Lefsetz Letter » Spatial Audio

I got the following e-mail from a producer/engineer:

“I just want to try and alert you to the potential seismic scam happening with this Atmos roll out.  Atmos catalog remixing is being done by the truckload in a handful of Nashville, LA, and NYC rooms right now and has been for a couple of years, and almost none of it is being overseen or approved by the artist or original producer or mixer.  And these versions- according to Apple- will be the new standard versions, superseding the original versions, now designated by Apple to the dustbin of history.

I have heard some Atmos mixes which were indeed an improvement.  However, most are not.  


In the rush to make content for Apple, labels are jamming this crap out with little QC and -again- almost no input from artists.  This format has real potential but if they continue to try and tell us that shit like this ‘new’ version of ‘What’s Going On’ is better than then original, then it will be seen as a counterfeit and a fraud, and will go the way of the Home Pod.   I know how you feel about catalog being remixed and this has potential to be a worst case scenario.”

And then my inbox filled up with more, and iMessage started to ring from other professional engineers.

Bob Lefsetz discusses Apple’s spatial audio, wendering whether this really is the future of music.

I compared Spatial Audio tracks to their HD equivalents on Amazon Music and I found exactly what one writer said: the vocal gets lost. Instead of being up front and in your face, it’s buried more in the mix.

His opinion of the concept is quite clear:

Actually, the more I listen to these Spatial Audio cuts, the more offensive they become. Kind of like those Beatles remixes. These are not the original records, they’ve been messed with, they’re not even facsimiles, they’re bastardizations.

As many are saying, if a record is produced for spatial audio, then it could be a good creative tool. Just imagine Dark Side of the Moon in Dolby Atmos. But…

So, maybe there’s a future for Spatial Audio…if it’s mixed that way to begin with. But as demonstrated now, it’s a hell-bent drive in the wrong direction.

Source: Lefsetz Letter » Blog Archive » Spatial Audio

7 thoughts on “Lefsetz Letter » Spatial Audio

  1. Kirk—I collect a lot of the stuff on Apple Music, and if what I read here is the wave of the future with regard to how that music is going to be offered for listening/sale, what do people with a critical ear do? How will we get our music? I’m not happy reading about reprocessing music with Spatial Audio.

  2. Kirk, some other questions … I have most of the songs I’d want already, dispersed into many carefully curated playlists, and I understand that Apple Music plays the version I already have. Apple says to delete your current version to be able to play the Atmos version. If true and I delete the current versions, my playlists will be decimated. Is this scenario true to your knowledge, and if so, do you know of any workaround? Thanks …

    • Yes, that’s a good point. What you can try is exporting each playlist as an XML file, downloading the new versions, then reimporting the playlists; if the tags match exactly, that _should_ populate them correctly. But I wouldn’t count on it working correctly. If you have a lot of playlists, then this will be a problem.

  3. Kirk. I think you would find the following thread on Gearspace very informative.


    John Hanes; who mixed some of the Atmos material released on Apple Music, chimes in on page 3 with some fascinating insights in to the process and priorities. For example focusing on getting an immersive speaker mix followed by a binaural downmix for headphones. It’s also clear that the automatic Dolby Atmos renderer has an important role in creating the binaural downmix. I also think it’s fair to say that while he uses less strident language he corroborates some of the comments in Lefsetz Letter makes.

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