Let’s just get right to the burning question,“Is it worth investing in Atmos for music?”.
For years Dolby Atmos has built up hype in the Post Production world and is starting to take significant strides into the music industry. But are consumers and engineers really ready to embrace this new format? With major streaming services (see Apple Music, TIDAL, and Amazon Music Unlimited) supporting the format, loads of new production work, and consumer hardware becoming cheaper and more accessible, Dolby Atmos music is an opportunity you might not want to pass up.
When I first heard about Dolby Atmos, I thought it was an intriguing foray into the world of surround sound and not much else. What piqued my interest was I had heard about how amazingly immersive the listening experience becomes with so many speaker placements. What didn’t help was the second thing I heard about Dolby Atmos, and that was how expensive the buy-in is. For any working engineer to even think about investing in a way to accommodate Dolby Atmos projects seemed like an impossibility.
Thankfully, the curve of technological advancement bends forever upward, and things are not what they once were. With Dolby Atmos support coming to Pro Tools Studio and Dolby Atmos Production Suite, you now have access to the software tools you need for the cost of a plugin. (DAPS is currently on sale to Pro Tools Studio and Pro Tools Flex annual subscribers for $99!) This, coupled with a good pair of open-backed headphones, can have you up to speed and creating Dolby Atmos productions in the blink of an eye.
How far you want to wade into the “Atmosphere” is entirely up to you. With a Dolby Atmos monitoring system consisting of at least seven ear-level speaker placements, 1 subwoofer / LFE channel, and 4 over-head speaker placements, the cost can surely add up quickly. But with options like the Kali Audio IN-5-C, putting together a 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos system can be as affordable as a standard set of stereo monitors.
You might just want to check your mixes in immersive headphones to see how things translate with Dolby Atmos Renderer. Immersive headphones you say? Yes! They too have become more and more affordable, with even the latest Apple Airpod Pro’s coming equipped standard with immersive capabilities. That’s not to say you want to trust your productions to a pair of ear-buds! It’s recommended to use a detailed pair of open-backed headphones when performing tasks like mixing.
Or you always have the option of taking your immersive mixes to a Dolby Atmos-equipped studio to check them and polish them up before sending them off to your clients. Just like we’ve all been doing for years, this is the modern version of the “car check”.
From humble beginnings come the best laid plans. Your Dolby Atmos rig can start as a pair of headphones or you can build a solid foundation based on a 7.1.4 monitoring system, either way you’ll be happy you have made this commitment to staying at the forefront of recording technology. Immersive formats are the new standard deliverable for major music labels and film studios around the world, in this next chapter we’ll be showing you how you can take your fledgeling Atmos rig and scale it up into a full sized beast.
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