Dolby Atmos Music on Blu-ray

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MagnumX

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I finished listening to the Kraftwerk 3D album in Dolby Atmos....



Unlike Pure Audio Blu-Rays, this one has footage, apparently taken from a live concert with background footage for each of the songs that basically alternate between the live views and the footage that was projected behind them on the cinema screen. The blocky image on the front of the album is a representation of the 4 members standing at "stations" in front of the screen. When the lights were up, as best I could tell, only two of them had actual synthesizer keyboards on their workstations. The other two appeared to have some kind of computer kiosk type setup. I'm not sure what they were doing (selecting/adjusting screen footage and/or lighting? Or just pretending to do something in what is an otherwise computer controlled playback of the songs?) That sort of thing is a common issue among synth/pop bands (e.g. The Pet Shop Boys had a live stage show instead based more around dancing groups, props, etc. It wasn't really my thing, but at least it let them perform live). Kraftwerk does a good job of at least giving the appearance they're doing something and it does appear the vocals were at least live and perhaps some of the synth parts (lighting/angles not conducive to see what they were doing, really).

The ATMOS. The Atmos mix does a pretty good job of moving the synth sounds around the room. It starts off a bit slow in "Autobahn" but eventually you get sounds and voices pretty much all over the place including common ceiling locations (oddly orientated around actual Auro-3D speaker locations with distinct parts at "center height" and "VOG" quite often which makes me wonder if the album might have originally been mixed in Auro-3D and then converted over to Atmos or something (not that Atmos can't image in those locations with phantom images, but I do wonder since most immersive albums started with Auro-3D mixes with Atmos concentrating on movies early on and Auro concentrating their Blu-rays more on music, or at least getting more traction/releases in music). Either way, the mix doesn't lack for bouncing sounds around the room. However, their music seems to be largely based on old style analog and FM synthesis type sounds rather than a more modern type of sound so it's a little strange somehow in that often it just feels like sounds are being bounced around just for the heck of it, rather than any kind of "plan" to the music style or something (an impression that Yello's album manages to impress in that it almost sounds like it was designed with Atmos in mind even though that really wasn't the case as it was mixed for stereo and sent for an Atmos version from the stems too, but their use of rhythm, percussion and other sounds perhaps makes it at least seem more natural somehow). Still, it really hasn't gotten old here listening to sounds bounce all around the speakers in the room (since I have 17.1 speakers installed in a 11.1.6 config). Some tracks specifically seem to use Front Wides a LOT (notably Techno Pop) for those that are looking to test their front wides which often get complaints of movies not utilizing them enough.

The Music. I'm not expert on Kraftwerk. This is the first album I've ever heard from them. I did a bit of reading on their history and contributions to electronic and eventually what would become techno music, but in practice I'm not sure what to make after just one listen. Autobahn went on for over 10 minutes and the cheesy 1990s looking 3D driving footage got kind of old fast as did the song. Trans Europa Express was like the "train" version of the same concept (with odd 3D train views), but I think the song was much better on that one. Radioaktivitat seemed to be some anti-nuclear type song with mentions of various meltdown and bomb sites in the song. I felt like I was being put to sleep a bit on these tracks. But other tracks like Techno Pop, Die Roboter and even Tour De France had pretty nice layers of analog synths with some more modern techno beats and bits thrown in. I think Techno Pop was probably my favorite track offhand. It had a pretty nice layered effect and just seemed more exciting than the other tracks. The video had some old style wire forms and low polygon count renders of a robot that kept saying things like "Music non stop, Techno-pop" with Atmos placement around the room were oddly interesting, although like most of the tracks, I felt like they often went on a bit too long (sometimes less is more), but I didn't mind as much with this one. Die Roboter replaced the band members with robots on stage (or what looked like on-stage; it was hard to tell if it was just footage or they really used them from the angles). I thought I was in Disney World.... Tour de France lyrics were in French and featured lots of old looking bicycle footage from the race. It seemed oddly upbeat in a way that made me think I was watching a some 1970s promotion film. I don't know whether that's a complement or a scratch my head moment, but it was still pretty catchy, I think.

Overall, it was an interesting old school sounding 1970s type synthesizer rehash using sounds I never would have used on my own album (I tend to prefer the more Pink Floyd use of old school synths mixed with guitar), but they certainly found a way to use them fairly effectively. I can't help but be reminded of Commodore 64 music demos (many of which came from Europe) for the old SID chip, which certainly was more analog sounding than today's sampled sets, but even Apple's Logic Pro has plenty of old school synths you can patch and modify like the real things if you want to take the time to come up with your own analog or FM type sounds. Given how different the music is from modern pop, some might want to preview the tracks on YouTube or something first unless of course you're already a fan.
 

AYanguas

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Kraftwerk 3D in Dolby Atmos has finally arrived (after getting the CD by accident and over a 3 week delay compared to Yello's Point despite ordering it only one day later.... I hope to listen to it tonight in Atmos. It's the German version, so Ich muss mein Deutsch auffrischen. :D
Good. I like more the german versions with its harshest pronunciation. And very easy to understand specially when the visuals are a kind of karaoke :)

Yes, it sound old. But you have to put it in the context of their time. For me, I never thought would like to hear again that kind of songs that I listened in my youth. But with the 'help' of the Atmos sound it gives a new life and I can enjoy this listening.
 
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MagnumX

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Nah, I loved music from the 70s and 80s. Analog synth doesn't mean crap or anything. They were something new and different. Most bands just didn't do only those types of sounds. Tangerine Dream comes to mind, though.
 

kap'n krunch

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Good. I like more the german versions with its harshest pronunciation. And very easy to understand specially when the visuals are a kind of karaoke :)

Yes, it sound old. But you have to put it in the context of their time. For me, I never thought would like to hear again that kind of songs that I listened in my youth. But with the 'help' of the Atmos sound it gives a new life and I can enjoy this listening.
si, definitivamente, no hay color entre el aleman y el ingles, prefiero el 1ro...especialmente en albumes como Computer World (Computer Weld...Taschenrechner!!)
 

MagnumX

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I actually own a fair number of Japanese anime soundtracks dating back to the 1990s which includes some J-Pop songs.
 

MagnumX

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I'm listening to Kraftwerk on my Carver ribbon system (4.1). In some ways, I think it sounds better with fewer channels. The sounds don't wander around the room as far and it seems more cohesive that way somehow, although I miss the overhead sounds. Maybe a smaller room works better for some things? I could turn the system down to 5.1.4 instead (using half the room). I may try that next. It's interesting to compare Atmos tracks in different configurations.

Perhaps I'm just adjusting to their sound more. They are definitely heavily rhythm orientated. You can hear the underpinnings of Industrial in several of the songs.

Boing, Boom Tschak
Music nonstop, Techno Pop
 

CINERAMAX

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I wouldn't go quite that far. Just because many (far from all) Atmos movies are lackluster, that doesn't mean there haven't been other improvements along the way. In other words, even 5.1 movies now sound like 3x better sounding than before, IMO, probably because I have so many (17.1) speakers to make the "bubble" in a 24' room that phantom imaging works much better than before with only 6.1. I have 6.1 in the first 5 feet of the room alone now. Movies like the Skeleton Key in only 5.1 now have thunder overhead with Neural X so it sounds more Atmos than many actual Atmos movies. Even stereo is improved using matrixed 6.1 sound in the front (the DTS 7.1 speaker test calls "out of phase" for the front two speakers and I hear sound all around me with no speakers operating behind me. It's almost freakish (matrixed 6.1 effect using front wides and front heights plus mains make stereo unbelievably immersive for some reason, kind of like Carver's so-called Sonic Holography mode did for my Carver ribbons (well not quite that far into the room, but definitely a good 65 on each side out into the room or thereabouts). That's why I'm curious to try out Involve Audio's processor next (plus it decodes old Quad LPs so I can give them a go as well).

But if you want to try some Atmos and DTS:X titles that don't disappoint, I'd recommend these offhand that come to mind:

Dolby Atmos
Fury (Brad Pitt tank movie with artillery flying overhead all over the place and banging on the top of the tank from inside, etc.)
Overlord (Planes, shells, guns and monsters all over the place and a baseball rolling across the ceiling was quite memorable)
Jumanji (original one in Atmos upgrade sounds better than either of the new ones)
The Meg (total bubble around ceiling and sides in underwater scenes)
Star Trek Beyond (quite good starship and other effects)
Gravity (lots of around the room panning in every direction)
Mission Impossible Fallout has a spectacular helicopter overhead bit in it along with good effects in general
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (surprisingly good Atmos)
Doctor Sleep (excellent use of surround in all directions)
IT Parts I & II both have truly excellent Atmos surround including a bit where the clown runs up a wall onto the ceiling at one point in the first one.
Blade Runner 2049 (crazy deep sub bass on top of plenty of surround and overhead effects). Original upgraded to Atmos is also quite good. Auro-3D version is also excellent.

DTS:X
Entire Harry Potter Series (fantastic upgrade with new surround effects in addition to lots of overhead ones with the flying car, brooms, etc.)
Crimson Peak (creepy haunted house type sounds all over the room and ceiling)
Excellent suggestions 2 items missing Dr. Strange the astral travel scene in the curio shop, spiderman far from home ch 10 second half.
 

MagnumX

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OK, I'm in the middle of Hans Zimmer LIVE in Dolby Atmos....

OMG it is it LOUD! I have it at -9dB (I've been playing with level settings when tweaking the extra "Scatmos" speakers lately so it might not be at the original Dolby/Audyssey reference point anymore) and it sounds kind of lightweight like maybe I should turn it up at points and the next thing I know it's blazing loud and I grab my sound meter during the Pirates of the Caribbean song and it's reading 96dB A-weighted constant average during that loud part (i.e. these aren't peaks and A-weighted isn't flat for bass so that's not the subwoofer). It's a good thing I have 17 speakers (7 in the front alone) or I might be worried that is stressful on the drivers or something. Now all I'm worried about is it's stressful on my eardrums (starting to ring like I'm actually at a live concert). My god, if I turned that up to 0dB I'd be at 105dB A-weighted and it really would be a live rock concert.... Meanwhile, I play Yello's Point at -6dB, but it doesn't typically go anywhere near that loud.

So far "Atmos" seems mostly limited to crowd sounds and incredibly loud volume levels with some instruments ending up in the front wides and almost side surrounds, but mostly it's ambience/crowd in the surrounds. I haven't heard any need for overheads thus far. It's actually pretty amazing to see all the instruments used on some of those songs and how many of the musicians play several of these esoteric looking things (I mean how many people play pan flute other than Zamfir?) 12-string electric guitars. Three synchronized drummers? Is this trying to give rock bands a run for their money or do professionals just like showing off? I mean my god, Hans plays like three types of instruments himself live during the concert so far. Isn't he supposed to just conduct like John Williams? I think he's having too much fun on stage there....

I gotta love those young ladies wearing the black pleated mini-skirts, especially that mega-pleated one the cute Asian violin player (Ann Marie Simpson-Einziger) is wearing (although the black socks plus fewer pleats skirt looks nice too on Rusanda Panfili) with the Yamaha electric cello lady (Tina Guo) wearing leather.... Why is it all the women I know seem to only wear blue-jeans or old lady dresses? :unsure:



Many pleated skirt (on beautiful Anne Marie Simpson) to the right and long leg black socks (on lovely Rusanda Panfili) to the left. Hans is a lucky guy!



Tina Guo looking crazy hot on electric cello (Ok that must be a different performance; that's not leather...unless she changes outfits later in the concert!)

 

MagnumX

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I played "Personal Shopper" off Steve Wilson's The Future Bites like 10 times off the dump of the Blu-Ray to do an Atmos comparison (I'll get to the rest of the album in the next couple of days). The song is 10 minutes long so that was a good hour and a half or so.... (The video for it and two other songs are also included on the Blu-Ray).


The future does indeed bite....but we already knew that from Leonard Cohen's album "The Future"




There's a separate DTS-HD MA track (with a Core DTS 24/96 track) for 5.1 surround and PCM 24-bit audio as well plus the Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 track and even a separate music only set of tracks for the album (stereo only).

The Atmos track is about 7dB lower in average volume than the DTS and Stereo tracks so you will have to adjust your volume if/when you switch tracks.

At first, I thought the Atmos track was doing completely different things from the 5.1 track and I think it is to some extent in that 7.1 does move some sounds to the back of the room and of course Atmos puts all kinds of things on the ceiling, but when I killed the ceiling speakers in the amp assign on the Marantz 7012, I found many of the sound effects fell into similar positions to the 5.1 version, after all (rear surround excepted). Audio memory is short for such a long song, though so it's possible there's other differences. Certainly, the stereo track limits it even further, but I found the downmix in stereo of Atmos wasn't that far off from that mix (whereas Yello's Atmos mix downmixed to stereo is much more ambient than the original stereo mix, IMO).

Hearing the same track without lyrics (and some sound effects) was kind of too revealing, IMO. The song didn't sound like much without the vocals and voice effects, which are very prominent and once combined, it's actually a very catchy track that goes by pretty quickly for a 10-minute long mix, probably because I was listening to all the surround and Atmos effects. The strange thing is that both the DTS 5.1 mix and the TrueHD 7.1 mix without overheads turned on both had a lot of sounds that seemed to hover in the upper 2/3 wall height of the room despite no overhead speakers being turned on! I suspect there's some HRTF data or something mixed in there (either that or my room is doing something odd) because I could have sworn the overhead speakers were on. There was a real difference with Atmos overheads engaged, however as there are several effects and voices that appear directly on the ceiling during the song with them enabled that only make it up 2/3 the wall without them, but the 5.1 mix and 7.1 base mix are pretty engaging even without overheads, IMO, much more so than many early DTS 5.1 albums that mostly stuck to speaker locations (some exceptions like On Air and DSOTM and WYWH for example). When Steve starts listing off shopping items people don't really need, more voices start listing feelings in the surround speakers. In Atmos, some of these voices are on the ceiling or near the ceiling that are in other locations (back of the room with 7.1 base or side walls (5.1 mix) for example) or the sides of the front of the room in the 2.0 mix (which still seems to fill the front wall with a rather large height image even without surround or overheads turned on.... Oddly, the track didn't seem to sound that different with the sub turned on or off.... (I do have my mains run full size, though). The 2.0 track had a few sub moments that the other mixes didn't seem to do, which I thought was a bit odd, but like I said, I have the rest of the album to listen to yet.

Overall, so good so far. I like the track Personal Shopper and the Atmos and surround effects are excellent, IMO. I didn't even watch the music video yet, though (other than a brief view when I was separating out which disc tracks were which for the hard drive on the server). I don't know about the overall theme of a single corporation destroying humanity (that's a bit far fetched, not one company like Amazon, but the wiping out humanity part isn't explained. Maybe it's like the Umbrella Corporation in Resident Evil?

Umbrella is just evil...but oddly fashionable!



Steve's "bad guys" seem a little "generic" by comparison


EDIT: The REST of the Album

I listened to the entire album twice (in two different rows of seating) as I write this. Overall, I liked the album. I thought some tracks were clearly better than others and after just reading some comments by Steven Wilson about Eddie Van Halen's style of guitar playing, I was even less thrilled at two "guitar solo" bits in two of the songs that sounded like loud bursts of distortion that didn't actually do all that much. While Van Halen was never my favorite group, Eddie was a guitar god and even if you don't like the music you have to respect his abilities. The man was right up there with Hendrix, IMO, both for skill and as an innovator (I'm sure some Hendrix fans would contest that, but watching him play live was insane). I play a bit of guitar myself and believe me, Eddie made it look so easy (and it's not). I play piano/synth as well and I'm much better at that, especially for composing (yeah I'm a bit of a musician too, but I'm not telling you whom, as you wouldn't believe me anyway ;) - just kidding), but sometimes you just have to use real guitar (I have two Fenders in the home studio, one acoustic with an optional electric pickup I bought when I wrote my own album and one Fender Squire II Strat that I've played since high school, although I've updated its electronics a bit over the years). Sure Eddie "shredded". Many of his fans came to see him play more than the band itself, so he's going to disappoint them? Ah well, I didn't mean to get off-topic, but that bugged me when I read it tonight.

There is no doubt listening to The Future Bites that Steven Wilson has real talent (I was impressed with his vocal abilities as the near falsetto (sounded almost too perfect to even call it falsetto, really) on Personal Shopper isn't something I can do, although I can do George Michael style vocals if I'm miked (takes a lot of breath), but I was bummed out at listening to Count of Unease the second time around as it really felt like filler to pad the album to 42 minutes, feeling rather stark and empty. Perhaps that's intentional to the end of an album whose pretense is the end of the human race caused by an evil corporation that buys up everything, but most of the actual songs don't really sound like they're part of that overall theme to me.

On a technical note, with that particular track there's a lot of jingling sounds in that song and the odd thing is I thought they were overhead in the front row, but it turns out they were actually in-phase in the side surround speakers, putting them just above my head, really (the side surrounds are at ear level or slightly under ear level even, but always image just overhead for whatever reason when there's a sound between them), but I think the high frequencies of the jingling sounds made them seem higher up on the ceiling (there's pretty much no sounds coming from the overheads there). In fact, I think that may explain at least some of the "tall" sounds in general with some Atmos material. Old school 5.1 rarely put in-phase sounds in the surround speakers or even if they did, the decoders would move them to the rear center of the room using the rear surrounds if they were present, leaving a bit of a "hole" between the side surrounds so one of the things you have to get used to when moving to Atmos is that sounds can appear anywhere in the room. Even though technically, 7.1 surround can image there, it seems like movies rarely put sounds in that position (even with Atmos) as it images literally directly over the crowd in a cinema (and now they have ceiling speakers to do that) and can image right through the middle of your head in a home setup. That hasn't stopped these Atmos music albums from doing just that (best example is on "Big Boys Blues" on Yello's Point album, 80% towards the end this almost drill like sound images at the center speaker and then flies straight across the middle of the room to the rear surrounds which here sounds like it flies just above my head across the room, but if your speakers imaged a bit lower, it would go right through your head! ;)

Anyway, most of the tracks had a lot of bits floating around the room here and there with some on the ceiling in some tracks (the shout outs on Personal Shopper being the biggest standout when one shouts out directly overhead), but some of it turns out to be at ear level, after all. I thought "Self" and "King Ghost" were pretty strong tracks (I'm not sure the F-bomb was strictly needed in Self, though, jarring as it usually is to hear in pop/rock type songs while the 's' word (can I say shit on here?) felt much more at home in Personal Shopper to me. 12 Things I Forgot seemed like a pretty song and a bit of a love song, if I'm not mistaken (more like an apology for failings in a relationship? It's hard to be certain with cryptic lyrics, but it's a pleasant sounding song and drops the angrier tones of Self and King Ghost for a bit. Man of the People was OK. I think I need to hear that one a few more times before I decide whether I really like it or not. Personal Shopper is long, but it's interesting enough to listen to that long anyway, at least in surround. The music video version is cut down to just over 6 minutes by comparison. Follower was a good track and seemed to be stuck on the notion of pop fandom given the bad examples followed by "follow me follow me". I got the feeling the evil corporation is more like the proverbial society "machine" that rears its head in one form or another in everything from Tolkien to Pink Floyd (the latter being much more direct about it). Yeah, society is f-ed up (that song probably deserves the F-bomb in it in that regard). I get the feeling the Kardashians were meant to come to mind about mindless followers of aimless lives that get worshipped anyway (god I hate reality TV in all its forms; I think maybe it's all Puck's fault from the Real World II on MTV (pretty much the point where MTV started to die off permanently as a music channel an turned into reality TV garbage). I hate to blame David Rainey too much because by god he was interesting to watch on that show. I never watched the Real World before or since that season. :D But between grunge and the Real World, "Rock" music pretty much died a slow painful death, leaving only pop and remnant of super groups left to remind you what music used to be. Or maybe I just miss the '70s and '80s and want to blame it all on Pearl Jam and Nirvana.... I know many hair bands do as well, though. ;)

Music : A-
Vocals: A+
Atmos Use: B+
Theme Integration: B-

BTW, I hated the bright white screens for the album on my projector. The whole room was lit up like daylight. I prefer to listen to music albums in the dark if they're not pushing video of some kind, partly because my home theater room is rigged for mood lighting displays and bright white washes it out. I could either turn off the projector or turn on the receiver's dark menu system to override it (i.e. it doesn't overlay in 4K which KODI is set to output).
 
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CINERAMAX

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Magnum, many Atmos titles sound tall despite not using tops, case in point the latest release of apocalypse now.
 

AYanguas

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I have experienced the same thing: With some tittles using only floor speakers, you feel sound coming from above, like if it were coming from Height/Top speakers that are really silent.

I think this is the way the human hearing reacts to the binaural sound. If the mix, specially coming from side surround speakers is done in a binaural way, you may feel clearly the sound coming from above. Then you stand up or turn the head to another point, and the effect disappear. You hear again only from the floor speakers. So..... we still need the Top/Height speakers for full 3D immersion. :)
 
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marpow

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I have experienced the same thing: With some tittles using only floor speakers, you feel sound coming from above, like if it were coming from Height/Top speakers that are really silent.

I think this is the way the human hearing reacts to the binaural sound. If the mix, specially coming from side surround speakers is done in a binaural way, you may feel clearly the sound coming from above. Then you stand up or turn the head to another point, and the effect disappear. You hear again only from the floor speakers. So..... we still need the Top/Height speakers for full 3D immersion. :)
Thank you for that, the best explanation I have read. I have been trying to explain myself with my experience in Atmos listening based on my personal listening room, and your explanation fits my situation. I completely agree, before worrying about where certain artifacts may go in heights, which is where my learning curve seems to be, the full immersive of all speakers working is the primary function.
I streamed the movie The Dig, with Ralph Fiennes, super good movie and it was Dolby Atmos, and the Atmos effects where 3 X for about 3 seconds each.
 

J. PUPSTER

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Thank you for that, the best explanation I have read. I have been trying to explain myself with my experience in Atmos listening based on my personal listening room, and your explanation fits my situation. I completely agree, before worrying about where certain artifacts may go in heights, which is where my learning curve seems to be, the full immersive of all speakers working is the primary function.
I streamed the movie The Dig, with Ralph Fiennes, super good movie and it was Dolby Atmos, and the Atmos effects where 3 X for about 3 seconds each.
Planes flying over? I enjoyed The Dig also.
 

MagnumX

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I updated my review of Steven Wilson's The Future Bites above to discuss the rest of the album and some other things related to it.

I was thinking about a personal list of Immersive albums (Atmos and Auro-3D) and the order I'd use as "demo" material to impress people with immersive sound. This isn't a music preference order list; more exciting use of Atmos or Auro-3D, although I'm sure it's affected by it to some extent, none-the-less. I don't own everything, but I think this is my top ten list so far (some are very close in the middle; I'd almost have to listen again back to back to be sure):

My Top Ten Atmos or Auro-3D albums to demo a system

1> Yello - Point (Atmos)
2> Booka Shade - Dear Future Self (Atmos)
3> Booka Shade - Galvany Street (Atmos)
4> Lichtmond 4 - The Journey (Atmos) + 3D video for more immersiveness
5> Lichtmond 3 - Days of Eternity (Auro-3D) + 3D video for more immersiveness
6> Mando Daio - Aelita (Auro-3D)
7> Roger Waters - The Wall Live (Atmos)
8> Kraftwerk - 3D (Atmos)
9> Steven Wilson - The Future Bites (Atmos)
10> John Williams - Live in Vienna (Atmos)
 
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