Spatial Audio & Dolby Atmos: a musician’s guide

The world of audio is in the midst of one of the biggest changes in a generation. Apple Music has unleashed Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos for all Apple Music users. Spatial Audio has been described as the biggest change in music technology since Stereo superseded Mono back in the 60’s. Pretty exciting stuff! So, what exactly is Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos and what do you need to know about it as a creator.


In this article we will cover:

• What is Dolby Atmos?

• What is Spatial Audio?

• How do you create music in Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos?

• How do I listen to Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos music?


What is Dolby Atmos?

The name Dolby is synonymous with cutting edge audio. From noise reduction machines in the age of tape, to immersive cinema experiences, Dolby is known for pushing the audio experience to its absolute limit. Dolby Atmos is the latest and greatest audio offering and promises a fully 3D immersive experience. For a full Dolby Atmos experience, you need three speakers in the front, two in the back, and four above you. With this arrangement, you can create the experience of something moving around you in pretty much any position. The initial thought was that Dolby Atmos will create a movie-going experience unlike any other with audio sounds like the Millennium Falcon roaring behind you and zooming above your head as it takes off. You’ll feel like you’re actually there.

Dolby Atmos is now being considered for its music applications. Guitar solos that wrap around you, a booming bass that sounds like it’s pushing you forward. You’ll feel more like you’re standing on stage with your favourite act than simply hearing them in the left and right ears.

Here’s the catch though, you’ll need a Dolby Atmos speaker set-up to hear this properly and your headphones can’t quite create that sensation. While Apple will play music back in Dolby Atmos, you won’t hear it how it was intended unless you invest in a Dolby Atmos speaker set-up. This can be costly, and although in the future it may be feasible with smart speakers, it is currently not particularly common in a typical household. No need to fret though because Apple and Dolby have combined forces to create an entirely new experience called Spatial Audio.


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What is Spatial Audio?


So, what is Spatial Audio and how does this relate to Dolby Atmos? When you’re without the full Dolby Atmos Speaker set-up, or perhaps on the go, Spatial Audio will deliver the Atmos experience through a pair of headphones. Your ears are given the illusion that you’re surrounded by speakers and experiencing music in 360. It promises to bring a 3D feel to music in the way a live gig sounds. This is done by putting directional filters on audio in a clever way to make this a different experience than anything you’ve heard before. Not all headphones will work so you’ll have to check before using that your headphones are compatible with your iPhone.


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How do I listen to Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos music?


To listen to Dolby Atmos you’ll need speakers that are compatible. Brands like Sonos, Sony, and LG have all created high performing Atmos speakers to use at home and not all of them require the speakers for what Dolby would call a 7.1 experience. Having less than seven speakers can still create a 3D experience offered by Dolby Atmos.

Currently Apple Music is the only streaming platform offering Spatial Audio but this could change in the near future. Any Apple brand headphone will work with Apple Music to offer Spatial Audio sound. Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos is only available in the latest iOS update so make sure that your phone has been updated and the settings are set to turn Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos in the ‘on’ position.




Find out how to get your music on Apple Music


How do you create music in Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos?

The world of Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos is fairly new for music creators. While there have been some big budget mixes done for The Beatles and The Weeknd in Dolby Atmos, your typical smaller artists haven’t been producing music in Dolby Atmos or Spatial Audio.

Currently, digital audio workstations (DAW) such as Logic Pro X, Ableton Live, Black Magic DaVinci Resolve and Steinberg Nuendo support Dolby Atmos features. Do note that some of these DAW require an installation of the Dolby Atmos Production Suite or Dolby Atmos Mastering Suite. Logic Pro X and Nuendo offers native support for Dolby Atmos and promises more spatial audio features later this year. Stay tuned to the DAW of your choice for more updates and to figure out how to make your music more immersive.


In the meantime, read our blog to learn how to use Logic Pro X creatively to get the most of your music