If you’re a musician or a music fan, chances are that at some point in the past few years, you’ll have heard something about immersive audio and Dolby Atmos music mastering.
The technology has been embraced by artists such as Taylor Swift, Florence + The Machine and FKJ – whose album VINCENT was Atmos mastered from stems by Oli Morgan – and is becoming more and more prevalent with artists looking to create music that is as engaging as possible.
But what is it? And how is it different to what’s gone before? We take a look at what exactly immersive audio and Dolby Atmos music mastering is…
What is immersive audio?
When you are listening to something that has been mastered in stereo you perceive sound coming from two directions – left or right.
This is generally how a vast majority of music has been mastered for decades and remains the predominant form of audio delivery.
However, recent innovations in audio technology have meant that mastering engineers are now able to create music and sound in a realistic ‘3D’ way.
Whether you realise it or not, you hear sounds in many different ways. For example, if a band was playing behind you, it would sound different compared to if they were playing in front of you – and the same goes for height and distance.
Immersive audio allows music to be heard beyond the stereo left and right, giving full range to the height, depth and breadth of the music, meaning the music sounds fuller, bolder and more representative of how the artist originally imagined.
What is Dolby Atmos music mastering and how is it different to traditional mastering?
Mastering is the final step in the process of releasing music – the stage where you add the final polish and ensure a track is ready for release.
Immersive audio mastering is the same principle, but for a different format.
As already mentioned, mastering in stereo means the engineer will work to make the track sound as good as it possibly can for music coming from the left and right.
However, when mastering for Dolby Atmos, there can be up to 128 ‘objects’ in a mix. These objects are essentially a combination of audio and metadata – in this case a simple description of an object’s size and location within the immersive environment.
All of this information is wrapped into a single multichannel WAV file, called an ADM, ready for mastering. This approach has many parallels to stereo mastering and uses many of the same tools and methods.
We can also take this a step further, where an engineer will take mixed stems – a minimum of six stems is needed to be effective and ideally more than 10 – and use those to create an immersive audio master, akin to stem mastering in the stereo world.
Does Abbey Road do Dolby Atmos music mastering?
As you’ve probably guessed by now, we absolutely can do immersive music mastering at Abbey Road!
We have a newly created mastering suite that has been designed specifically for use in immersive mastering and our engineers have already mastered hundreds of tracks in this format.