Tech

Will Dolby ATMOS usher in a new age in high fidelity for music lovers? Maybe.

[This was my weekly column for GlobalNews.ca. – AC]

VAN NUYS, CALIFORNIA — Just off the freeway in the Valley is the Sound City Complex, a horseshoe-shaped building in the middle of an industrial zone. The site once featured the famed Sound City recording studios where everyone from Fleetwood Mac to Nirvana to Johnny Cash made some of the world’s famous records. Across the parking lot is another studio, but it’s devoted to something entirely different.

I’m here at the invitation of Will Kennedy and Matt Wallace, a couple of audio alchemists whose current job is turning stereo mixes into something bigger and grander. Why have just two channels of audio when you can have 13?

The main room of the studio is covered in carpets on the floor and walls. A small console sits near the middle, surrounded by a tall metal structure that holds four speakers at the top pointing down at the floor. The console, which features little more than a keyboard and a couple of monitors, is totally surrounded by more speakers. Everything operates from a wild computer interface. This is where Will and Matt work on Dolby ATMOS and Spatial Audio versions of songs.

“Listen to this,” says Will, poking at the keyboard. “We completely dismantled Love Shack by The B52’s and rebuilt it into an ATMOS mix. I know you’ve heard it a million times, but just listen.”

The song starts — and it sounds nothing like I expected.

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37893 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

One thought on “Will Dolby ATMOS usher in a new age in high fidelity for music lovers? Maybe.

  • Not a chance that this goes anywhere – even for me and I consider myself to be an audiophile. It will appeal (as all these things do) to a small vocal minority that believe this is a good thing – but like your B52 example – no typical millennial ig going to deal with 13 channels, huge files and more equipment.
    Even as an audiophile – the best I will commit to is 5.1 and that’s for movies. It’s plenty. Real life always gets in the way of these things and since most audio today is now streamed via smartphone – and Spotify (for example) offers exactly nothing in ATMOS – how will this have legs. I mean Spotify does not even offer hi res stereo file yet. It’s a tall order…

    Cheers!

    B

    Reply

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