Format versus Content - a discussion!!

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All the time I now see people ask for all new releases to be in Dolby Atmos format, and are upset if they are not.

So my question becomes - what is it that people want? Is it just to have all sounds come from all directions from what had been experienced on previous stereo or surround mixes - or are people looking for a new approach?

Atmos is an amazing possibility. I personally look on it for my solo creative works to build a complete picture. I’m having a great time as we speak…..

But I do compare it to how I see film. Not every film is full of 3D, full colour and activity on the complete screen all the time. What I see is all about how I want the image, colour and depth of field to make me focus on. And even black and white when necessary!!

So does multichannel audio always need to be full on in every speaker and discrete? Should it not be an opportunity to go from mono, to stereo to full surround and make use of the picture to create a feeling, an experience??

But I come back to the opening question. What do people expect?

I personally look upon the content way ahead of the format. I do try to create a new experience with my works, rather than just update the presentation for a new format.

Discuss!!

SWTx
 
I am more interested in a compelling mix.
That out of the way I look for it to enhance the listening, not be gimicky.
Some songs I have really enjoyed in ATMOS have had the chorus fan out and over from the front to the rear. (Shakespears Sisters And Prince)
I am ok with deviation from the original release because there is such a larger soundfield to play with when compared to mono and stereo.
 
I think there’s a part of this where it feels, “Well, I’ve invested in all these surround speakers with my AVR and I want them being used.” Not a compelling argument that everything has to be in Atmos, but a lingering reality that lurks in the back of my mind.

I’ve come to want just about everything in Atmos if possible, but I’ve adjusted what I think an Atmos mix should be. In the beginning, I wanted stuff whizzing around the room. Atmos was shiny and new for me and I wanted to be wowed. And some stuff sounds great like that.

But Knopfler’s latest is a good example of where I find myself a lot these days... an Atmos mix that serves the songs, is pretty conservative, but surrounds me with the music. That’s the experience I want... something that allows me to feel music around me but serves and respects the songs. (And whether that’s achieved or not is open to interpretation which is why reviews of stuff can vary so much and generates so much discussion here.)

For older material that is being mixed for surround, I’m not looking for a new adventure like the Machine Head Atmos. I simply want the music I know to surround me in Atmos.

I’ve noted this quote by Rob Kinelski and think of it often these days: "I don’t want [the listener] to be engaged in the Atmos, I want them to be engaged with the song.” That’s what I’m expecting or at least hoping for.
 
I like gimmicks in the popular music I listen to (the 1970s quad mixes [sounds panning around, mainly] Hugo Montenegro did for RCA, for example), could be due to my early experience listening to popular (top 40) music on WHB AM 710 here in town starting back in about 1970.

(my surround sound listening is currently limited to Dolby Digital and DTS 4.1, I play the "hidden" Atmos downmix on my Atmos Blu-ray audios)


"So does multichannel audio always need to be full on in every speaker and discrete?"

Yes for popular music, could be a short buildup from mono/stereo to surround sound though, kinda like the song Stoop Down #39 on the J. Geils Quadio - it starts in LF then suddenly fills the 4 channels.


I rarely listen to classical music, however, there are differing options about surround sound recording of it:

https://www.worldradiohistory.com/A...idelity/70s/High-Fidelity-1973-08.pdf#page=69
^^^
For some twenty-five years Leopold Stokowski has been speaking against the concept of "concert-hall realism"...


Kirk Bayne
 
All the time I now see people ask for all new releases to be in Dolby Atmos format, and are upset if they are not.

So my question becomes - what is it that people want? Is it just to have all sounds come from all directions from what had been experienced on previous stereo or surround mixes - or are people looking for a new approach?
...
The perfect mix that suits the music emotionally with perfect arrangement where the sounds come from all directions in a perfectly suited way for the song with an element of a new approach that works really well. If there was a previous mix, the new one has to have all the original nuance but done in this new way.

I'm being an idiot but we DO all want something like that! Behind or in front of the mixing board.

Good fidelity with dynamics first as always. More speakers before fidelity turns into a gimmick and it's a downer. A 7.1.4 mix into 12 speakers shouldn't have anything wrong with it otherwise it's not worthy of the extra channels and file space. I know that's too subjective. The scope of the format just begs a level of ambition and excellence or it feels improper.

I think a lot of people don't know what they're asking for when they mention formats. Or at least don't take their request literally sometimes. Someone with 300 volume war CDs might be hard to convince that the format doesn't make it sound like that. Atmos is going to confuse the heck out of many. There will be stereo listeners with no concept of surround sound telling you how they really prefer Atmos mixes.

The format sure is tailor made for psychedelic music and sound in motion though! A solo acoustic act will not sound just strikingly more fully realized in 12 channel vs 2 like a monster mix with a lot of activity. Of course I'll want everything in 12 channels anyway just because you can but it's pretty obvious what the calling card is here.
 
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All the time I now see people ask for all new releases to be in Dolby Atmos format, and are upset if they are not.

So my question becomes - what is it that people want? Is it just to have all sounds come from all directions from what had been experienced on previous stereo or surround mixes - or are people looking for a new approach?

Atmos is an amazing possibility. I personally look on it for my solo creative works to build a complete picture. I’m having a great time as we speak…..

But I do compare it to how I see film. Not every film is full of 3D, full colour and activity on the complete screen all the time. What I see is all about how I want the image, colour and depth of field to make me focus on. And even black and white when necessary!!

So does multichannel audio always need to be full on in every speaker and discrete? Should it not be an opportunity to go from mono, to stereo to full surround and make use of the picture to create a feeling, an experience??

But I come back to the opening question. What do people expect?

I personally look upon the content way ahead of the format. I do try to create a new experience with my works, rather than just update the presentation for a new format.

Discuss!!

SWTx

I have a 5.0.4 set-up with 4x floorstanders, matching centre and 4 heights in the room corners toed in towards the centre of the room, but I have to sit just in front of the rears, so often getting up and standing in the middle of the room gives a better sound field.

I'd say the mix has to suit the music, and Atmos should expand the sound field to assist the music and production, rather than for the sake of it. An overall immersive mix works well for most albums for me, having said that however, its nice to hear discrete elements in the heights or surrounds. I particularly like it when you get call and response going from front to rear for example, but it has to fit the music. I'd love to hear Wishbone Ash's Argus in surround/Atmos lots could be done with it with surrounds and heights. The SDE Dylan release doesn't have a lot going on but expands the sound, it suits the album, so I really liked it.

The occasional 'crazy panning' often works, but elements whizzing about all the time can be irritating, especially if moving quickly rather than fitting the rhythm. Things like the clocks moving around or the cash registers on DSoTM are great, the panning of the drums around on Edgar Winters "Frankenstein" works, they fit what is going on on the album.

I have Deep Purple's Machine Head on originally just on SQ LP, then the 5.1 SACD, but I like the new mix by Dweezil Zappa, its quite different from the other versions and that is one reason why I like it, its 'fun' and it adds to what already exists.

I really like your mixes as to me they fit the music, and I think that is key.
 
At a minimum an Atmos mix should spread things out so that the overall sound has excellent clarity for all elements. Static elements in Atmos (aka that never move at all) can still be effective, but will not wow as many listeners as active motion. I agree that the mix must suit the music, but if you are not going to do anything interesting with the sound field, would not the nominal stereo mix suffice? Most AVRs have the option to upmix to a surround speaker configuration. A dedicated mix should be better than an electronic upmix. Otherwise, what's the point?
 
Yesterday I listened to all three mixes (Stereo, 5.1 and Atmos) of the recently issued 40th anniversary Album "4630 Bochum" from Herbert Grönemeyer which I know very good and have been listen too from 1984 on since. I found all mixes to have their own character and I could live with each of them. Anyhow in my opinion people want to hear all speakers once they have installed an Atmos system, thats why they did it. I am also fine with just subtile effects or ambient sound coming from the surrounds and heights if it suits the music best. Not all music is made for surround effects but can be "improved" by those subtile effects gving a bit more space i.e.. When listened to Boris Blank's "Resonance", or Peter Gabriel's "I/O" for me there is no doupt that Atmos is the right tool to express this kind of music and I must also admit that I have fun when listening to music with lots of effects from all speakers!
 
I do Atmos but tbh even though I like the overhead stuff back to forward swirly whirly it does tend to take me out of the mix..it's just not as organic to me as a good 4 or 5 channel mix.
Probably my favorite Atmos mix at the moment is Waka/Jawaka by Zappa
I'm also guilty of that Atmos buyers syndrome of wanting everything in Atmos at first but tbh its really about the quality of the mix be it 4.,5 or whatever
 
Well, first, I have to like the music. If it sounds bad in one speaker, twelve speakers won’t make it better.

Gimmicks are fun for a while (“Cartoons in Stereo” comes to mind), although they can be overdone (“Rock On” in quad comes to mind). I don’t mind a gimmicky mix if the music is good, but it shouldn’t detract from the song. Hugo Montenegro comes to mind.

I read a lot of folks here commenting on how “discrete” the mix is on a recording. I’m not exactly sure what that means, but my perception is that instruments are located in individual speakers and not phantomed between them. I’m not all that concerned about where a particular instrument is panned - that’s an artistic decision by an artist, and I’m usually interested in the artist’s view (as long as the song is good).

I note that @Stephen W Tayler mentions 3D movies. I love my 3D, but I’ve bought several real turds of movies, just because they were 3D. And I’ve bought my share of dog-shit albums, just because they were 5.1. It’s the music, damnit!

When I built my room, I installed overhead speakers, because I was pretty sure I wanted Atmos at some point. I expect to have the hardware to decode and drive those speakers within a year, but it’s not a hard schedule. I still enjoy a lot of 5.1, quads, stereo, and even mono music. I have some Atmos discs waiting for that, although they sound good through what I’ve already got.

So, Stephen, to directly address your question, to me, the content has to be there first. No amount of post-production engineering is going to make a kazoo and bucket band sound like anything but a kazoo and bucket band. If the song is good, a bad mix can mess it up. If the song is bad, it’s going to stay bad, no matter how talented the mix.
 
So, Stephen, to directly address your question, to me, the content has to be there first. No amount of post-production engineering is going to make a kazoo and bucket band sound like anything but a kazoo and bucket band. If the song is good, a bad mix can mess it up. If the song is bad, it’s going to stay bad, no matter how talented the mix.
Most true.... As you can't polish a turd!

Personally, I've never been that excited about discrete 7.1 mixes along with their speaker placements. 5.1 mixes and speaker placements (with the rear speakers placed near the corners) is more than good enough and much easier to achieve in most homes.

Plus, I don't see any reason why Atmos requires more than 4 ceiling speakers...
 
Pondering this a bit, I realized that when I sit down to have a listen to something new, nothing in my mind has an expectation of format or what speakers will be implemented in the mix. I sit in hopeful expectation that the music strikes me emotionally. If that happens....pure joy. If not, depending on the level it does hit me, I'll either give additional listens to see if it grows further with me, or I pass and move on.

To what extent the number and location of the speakers implemented has on striking my emotion, I cannot say. I can say that there are some works, i.e. Willie Nelson's - A Beautiful Time that to me, is extremely immersive and wrapped around me, and strikes my emotions deeply. Likewise, there are two Mariah Carey songs, We Belong Together and Shake It Off, that strike my emotion equal to Willie, but are not nearly as immersive by comparison, to my ears. But I enjoy both equally as well and listen to them for just that...when I need that emotional journey.

So, for this hobbyist, I want the artists like you @Stephen W Tayler to use the canvas of formats as just that...as you see fit and without an obligation to paint every open space, so to speak. I want to experience the black & whites that you envisioned....and I'll either like it for the art it is, or not. But the number or location of speakers used is not a direct variable for me.

Now, just to clarify, I expect surround sound. You feed me stereo or mono exclusively....I need more of the canvas used, generally speaking.
 
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It depends on the music and instruments, for me it has to have lots of stuff going on, as much as I love AC/DC and Black sabbath it’s pointless having them in atmos when there’s more speakers than instruments

Atmos seems very suited to prog rock, electronic music and classical. I love heavy rock but can’t think of too many albums where i’ve thought “that would sound great in atmos”

Personally i’m more than happy with a good 5.1 mix as opposed to a crap atmos mix like Hootie and the blowfish
 
Most true.... As you can't polish a turd!

Personally, I've never been that excited about discrete 7.1 mixes along with their speaker placements. 5.1 mixes and speaker placements (with the rear speakers placed near the corners) is more than good enough and much easier to achieve in most homes.

Plus, I don't see any reason why Atmos requires more than 4 ceiling speakers...
I put four ceiling speakers in my room when I was building it. The overall room design isn't friendly to 7.x.x, so I have no plans to go beyond 5.1.4. So far.
 
Atmos is about as interesting as front row seats for a concert. Meaningless to torturous if you don't care for the music, an end all be all to die for if you do! Maybe even life changing special!

Why is it immediately a contest, right? "Is this mix worthy of the 12 channel format?" Obviously because we just bought more speakers and amp channels! Possibly a new audio interface or AVR. And dammit... impress me!

If surround actually took off for the masses and everything was mixed to Atmos now it would normalize and only be about the mix. I don't see how to bridge that gap. My first thought at hearing about the idea to expand surround sound with ceiling speakers was more like "Slow down fools! Get more consumers into proper 5.1 first! Reasonable steps, you know? Most people can't even setup 5.1 and now you want them to hang speakers?!" Of course that leads to the faux products. You're not even hearing reasonable stereo on a soundbar! It goes from one extreme to the other pretty quickly.

I think that puts us back with an Atmos mix should be something above and beyond and aimed at the full system. That flies in the face of me wanting as many people as possible to hear some of my mixes. I just don't see a way to bridge that gap. Audio systems need a certain level of speakers and amps and site prep or it goes from 100 to zero very quickly. The gap between stereo earbuds and a calibrated 12 channel system is as large as the Valles Marineris.

Someone mentioned the Waka Jawaka remix. That's a favorite of mine too. It completely eschews the drums/bass in the front stereotype. And it's a dense arrangement that really begs for as many channels as possible. Another favorite is the Larks' Tongues remix. I hadn't heard this large of a dynamic range presented like this before. There are some dense mix moments too but the delivery of that dynamic range is impressive. These are both mixes that would never translate to a smaller or compromised system and sound even close.
 
It depends on the music and instruments, for me it has to have lots of stuff going on, as much as I love AC/DC and Black sabbath it’s pointless having them in atmos when there’s more speakers than instruments

Atmos seems very suited to prog rock, electronic music and classical. I love heavy rock but can’t think of too many albums where i’ve thought “that would sound great in atmos”

Personally i’m more than happy with a good 5.1 mix as opposed to a crap atmos mix like Hootie and the blowfish
I've noted before that a girl and a guitar can make beautiful music. That wouldn't even be stereo, much less Atmos.

The Billy Joel concert that was broadcast last month had excellent surround, but he had a pretty good sized backup band behind him. But the original "Piano Man" with his harmonica, his piano, and his voice wouldn't benefit from spreading it around among 37 speakers.
 
Such a good question Stephen.
Many good answers, letting us know there is no single best answer.
What I am reading so far, is the disappointment is with a dull surround mix whether 5.1 or Atmos. If a release is going to sell and they are going to call it surround, well it better be surround at the very least.
Front loaded stereo, with echoes/ambience/live crowd noise, etc is not going to cut it, there MUST be a full body of music coming from all speakers.
I do think as you say Stephen, that yes, it can trade off, stereo front, to now increased rears or heights, but it must not be so infrequent that the surround listener is wondering what happened.
The recent release of Pink Floyd's-Atmos Animals, opens in stereo track 1 and closes in stereo track 5, that is a cool effect.
I think older recordings released in Atmos such as the Frank Zappa's are stellar.
A personal note about myself, is when listening I am very much mood oriented towards listening. Surround of any kind, speaking for myself only demands a sense of need to pay attention, and sometimes I just can't handle it, my mind needs to relax, therefore I do listen a lot to non available surround recordings in stereo, but if a release is offered in multiple choices, I tend to rarely listen to them in stereo.
I am very confident in how and why I listen to surround, dedicated room, good layout and equipment.
I watched a documentary on sound and movies and the movie director said, we do not want the sound to be the center of attention, we do want the movie to be.
But with music only surround, I want it at the very least to be fully immersive overall, noting it is OK to take small breaks from speakers as things move around.
We do call it surround, that is the key word.
The recent Mark Knopfler in surround, no, that is not going to cut it from my point of view.
Stephen W. Tayler has so far been batting a thousand in 5.1.
Even the mighty Steven Wilson has now had a tiny bit of negative remarks. The more a person puts out the more they are subject to criticism.
 
I have a current Stereo only room, and have recently put together a 5.1 room which I plan to expand if possible to Atmos at some point, so I have already started buying Atmos content (a lot).

One of the great things I love about the Bluray media format is that you can have so many mixes on on disc. Include them all!!! Original stereo mix, Quad mix if available, 5.1, Atmos. Let us play them all and compare them.

Also some listeners may only have stereo, or may a much higher quality stereo system than they are able to invest in their 5.1 setup. This gives them options to hear it on both.

I would also like to see more live concert Bluray's with Atmos audio and 4k video if possible!

Keep 'em coming!
 
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