Dolby Atmos Music is looking to add a whole new dimension to the music listening experience. Dolby has partnered with Universal to remix thousands of tracks from big-name artists using the new Dolby Atmos Music technology in an effort to prove Atmos isn't just for home cinema viewing.
Dolby's object-based sound tech may have been designed for surround sound in cinemas and later homes, but it has since expanded into tablets and smartphones – and now it's getting into music; music that is mainstream and available on the growing number of Atmos-capable devices.
Read on for everything you need to know...
What is Dolby Atmos Music?
Put simply, it's a way of remixing songs using the Dolby Atmos technology.
Atmos is an object-based surround sound tech that started life in cinemas but has since made its way into home cinema set-ups all over the world. It differs from standard 5.1 and 7.1 channel set-ups by adding in extra channels overhead (for example, with speakers mounted in the ceiling). The result? A much more engrossing sound, creating a dome of audio with the audience at the centre.
It's much more precise than standard surround sound. Thanks to the new calibration, sound engineers can precisely place sounds at various points in the soundstage, rather than just pumping them through a select audio channel. It makes for a much more realistic and immersive home cinema experience.
And now it can do the same for music.
What Dolby Atmos Music is currently available?
The first tranche of 50 releases includes Kraftwerk's 3D The Catalogue, Hans Zimmer's Live in Prague and R.E.M.'s Automatic For The People (25th Anniversary Edition). There's also the first electronic album specifically written and produced for the format - Wolf by trance pioneer Matt Darey. Nowadays, all tastes are more or less catered for: there's everything from Rodriguez Jr.'s Blisss to Public Enemy's Don't Believe The Hype to Rush's Tom Sawyer, and everything in between.
You can see a full list of these releases on Dolby's website.
What music is being released in Dolby Atmos Music?
But despite only around 50 tracks having been remixed using the tech so far, we can expect that number to rise significantly in the near future. Dolby recently teamed up with Universal Music Group (UMG) to release thousand of "new songs, current hits and legendary tracks" in Dolby Atmos, spanning a wide range of artists and genres. Dolby hasn't said exactly which tracks are being released in Atmos Music, but we can apparently expect works from Bastille, The Beatles, Billie Eilish, Elton John, Lady Gaga, Luciano Pavarotti, Marvin Gaye, and The Weeknd.
As well as remixing existing songs, new songs will be produced using Dolby Atmos. These will span "hip-hop, pop and rock through jazz and classical music", according to Dolby.
Several of UMG's studios are now kitted out with Dolby Atmos Music mixing tech, including Capitol Records Studios in Hollywood, Abbey Road Studios in London, and Nashville's Berry Hill Studios. Which will help future tunes utilise the tech.
Dolby has posted a series of YouTube videos of producers talking about working with the technology. Above you can see the one featuring Deadmau5. Others include Metrik, Kerri Chandler, Hospital Records, Solarstone and Yousef.
The recently announced Amazon Music HD music streaming service plan will be a serious outlet for Dolby Music, expected to give subscribers access to a growing library of Atmos-mixed music.
What devices does Dolby Atmos Music work on?
Dolby Atmos Music tracks should work on any device that can handle Dolby Atmos. This includes home cinema systems, laptops, and even tablets and smartphones. Of course, you're going to get a much more impactful listen from a home cinema set-up over a smartphone. But if you're on the go, you should definitely notice the difference from an Atmos-ready smartphone.
Headline news is that the just-announced Amazon Echo Studio smart speaker alongside Amazon Music HD is powered by Dolby Atmos too, making them the first smart speaker and streaming service capable of delivering the "immersive music experience".
So which other devices can handle Dolby Atmos?
On the home cinema front, most of the AV receivers released in the last couple of years are compatible with Atmos, including those at the budget end of the market. Pioneer was the first to launch an Atmos speaker package, followed by Klipsch, Focal, Jamo and Damson's S-Series wireless system.
You don't have to drill holes in the ceiling to install ceiling-mounted speakers, either. Instead, a dedicated Atmos system can include upward-firing drivers on the front speakers. These fire out sound that rebounds off your ceiling, creating a similar effect to a ceiling-mounted speaker.
Atmos-enabled speaker modules are also available - when placed on top of your existing speakers, they deliver Atmos sound from a compatible receiver.
Most high-end TVs nowadays are Atmos-compatible. Though beware that you won't get quite the same effect as from a speaker package.
And as for Blu-ray players, Dolby says as long as yours conforms to the latest specifications and can output a bitstream audio signal for your AV receiver to decode, it should play Atmos Music no problem.