surround via Mac multichannel outputs.
  7. Dolby has had an Atmos Renderer for the Mac for years.
  8. The hi-res lossless features just released -require- the use of an external audio interface / DAC.
  9. Apple is updating Logic, used heavily with external audio interfaces, for "Spatial Audio" soon.
  10. Apple has made clear that some of the new Spatial Audio features have just been launched and some the Spatial Audio features will require the next suite of OS updates this fall.
The pieces are all there or coming in a few months. I'll be very surprised if Atmos does not start playing as true multichannel audio on a Mac configured with an external audio interface in surround configuration when the next major OS updates are released.

If someone has downloaded the beta frameworks, I suspect there'll be evidence there.
Thanks for the detailed info.
I think one point that should be mentioned is that Apple is in the business of selling Apple products, so it's no surprise that everything mentioned ( i.e. advertised ) on this web page on how to listen to Atmos involves an Apple product:
Including the only one that we're interested in today -- listening to multi-channel speakers ( using an Apple TV ).
If Apple were to decide if they will allow playback of Atmos using Macs to external speakers -- it will be based on marketing/sales ($$) short-term and long-term. The decision will not be based on what's technically possible.

In contrast, we can listen to Tidal Atmos through HDMI using Amazon with Fire TV, Android TV, Nvidia Shield, etc, and on Android mobile (headphones).

So going back to my original question -- is it confirmed / announced that this is going to happen ?
The answer is it's not confirmed.

But yes, some of us will be happy if this happens.
I wonder how many here in QQ would be interested in this.
It's already a pain to install height/ceiling speakers on home theater set ups -- for example you're not going to cut holes in the ceiling if you're renting a house or apartment -- the workaround solution with with the Dolby enabled speakers bouncing on the ceiling is no good.
How many would bother installing ceiling/height speakers on desktop set ups ?
I'm talking about consumers, not pros like Steven Wilson with home studios.

Speaking of pros/mixers, you mentioned about Logic -- I don't think that is relevant here.
Mixers listen to their raw mixes through external audio -- i.e. before the song is rendered/encoded to Atmos.
So there is no Atmos decoding involved.
 

olgitnorm

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Anyone else finding some tracks make no use of the Center channel? I thought it was a problem with my system (it could still be) but it’s only certain mixes that don’t seem to use the centre channel for example Goats Head Soup tracks do but Taylor Swift’s Folklore doesn’t. There are other mixes that don’t seem to use the centre but haven’t checked them all so just used the above as an example.
 

IMachine

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Thanks for the detailed info.
I think one point that should be mentioned is that Apple is in the business of selling Apple products, so it's no surprise that everything mentioned ( i.e. advertised ) on this web page on how to listen to Atmos involves an Apple product:
Including the only one that we're interested in today -- listening to multi-channel speakers ( using an Apple TV ).
If Apple were to decide if they will allow playback of Atmos using Macs to external speakers -- it will be based on marketing/sales ($$) short-term and long-term. The decision will not be based on what's technically possible.

In contrast, we can listen to Tidal Atmos through HDMI using Amazon with Fire TV, Android TV, Nvidia Shield, etc, and on Android mobile (headphones).

So going back to my original question -- is it confirmed / announced that this is going to happen ?
The answer is it's not confirmed.

But yes, some of us will be happy if this happens.
I wonder how many here in QQ would be interested in this.
It's already a pain to install height/ceiling speakers on home theater set ups -- for example you're not going to cut holes in the ceiling if you're renting a house or apartment -- the workaround solution with with the Dolby enabled speakers bouncing on the ceiling is no good.
How many would bother installing ceiling/height speakers on desktop set ups ?
I'm talking about consumers, not pros like Steven Wilson with home studios.

Speaking of pros/mixers, you mentioned about Logic -- I don't think that is relevant here.
Mixers listen to their raw mixes through external audio -- i.e. before the song is rendered/encoded to Atmos.
So there is no Atmos decoding involved.
It is also possible to use On-Wall-Speakers.
 

bracelis

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It is also possible to use On-Wall-Speakers.
I did mention height speakers (not just ceiling) -- so height speakers include those that you install on the wall.
But if you have a boss (spouse), you may need to first get the approval.
Unlike picture frames, wall clocks, etc. those speakers are going to stick out -- and tiny speakers are just not going to work.
 

sbrom

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Respected Music Blogger just posted this to his subscribers

I got the following e-mail from a producer/engineer:

"I just want to try and alert you to the potential seismic scam happening with this Atmos roll out. Atmos catalog remixing is being done by the truckload in a handful of Nashville, LA, and NYC rooms right now and has been for a couple of years, and almost none of it is being overseen or approved by the artist or original producer or mixer. And these versions- according to Apple- will be the new standard versions, superseding the original versions, now designated by Apple to the dustbin of history.

I have heard some Atmos mixes which were indeed an improvement. However, most are not. And I would like to steer you toward this demo from Apple to get a sense of their mindset

Introducing Spatial Audio

In the rush to make content for Apple, labels are jamming this crap out with little QC and -again- almost no input from artists. This format has real potential but if they continue to try and tell us that shit like this 'new' version of 'What’s Going On' is better than then original, then it will be seen as a counterfeit and a fraud, and will go the way of the Home Pod. I know how you feel about catalog being remixed and this has potential to be a worst case scenario."

And then my inbox filled up with more, and iMessage started to ring from other professional engineers.

Now wait a second, this was supposed to be a breakthrough. But is it more of a marketing gimmick? A way for Apple to gain subscribers?

So I pulled it up.

You can hear it, it definitely sounds different, but is that a good thing?

And here's where I venture out beyond the limits of my knowledge, to what these people are telling me.

There are over a hundred reference points in Dolby Atmos. As in this is far beyond conventional 5.1. Think of a movie theatre, where the sound moves around, now you get the idea.

But that's movies. We're talking about music, sans pictures.

Now the truth is almost all music today is ultimately released in stereo. You record it, someone mixes the multiple tracks down to two, and then a mastering engineer EQ's it. The artist supervises the entire process. But when it comes to Atmos...

Let's say you have the equipment and ability to make an Atmos mix. My understanding is right now, you send the end product to Dolby and they use their special sauce to create the final product. Furthermore, they have special sauce to turn the same Atmosfied music into two track stereo. So, in a business where how it sounds is critical, Dolby is the ultimate arbiter.

The writer at the top is right. It is sacrilegious to remix/Atmosfy classic tracks. They weren't cut that way to begin with. It even bugs me that they're using remixed tracks from "Abbey Road" to Atmosfy, now you're multiple steps from the original.

Now if we look at the history here...

The big breakthrough came in the mid-sixties, when there were two formats, mono and stereo. At first albums came in both iterations, then stereo only. And the goal was to buy the best home stereo you could afford, so you could hear the end product the way it was made, so you could get closer to the music.

Then they introduced quad. There were two competing formats, they both failed.

And then, this century, there was surround sound, a lot of money was dropped and consumer adoption was extremely low. Once again, the albums were being bastardized, this is not how the band and producer and engineers envisioned the sound to be, this was an afterthought. And it also required a special system to hear, which most people didn't own, the script had flipped, from buying ever better, more expensive stereos to boom boxes and then headphones. And right now the standard is AirPods/earbuds, which ironically don't even work with Apple's Spatial Sound/Dolby Atmos. But if you have a wired connection...

I fired up Apple Music last night on my iPad. There's Zane Lowe's dog and pony show linked to above, but there's also 127 demo tracks, as in Apple is trotting these out to demonstrate the greatness of Spatial Audio. I pulled up ones I was familiar with.

Now I was listening on wired Sennheiser headphones, which retail for about $300, far better than what most punters are listening on, never mind the bass-heavy, distorting of the music Beats, talk about a marketing job.

And the tracks were, as I said, definitely different. Not radically different, but there was more space...

But then I started getting reviews e-mailed to me.

And just now I went back. Now I'm listening via my computer, with $700 Audeze headphones with a separate headphone amp. And what I've learned is...the Spatial Audio and stereo versions are not only different, the process affects the punch, the essence of the originals!

I compared Spatial Audio tracks to their HD equivalents on Amazon Music and I found exactly what one writer said: the vocal gets lost. Instead of being up front and in your face, it's buried more in the mix.

Let's start with Apple's demo track, "What's Going On." In the stereo mix Marvin Gaye is up front, the band is backing him, in the Spatial Audio version, the band is surrounding him, on the fringe, background vocals popping up way up to the right, Marvin is just an element, not the essence, it's a cornucopia of music, but it's not the legendary track, it's absolutely different, a sacrilege.

Same deal with the Doors' "Riders On the Storm." Pat Benatar's "We Belong."

Let's talk Bon Jovi's legendary "Wanted Dead or Alive." Listen to the stereo version and it's like there's a band on stage, the members are not all standing in the same place, but they're definitely on stage, in front of you, you've got a cohesive sound. Now on the Spatial Audio take... It's like you're in the arena and sounds are not only coming from the stage, but off to the right and left of it, from other places in the arena. It's an immersive experience akin to a...movie. But is music a movie? I don't think so. And in this movie, the instruments dominate, Jon Bon Jovi is fighting for attention, and he's losing the battle.

Wait, it gets worse. Forget the big budget records, more and more music is being made by individuals in bedrooms, home studios, on a budget. They have neither the equipment nor the skill to mix in Dolby Atmos. As for just sending the file to Dolby to be processed...that's like finishing a painting and having an amateur come in and completely change it, make it 3-D.

Actually, the more I listen to these Spatial Audio cuts, the more offensive they become. Kind of like those Beatles remixes. These are not the original records, they've been messed with, they're not even facsimiles, they're bastardizations.

Now the truth is this is a headphone genre. Which at the moment doesn't support Bluetooth, which is how most people listen to music on headphones today. So they can't hear the space, but somehow they're going to listen to two channel Atmosfied mix-downs. Oh, there could be two takes, like with mono and stereo in the sixties, but that's far too confusing, we need one standard, the marketplace needs one standard.

So, maybe there's a future for Spatial Audio...if it's mixed that way to begin with. But as demonstrated now, it's a hell-bent drive in the wrong direction.

Interesting. I tend to agree with him. I always come back to the originals, not the re-mixes
I’m not an Apple fanboy, but blaming Apple for bad mixes seems premature and disingenuous, especially given the cited examples like “What’s Goin‘ On“, “Riders on the Storm”, and “Dead or Alive”. All of these sound to my ears very close to multichannel pre-existing mixes, with a small amount of overhead added. The author, I guess named “Respected Music Blogger”, doesn’t like them, claiming Apple’s actions have forced music producers to create ”shit like this”. But “Respected Music Blogger” certainly likes USING these high-profile artists as a hammer against the big Apple and music production industry. “shit like this”, indeed…..
 

beerking

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I did mention height speakers (not just ceiling) -- so height speakers include those that you install on the wall.
But if you have a boss (spouse), you may need to first get the approval.
Unlike picture frames, wall clocks, etc. those speakers are going to stick out -- and tiny speakers are just not going to work.
You sure did.
Guess I'm lucky in that I have my own man cave, where I spend many an hour listening in glorious surround, usually watching sport on mute.
Boss happy with this set up as she gets to watch her TV in peace, until I ask what's for lunch!! :D

Abbey Road uses Centre speaker, Norm.
 

harync

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While there are some good points in there, particularly around taking Atmos mixes and re-converting to stereo, but I think there are some points that are off:

Respected Music Blogger just posted this to his subscribers

I got the following e-mail from a producer/engineer:

"I just want to try and alert you to the potential seismic scam happening with this Atmos roll out. Atmos catalog remixing is being done by the truckload in a handful of Nashville, LA, and NYC rooms right now and has been for a couple of years, and almost none of it is being overseen or approved by the artist or original producer or mixer...In the rush to make content for Apple, labels are jamming this crap out with little QC and -again- almost no input from artists.
The essence of this is true, but the labels were commissioned by Dolby, not Apple. The Dolby Atmos issue of Mix Magazine details this in their story about how REM's "Automatic for the People" was mixed in Atmos.

Let's say you have the equipment and ability to make an Atmos mix. My understanding is right now, you send the end product to Dolby and they use their special sauce to create the final product. Furthermore, they have special sauce to turn the same Atmosfied music into two track stereo. So, in a business where how it sounds is critical, Dolby is the ultimate arbiter.
Many more experienced people on here can comment, but this sounds bogus. Dolby sells their software and It's true that the codec is proprietary, but it's not like an engineer sends a mix to Dolby and gets back anything different that what they created in the mixing room.

The writer at the top is right. It is sacrilegious to remix/Atmosfy classic tracks. They weren't cut that way to begin with. It even bugs me that they're using remixed tracks from "Abbey Road" to Atmosfy, now you're multiple steps from the original.
Of course this is a horrible example. The remaining Beatles commissioned the son of their famed producer to create the Atmos mix from scratch using the original tapes. The band approved the mix.

And then, this century, there was surround sound, a lot of money was dropped and consumer adoption was extremely low. Once again, the albums were being bastardized, this is not how the band and producer and engineers envisioned the sound to be, this was an afterthought.
This again sounds bogus. Point to a 5.1 release that was forced by the label and dis-owned by the band. While some bands may view 5.1 releases as "value-added material" and gave a cursory approval, there are many that throughout their careers embraced multi-channel sound (Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, Flaming Lips, Steven Wilson, etc).

Wait, it gets worse. Forget the big budget records, more and more music is being made by individuals in bedrooms, home studios, on a budget. They have neither the equipment nor the skill to mix in Dolby Atmos. As for just sending the file to Dolby to be processed...that's like finishing a painting and having an amateur come in and completely change it, make it 3-D.

Actually, the more I listen to these Spatial Audio cuts, the more offensive they become. Kind of like those Beatles remixes. These are not the original records, they've been messed with, they're not even facsimiles, they're bastardizations.
Again, point to a song that was sent to Dolby and Atmos-fied. As far as we know, these songs were all re-mixed by a cadre of fairly respected engineers (Greg Penney, Steve Gadwick, Giles Martin, etc). It's true that the original artists/engineers were not involved in many cases of the single tracks DOLBY commissioned, but R.E.M. and the Beatles certainly had to approve the Atmos re-mixes of their albums that were commercially released.
 
Last edited:

bracelis

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Well, I’ve just subscribed to Apple Music....I guess the next step is.....?
The next step is to play every single Toto song.
And I'm not joking -- unfortunately this is the only way to find if a song is available in Atmos.
Unless all the songs in an album are available in Atmos -- then you will see the Dolby Atmos label on the album.
Or unless a song is included in one of the Atmos playlists.

How can I see if a song is available in Dolby Atmos?
"Play the song . . ."
 

olgitnorm

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You sure did.
Guess I'm lucky in that I have my own man cave, where I spend many an hour listening in glorious surround, usually watching sport on mute.
Boss happy with this set up as she gets to watch her TV in peace, until I ask what's for lunch!! :D

Abbey Road uses Centre speaker, Norm.
Can you try Taylor Swift’s Folklore just to let me know if I need to investigate my settings when you have a minute :unsure:
 

bracelis

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Gapless/seamless playback ( example on Abbey Road ):
Seems to work on the lossless stereo version (when you disable Atmos in the Music settings).
But on the Atmos version it's not seamless.
 
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