Author Topic: Can Dolby ATMOS replace stereo  (Read 594 times)

Offline goldfritter

Re: Can Dolby ATMOS replace stereo
« Reply #30 on: February 22, 2021, 03:55:36 PM »
You know what they say about opinions being like something else, and how everybody has one...
 
At the risk of thread derailment, I have noticed a trend over time in the way opinion camps form into echo-chambers. Analogue vs. digital, cable debates, Multichannel vs. Stereo. I only mention it because fewer discussions are brought to the forum because of it, and even fewer debated meaningfully without the usual chirps of audiofool, snake-oil, brand-punting / bashing, blah blah. Still lots of knowledgeable folk who donít fall into this category, but I feel their presence fading. Moving on.
 
Comparisons like these are pointless because there is nothing to compare. If you drive off road, you buy a suitable vehicle. If you drive the autobahn only, a completely different one. One is always going to be superior in its ability to perform the task that it was designed for compared to something it is only able to do. In exactly the same way, if a recording is done in two-channel, why would you want to play it in multichannel surround sound format? Itís the autobahn car on an overlanding trip.
 
ďCan ATMOS replace stereoĒ. I donít think thatís a good question at all. Too many angles to answer form. It has however illustrated much misinformation in the understanding of multichannel audio and what it does. Itís not difficult to find out either with all the available publications and on-line channels either. I know this is going to ruffle feathers, but if you are in the camp of ďI only have two earsĒ, then you truly donít understand, and could well improve your own stereo listening by learning a little more about it. If it were true, then the room wouldnít have any effect on the performance of your stereo systemÖ but it significantly does. Another statement reads something about hating to hear any instruments from any speakers other than the front left and right. That is not what it is at all.
 
A stereo recording played on a stereo system is only half the experience. The other half is the way in which the room is energized and plays back to you the given audio, each adding its own personality. A live performance will do the same thing, the venue adding unique personality to the sound being played from the stage, along with the ambience etc. Your system is never going to sound like that -  The End. Even if you could miraculously match every aspect of the live experience from your speakers, you cannot replicate the impact of the environment, and therefore cannot replicate the audio experience.
 
But actually, you can. It is complex in its technology, but can be principally understood rather easily. The first part of the technology learns the way in which an environment plays back the sound of a multichannel system. These various nuances then alter the feed of audio being played to the speakers in incredible real time to cancel out the environmental audio impact. The system then replaces the environmental audio through multiple speakers positioned around the room, replicating the intended venuesí environmental characteristics, custom tuned to work within your personal space. Over-simplified, but principally correct.
 
Playing a normal stereo recording on such a system has zero benefits. The audio signal is typically subjected to all sorts of filters and processing to no real benefit, even when all these features are disabled or turned off. For this play it on well matched and thought out stereo system, in a well thought out and planned room, and get the best out of it. Due to the endless amount of content available, you will enjoy a lifetime of music from every year of your life.
 
Want to experience a live performance as if you were there? Then an ATMOS multichannel format recording played on a well-matched and thought out multi-channel system, in a well thought out and planned room, is going to by far be your best bet. Due to the technological advancement of these formats,  although limited in content by virtue of its time in existence, you will discover a world of audio you formerly never could.
 
Apply like-for-like quality and cost per channel if you really want to compare. Its more often someone comparing his say 100k stereo system to a 100k multichannel system in favour of the stereo one whilst playing back stereo material. Itís a stupid comparison.
 
Horses for courses. I have what I consider to be a good stereo system, and what I regard to be as a good ATMOS 7.2.4 system. My stereo system will play back stereo music infinitely better than my multi-channel system, and it should. Average cost per channel is a fraction of that what is the 11 channels in the latter, yet is extremely capable of planting you firmly in your seat when given the format that it was intended to play. Yes, its costly and complex and requires serious work to do a proper install, so a big barrier to entry for many.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
This is an excellent write-up. But the next obvious question is: should all music be recorded and mixed into Atmos format so that we can experience all music in the way you describe? And should that then be considered the pinnacle of musical enjoyment?

E.g. if Bruce Springsteen were to record a new studio album today, should it be mixed and released in Atmos format, so that you can feel like you are in the studio with Bruce while he and his band are recording the tracks?

Because then, in theory, you would choose to listen to this album using your Atmos system, as it would provide more enjoyment than playing (a stereo-mixed version of) it on your stereo system.

If the answer to this is Yes then, in theory, all new recordings should be recorded and mixed with Atmos playback in mind.

Of course most people won't buy or upgrade to Atmos systems, so a "watered-down" stereo mix would also be released. But if Atmos truly provides so much more than a good stereo recording and setup, then all true audiophile recorders and listeners would switch to using that.

I think that is the thinking behind the question "can it replace stereo."

Offline Jason Willemse

Re: Can Dolby ATMOS replace stereo
« Reply #31 on: February 22, 2021, 04:15:22 PM »
Good question! I'll offer a resounding NO!

In the endless depths of musical history, a small percentage stand out as those that are exceptional. I wouldn't mess with that. Stereo music is meant to be just that, stereo music, recorded in a studio as such. (Mostly)

Replicating a true experience is where the Dolby ATMOS offer positions itself. It replicates a true life audio experience. One could even replicate a perfect stereo room you heard somewhere in theory, replicating the stereo environment through multichannel.

Real instruments don't whizz around the room, so what would the point be. Maybe for electronic music and the like, but I prefer that things be authentic.

I don't see live concerts as recordings replacing studio recordings, and this for me is the real purpose of Multichannel - simulation.
To see, to bleed, cannot be taught. In turn, youíre making us...

Offline goldfritter

Re: Can Dolby ATMOS replace stereo
« Reply #32 on: February 22, 2021, 04:30:12 PM »
Good question! I'll offer a resounding NO!

In the endless depths of musical history, a small percentage stand out as those that are exceptional. I wouldn't mess with that. Stereo music is meant to be just that, stereo music, recorded in a studio as such. (Mostly)

Replicating a true experience is where the Dolby ATMOS offer positions itself. It replicates a true life audio experience. One could even replicate a perfect stereo room you heard somewhere in theory, replicating the stereo environment through multichannel.

Real instruments don't whizz around the room, so what would the point be. Maybe for electronic music and the like, but I prefer that things be authentic.

I don't see live concerts as recordings replacing studio recordings, and this for me is the real purpose of Multichannel - simulation.
Right. So based on that, Atmos is useful for reproducing live events, and might have some uses in AV content where you really need something to be positioned very specifically (maybe some films). I think everyone would agree that for a live recording it is preferable to have a sound that mimics as closely as possible the characteristics of the venue where it was performed; the listener's room should "fall away" and one should feel as if one were transported to the location.

But for listening to studio recordings, Atmos would not replace a good stereo mixed recording, and a good stereo setup that is in harmony with the room within which it is placed. Here there is much more subjectivity in what constitutes a "good room" as well. Not everyone would agree that sitting in the middle of the studio is the right way to experience the new Springsteen album (most would probably argue the studio would be quite unsatisfactory, in fact).

I'd still be curious to hear a true Atmos-mixed studio recording compared to a stereo mix of the same recording on both a high-end stereo system and a high-end Atmos system... although considering budgetary constraints, I might just be inviting unhappiness!