Dolby Atmos Music aims to do for audio what Atmos did for films and home cinema. It’s an immersive music experience that allows sounds to be placed accurately within a hemisphere of sound, so you can hear instruments and vocals in a 3D space.
Dolby says that it offers listeners the ability to hear levels of detail and depth that went previously unheard. It’s a lofty claim, but one Dolby aims to back up and bring to music fans. So, what is Dolby Atmos Music and how can you get it?
Related: What is Dolby Atmos?
What is Dolby Atmos Music?
Dolby Atmos Music is effectively Dolby Atmos, but for music (who would’ve thought?). It takes the same approach as its cinema counterpart, turning vocals and instruments into “audio objects”, of which there can be up to 128 audio channels, and these ‘objects’ can be accurately positioned within a 3D soundscape.
Now, while music tracks tend not to be as complex as movie soundtracks can be, the effect is the same, if not better with music. Dolby likens the effect as being “inside the song” and tracks are wider, liberated from stereo left and right channels. Sounds are separated, giving more space for vocals and instruments to exist, producing better clarity as a result. You also can hear a better stereo image, as with objects now able to be placed with accuracy in a mix, so you can pick up on sounds travelling from left to right for a more immersive take.
Dolby Atmos Music also adds height channels to a mix, and the effect is a wider and taller dispersal of sound. If you have the services and equipment to take advantage of it, that is.
Where can I listen to Dolby Atmos Music?
While Dolby Atmos appears to have undergone a tweak in its description to make it more accessible – going from requiring overhead speakers to just better-quality sound from a device – Dolby Atmos Music sets its stall out as an immersive audio experience.
There are a number of ways of get it, but streaming services are becoming a popular way of experiencing it.
Tidal began supporting Dolby Atmos Music in 2019, and it’s available to subscribers of its HIFI tier, which costs £19.99/m.
To find content, open the app, head to the Explore tab at the bottom and select Dolby Atmos Music from the list. Your device will need to support Dolby Atmos Music in order to see it, and once selected, it’ll take you to Atmos playlists and tracks on the service. As far as we know, Dolby Atmos is not supported by the Tidal iOS app.
Amazon Music HD
Amazon adopted the format when it launched its Music HD streaming service back in 2019. Like Tidal, you’ll need a subscription to Music HD to find Dolby Atmos Music content, which costs £14.99/m or £12.99/m for existing Prime subscribers.
You can search for tracks manually or ask Alexa. Music in Atmos is marked by a 3D badge. Find that and you’ll know that the music has been mastered in 3D/Atmos. An Echo Studio smart speaker is your best bet to play Atmos music, which conveniently segues into the next section.
What hardware do you need for Dolby Atmos Music?
If you’re a subscriber to Amazon Music HD, then the service’s 3D audio tracks can be accessed through the aforementioned Echo Studio speaker. We gave the speaker the 4.5 stars in our review, but noted that 3D tracks have their positives and negatives. The positive being it does indeed work to create a sense of height and width; the negative being the quality of the 3D sound depends on how well the track has been mastered in the format. With some tracks there’s a barely discernible change in fidelity.
Choose Tidal, and the avenues for playing Atmos music open up. The Tidal app can stream Atmos music to connected TV devices such as soundbars, streaming players, home theatre devices and TVs.
- Apple TV 4K (tvOS 13 or later)
- Fire TV – Fire TV Stick 4K, Fire TV Gen 3 2017, Fire TV Cube 1st Gen or 2nd Gen
- Nvidia Shield TV and Shield TV Pro (2019 and newer models)
- Sony Android TVs
- Philips Android TVs
If you have a compatible smartphone and tablet, you’ll also be able to listen to Atmos music in the Tidal app, with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S20, Sony Xperia 1, Amazon Fire HD 10 and Galaxy Fold supporting the immersive format.
Anyone with a Dolby Atmos-enabled soundbar, such as the Sonos Beam or Bang & Olufsen Beosound Stage, will be able to hear music in the format, too. A number of Atmos Music Blu-ray discs are hitting the market – such as The Beatles: Abbey Road – which makes this an option for those who prefer physical media formats.
Related: Best Dolby Atmos soundbars
What music is available in Dolby Atmos?
Amazon says it supports 750 tracks in 3D, but that appears to conflate both Dolby Atmos Music and Sony’s 360 Reality Audio. Tidal doesn’t give a number of how many tracks are on its service.
But music studios are forging ahead, with new content and older music remixed in Dolby Atmos. Both Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group have committed to bringing more Atmos tracks, and right now you can find tracks from artists such as The Weeknd, Iggy Pop, Lady Gaga, Guns N’ Roses and Kanye West remixed in the format.
The Weeknd’s After Hours album is in Atmos, and so is Lil Wayne’s Funeral, R.E.M’s Automatic For the People, Booka Shade’s Dear Future Self and Gregory Porter’s All Rise, to name a few.
Other notable releases include John Williams’ “Live in Vienna” performance and Kraftwerks’ 3-D The Catalogue album, which came to music streaming services earlier in 2020. Jay-Z is said to be remixing his catalogue to be compatible with the format, though there’s no timeline as to when those tracks will appear.