I tested Surround Sound in Apple Music and made conclusions. He’s good, but there is an important BUT

Just after WWDC 2021 last night, uncompressed music and surround sound, promised to us in May, appeared on Apple Music. For them to work, you need to have on your iPhone iOS 14.6 or newer.

It is impossible to listen to songs through absolutely any AirPods in a full Lossless and Hi-Res Lossless formats. Even in AirPods Max, although through them you will achieve something closer to uncompressed sound.

And here Surround sound in Apple Music is available to owners of all AirPods, even basic ones. To test it out, on the album page, look for the Dolby Atmos tag just above the song list.

Many in the editorial office with me also tested the new format and were confused. The sound turned out others, often not for the better compared to the usual stereo.

But this morning on the subway, I accidentally figured out how to unleash the potential of spatial audio and see the difference. It turns out that the tracks in it are actually transformed. But first things first, you need to understand the nature of the format.

Why Dolby Atmos is good

Dolby Atmos is a technology simulations surround sound. It includes a set of tools for recording, mixing and rendering a track.

Due to the fact that we hear the world with two ears, it is quite possible with the help of audio engineering to recreate the effect of the presence of objects even with headphones.

You can understand the essence in the video on the pages from Dolby herself.

In short, the sound is recorded to be exactly where it should be relative to the scene. The helicopter is heard first in front, then from above, then from behind. The wave of the torch in the cave bounces off the walls and fills the stage with rich reverberation.

The latter effect is especially important for music. It allows you to visualize the scene in the listener’s head and immerse them more deeply in the content.

Synthesizing such a soundtrack requires additional resources compared to creating sound in stereo and, moreover, in mono.


This is what a Dolby Atmos mixing room looks like.

Artists need special studio, sound engineers will need proprietary software, and we, end users, need to listen to all this on something.

Therefore, now we do not see the technology everywhere, and in Apple Music from 75 million tracks only “thousands” (Apple quote) are available in Dolby Atmos. Mostly from the most popular artists with rich labels.

Perhaps thanks to an audience of tens of millions of AirPods and Beats users, there will be more tracks. But is it really necessary?

Dolby Atmos thrives at high volume

In the morning on the subway, I came across an old type of train that rumbles so much that I sometimes check if the active noise cancellation is working in the AirPods Pro.

Because of this, I turned the volume slider harder, and was surprised that with the Surround sound I had to bring it almost to the maximum.

And then he was surprised again when for the first time felt the beauty of Dolby Atmos.

At the same volume as normal stereo, the surround sound seemed to take up most of the instruments, leaving the vocals behind. Sometimes it’s the other way around.

But, if you make it louder for the same comfort, the surround sound transforms the compositions, expands the space as in HomePod advertising с FKA Twigs.

Instruments and vocals find it easier to “breathe”, although many songs start to sound differently.

This difference is well illustrated in the two tracks below, prepared specifically to showcase Dolby Atmos at the same volume level.

Mono sound starts at 00:34, stereo from 00:54, surround from 1:22

Stereo sound starts at 00:43, surround from 1:23

Below I have compared several songs already available in surround sound. I explain what changes await you.

Prepare for different surround sound

In places bewitching, in places strange.

IN special playlist now you can find compositions adapted for surround sound.

Analysis of four different tracks showed that Dolby Atmos has no single standard.

During the mixing stage, the sound engineer can move the vocalist further or bring him closer. He is able to place instruments in different points of the virtual stage and even replace the character of their sound.

All this can be felt in the compositions below.

IN In The End LINKIN PARK sounded 20% louder than Dolby Atmos when listening to AirPods Pro, but that was where the difference ended.

However, in AirPods Max, it was easy to feel that the instruments were in different points thanks to the bypass sound. The problem with this mode was that the expressive vocals on which the whole song is built faded into the background.

That is, yes, the scene felt richer, but lost its piercing effect, because Chester Bennington sounded somewhere far away, and the instruments were close.

IN Latch from Disclousure, I had to turn up the volume a good 25% to feel the difference. And it’s worth it. In the interval from 1:07 to 1:47, Sam Smith’s vocals switch first from medium to high, then back.

At that moment, I literally felt his voice spread across the virtual stage. He then came out closer, singing alongside, then moved away, transforming into a hypnotic trance.

If you switch back to stereo, all the instruments and vocals seem to be trying to get into your ears in one stream. That is, you can immediately see that without Dolby Atmos, the composition sounds good, but flat.

It is interesting that our editor-in-chief Nikita Goryainov it turned out to be an absolutely opposite impression. He thinks the mix is ​​bad, as if it was a neural network.

It turned out to be a controversial case of Dolby Atmos.

In the song Into You Ariana Grande added about 10% volume.

Unlike In The End, the vocals here, on the contrary, are expressed more vividly than the music. In Dolby Atmos, the voice and its supporting tracks feel crystal clear, like an empty space filled with reflected waves around you and the performer.

The only thing, at the very end, is the signature “Ariana Grande note” at the level of sea sirens at the very end almost dissolves with the music and is clearly audible during the last second.

But the instruments sound very different, as if you are listening to a different song. Somewhere they are louder and richer, and somewhere they are quieter and deaf compared to stereo. Perhaps the point is that a lot of electronic samples were used in the production of this song, which do not exist physically.

Is This Love Bob Marley and The Wailers surprised me the most.

Here the track with Dolby Atmos turned out to be louder, and the effect of presence was that the vocals became louder.

There is a space between the instruments, each one is better heard separately.

Apple has several Surround Sounds, don’t get confused


This is how the iPadOS 15 interface looks when the system turns stereo into surround

Initially, under “Spatial Sound,” Apple referred to the effect that appears in AirPods Pro and AirPods Max when watching adapted movies and TV shows.

When the function is activated, the sound depends on the position of the head relative to the screen iPhone and iPad, and the track itself becomes more voluminous.

Now the term also means working Dolby Atmos в Apple Music.

In addition, on iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 appeared function that emulates surround sound on tracks, and later the company will add to Dolby Atmos head tracking on Apple Music… Surely this can be turned off using the toggle switch, which is already in Universal Access.

Dolby Atmos needs to mature, but overall it’s a step forward

Sometimes a new experience seems strange and worse. But once you go back to the past technology, everything becomes clear.

Dolby Atmos is the future, because the format actually creates more realistic sound. To understand this when going from stereo, you just need to turn up the volume to a comfortable level.

Before most of the tracks sound great in this format, there are two things left to wait:

1. When in Apple Music, among 75 million tracks with technology support, there will be not “thousands”, but at least ten percent.

2. So that the sound people of different labels learn from each other to model vocals and instruments in the most euphonious way.

Until then playlist with tracks in surround sound like a gallery with works of art in different styles.

Some are unconditionally felt as masterpieces, while others you will either understand and love, or you will not understand and return to the old and familiar stereo.


Source: iPhones.ru — Новости высоких технологий, обзоры смартфонов, презентации Apple by www.iphones.ru.

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