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Dolby Atmos blew my mind

Atmos is the latest audio experience from Dolby. It’s essentially the next step from Stereo, it creates a new experience called spatial audio. This allows for incredible control in the position of where the audio comes from related to the person. To put it simply you could hear drums from in behind you, percussion to the left and right and the vocalist in front of you.

It’s still relatively new technology but is becoming the standard in most devices these days including sound bars, TVs & phones.

Apple have been advocates of Dolby Atmos since it launched and developed their hardware with support built in for the last few years. Recently however they upgraded their Apple Music service to support Dolby Atmos and Lossless audio.

The two are not the same, Atmos provides spatial audio and Lossless provide a higher bit rate which gives incredible clarity but requires a lot more bandwidth.

Typically with music streaming services the audio is compressed and you lose some of the detail in the music but for most of us it’s absolutely fine. Us non-audiophiles don’t know any better and are happy with the quality we get from Spotify, Apple Music and every other streaming service. Tidal, the music streaming service founded by Jay-Z, made a big deal of being the platform with lossless audio giving a great experience.

I didn’t think much about lossless audio as I was perfectly happy with conventional music streaming. I didn’t really spend much on headphones so couldn’t experience the higher quality audio even if I wanted to.

About a year ago I bought a pair of Apple AirPods Pro, by far the most amount of money I’ve spent on a set of headphones. They’ve been glued to my head pretty much since, mainly due to Zoom though rather than music. AirPods Pro are a great set of earphones and whilst they don’t fully support lossless audio it’s not far short.

Just a quick note on why Apples AirPods Pro don’t fully support lossless. A typical track streamed from a platform is approx 6MB in size and is absolutely fine to stream over bluetooth, which is what AirPods Pro uses to connect to devices. Lossless tracks however are much larger, roughly 145MB and Bluetooth simply doesn’t have enough bandwidth to handle that much data being sent through it quickly enough.

Listening to Alicia Keys’ album, ‘Songs in A Minor’, with noise cancellation and Dolby Atmos is pure joy. I can hear parts of the track I never knew existed, the sound feels like it’s coming from all around me yet it can also be very specific at the same time.

I’ve listened to that album a thousand times over the years and it felt like I was experiencing it for the first time again.

These seemingly simple and small changes are why I love technology, something simple can make such a big difference. I can now relive music in a whole new way and I’m excited to hear what I missed from music I’ve listened to over the last 30 odd years.

Apple aren’t alone in this, Spotify, Tidal and Google Music are all offering lossless audio and some are offering Atmos as well. The great thing is that everyone can experience it and most aren’t charging any more for it.

I’m not an audiophile but I do appreciate the changes that Atmos and lossless bring. The fact that we can all experience this instantly and cheaply continually blows my mind and drives me to build experiences in technology that are the same. The simple things can make a big difference.

Photo by Matoo.Studio on Unsplash

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