Dolby Atmos is widely regarded as one of the most innovative audio technologies to be developed in recent years. It is used by music and film enthusiasts worldwide, to enjoy a more immersive, 3-D listening experience.
Is Dolby Atmos good for music?
Dolby Atmos can improve, or make music sound more interesting. However, the problem with using this technology for music is that it is inconsistent in terms of the dynamics, and sounds it produces. You’ll also need specific equipment for Atmos to work properly.
It’s hard to deny the positive impact that Dolby Atmos can have on a home theatre setup.
When you experience audio coming from all angles and directions, it can bring a soundtrack to life, but what about when you’re listening to music?
Artists and mixing engineers can use Dolby Atmos technology to create immersive soundscapes, which some would argue make their songs more interesting to listen to, but others may find that it adversely affects the experience of listening to music.
What Does Dolby Atmos Do for Music?
Dolby Atmos is often falsely described as an audio format, like WAV, AIFF, or MP3. In reality, it is a form of technology that allows audio to be mixed in a manner that promotes fluidity, through the placing of “sound objects” in different locations within the whole sound space.
When artists, producers, and mixing engineers use Dolby Atmos on their tracks, they can get creative with the placement of different sounds.
Conventionally, music mixed in stereo can be panned across two speakers. For example, a guitar melody may be placed to the left of the stereo field, while the kick drum may be central in the mix.
Dolby Atmos increases the number of options that are available when mixing music. Rather than simply placing sounds within the stereo field across the left and right channels, these sounds can be positioned more deliberately, so that they sound like they’re coming from above, behind, close up, or far away from the listener.
The technology behind Dolby Atmos may initially seem confusing, but it is essentially a form of surround sound, similar to what you’d find in your local movie theatre.
The key difference is that Atmos covers the entire sound field so that different instruments and sounds in a song can be moved around, creating a 3D listening experience.
Ignoring the technicalities for a moment, if you hook up your smartphone to a speaker system that is compatible with Dolby Atmos and play a song, you’ll notice many differences in the way it sounds. Whether these differences are good or bad comes down to subjectivity.
I share the opinion of some audiophiles that I want to listen to music with the clearest, purest sound possible, to hear exactly how it was intended when it was captured in the recording studio.
Other people may argue that listening to music with Dolby Atmos is a fun and refreshing alternative to standard stereo music.
Is Dolby Atmos Good for Headphones?
As I previously mentioned, Dolby Atmos generally works best when it is used with a wide selection of speakers in a system. This is because the directionality of the sounds can be experienced from all angles when speakers are positioned around the listener.
In recent years, Dolby Atmos has been made compatible with headphones and earbuds. There are bound to be some limitations to its functionality compared to when it is used with many surround-sound speakers, but it does work pretty well with headphones.
In theory, any headphones can be used with Dolby Atmos when listening to music, but some are much better suited to this technology than others. The Atmos technology is generated within the computer, device, or console rather than within the headphones, so no matter what headphones you own, you can test it out.
The better quality your headphones are, the more effective the Dolby Atmos will be. If you own a high-end set of noise-canceling over-ear headphones, you’ll probably find the experience of listening to music with Dolby Atmos activated very enjoyable.
Atmos can make it feel like sounds and instruments are moving around your head, which is a strange sensation at first, but once you settle into it, it can be very interesting.
Using small earbud devices for Dolby Atmos may also be effective if they’re well built, like the Apple AirPods Pro or 3rd generation, for example. A cheap set of earbuds probably won’t work so well with Dolby Atmos, though.
A factor that significantly determines whether Dolby Atmos works well with headphones is how the particular song or album has been mixed. If it has been mixed for Dolby Atmos with precision by experts, it should sound great through a good set of headphones.
How Do You Know if Dolby Atmos is Working?
If you’re using Dolby Atmos with a home theater or home audio setup, it can be tricky to know whether the feature is working properly. In headphones, it should be quite obvious when Dolby Atmos is working, as you will be aware of the differences in the way the music sounds.
However, when you’re using a large number of speakers to listen to music or listen to audio from a film or TV show, it can be more difficult to tell whether Atmos is causing the sounds to move around in the sound field or whether you’re hearing the audio in standard stereo.
The first thing you should do to test whether Dolby Atmos is working is to play a movie, video, or song that you know for sure supports Dolby Atmos. If possible, find a scene or section that involves many different objects moving around, or instruments playing simultaneously.
If you’re unsure whether the content you’re playing is compatible with Dolby Atmos, you can use a test video like this one to determine whether it is working or not.
Also, you can check the display of your TV to see what audio output is being used. Most modern TVs will provide you with information on the audio settings if you locate them in the main menu.
Is Dolby Atmos Better Than Stereo?
It’s very hard to definitively say whether Dolby Atmos is better than stereo because ultimately this comes down to personal preference. One thing that is quite certain is that stereo will not be displaced as the most commonly used audio format in the foreseeable future.
In the same way that some audiophiles argued that mono was better than stereo back in the days of analog recordings and before the digital era, some people believe that immersive audio technologies like Dolby Atmos will soon overtake stereo.
Looking at the whole picture, I believe it’s fair to say that Dolby Atmos and stereo can’t be compared as they are ultimately designed for two different purposes.
Stereo will allow you to listen to music or other forms of audio without the distraction of sounds moving around a 3-D sound field. However, this will ultimately result in a less immersive listening experience. In comparison, Dolby Atmos lacks the clarity of stereo, but it ramps up the immersive qualities.
When mixing audio using stereo, it’s still possible to automate the panning settings s that certain sounds can move around each speaker or headphone, which creates a unique sensation for the listener. Dolby Atmos simply enhances this and takes it to a new level, with sounds being placed in every direction rather than just left and right.
If you’re looking for an accurate representation of a song and would like to hear each instrument and sound clearly with definition, then using stereo is probably the best option.
If, on the other hand, you’d like to experience a 3-D sound field that you can get lost in while listening to music, Dolby Atmos will provide this.
There’s no need to compare stereo, mono, Dolby Atmos, and any other audio technology, They all produce unique results that can be enjoyed at different times, and rather than trying to decide which is best, we should simply use the one that we feel will provide us with the experience we desire at any given time.
How do I get Dolby Atmos on my TV?
To use Dolby Atmos on your TV, you’ll need to check that you are using a streaming service or app that is compatible with the technology. Then, you need to set up a Dolby Atmos compatible sound system.
Which game consoles support Dolby Atmos?
Unfortunately, no Playstations support Dolby Atmos, but every Xbox from the Xbox One onwards supports the technology and can be used to enhance the soundtracks of your favorite games.
How do you know if a song has Dolby Atmos in Apple Music?
If a song is compatible with Dolby Atmos in Apple Music, it will have the Dolby Atmos logo in the “Now Playing” display. Likewise, an album that has Dolby Atmos compatibility will also have the logo on the details page.