Audio: Listen to this article.
I have been detecting quite a blow back to Atmos Music on line recently from both the old guard two channel guys and newer you tubers alike. The complaints mostly involve costs on the production end from engineers having to add more speakers to their studios and their rendering systems. The engineering folks are also upset about what they perceive as a push by Apple to supply Atmos mixes if they are submitting two channel product to their platforms. In short they feel as though Atmos is being shoved down their throats. There are others that complain about the home environment as well, as quite understandably they are not able to add a dedicated home theater room in an apartment or condo or a smaller single family home. I would add that this can be said about a two channel system as well, especially if it contains a subwoofer. Others just want to complain without ever hearing Atmos Music in a dedicated home system or after having heard it in a less than ideal theater setup. Others, unfortunately, just like to complain for the sake of complaining, or for clicks, or so it seems to me. Believe me, I fully understand the myriad issues involved in having a dedicated multichannel listening space. I feel fortunate I have one every time I sit down to listen to spatial audio or films. It is a wonderful experience I wish more had the opportunity to experience for themselves. I feel they same way about a nice two channel experience as well, although I find myself listening more and more to spatial audio as time goes by.
In any event, my rant is over.
When I was over at a friend’s place recently I was amazed how much music that I liked was available on Apple Music in Atmos. It was recommended by my calibrator that I get the 2021 Apple TV device to enjoy Atmos music in my home theater. Oh, and finally watch Ted Lasso. The list that follows consists of some albums I have enjoyed during my initial foray into Apple Music Spatial Audio.
This Atmos mix is an ear opener. One of the greatest jazz records of all time and my favorite Coltrane album along with the his collaboration with the great and under appreciated Johnny Hartman. The Atmos mix does what 2 channel can’t, namely give each musician their own sense of space. Great low end, tone, three dimensionality. Any Atmos naysayer and jazz fan needs to give this baby a listen. Fantastic. It is amazing what is truly on those master tapes. 1957. Wow.
Released on Impulse, this recording is a true masterpiece. By this time, Coltrane was really getting into more free and abstract playing. But here he is at his lyrical and controlled best. His solos are a perfect complement to the beautiful phrasing of Johnny Hartman. The Atmos mix captures Mr. Hartman’s rich and deep voice perfectly. I have numerous versions of this recording, in mono and stereo, CD, vinyl, SACD, DSD. Domestic and foreign releases. None sound this good. Just listen to the brush and cymbal work by Elvin Jones and the beautiful fills played by McCoy Tyner on piano. When asked by people looking to get into jazz what recordings I would suggest, this one is on the short and my favorite jazz vocal album. Period. What a treat hearing it in Atmos.
This album sat in the Blue Note vaults until its release in 2020. What a gem. Featuring Lee Morgan on trumpet, Hank Mobley on Sax, Bobby Timmons on piano, Jamie Merritt on bass and Blakey on drums, this album is fantastic. The band gets into a grove and stays there the whole album. Just listen to the opening track, Hipsippy Blues and you will be hooked. I sure was. The entire band is laid out right in front of you. No gimmicky use of surrounds. Just you are in the studio sound.
From Brazil, Eliane Elias is probably best known for bossa nova but make no mistake, she is fine jazz pianist and singer who performs with husband Marc Johnson, who was the last bassist for Bill Evans. This recording finds her exploring her bossa nova roots once again. This recording has wonderful tone, smooth and is almost sensual. While listening, the word relaxed came immediately to mind, with her vocals hanging mid air in front of the acoustic guitar and piano.
While Apple Music has a nice collection of jazz in Atmos, its classical catalogue is much more expansive. I have been impressed with the Deutsche Grammophon Atmos mixes I have heard on physical media, so I started there. I came across this new recording of solo guitar baroque pieces. When you think of Atmos, you think of all those speakers and instruments but do not consider what Atmos can do with solo pieces like piano and guitar. This release is a perfect example of that. It places you right in the recording space, with a rich sound that has just the right amount of reverb. Very natural sounding so much so that you feel like you can almost reach out and touch the guitar. I really do not have a ton of experience with this type of music, but it seems to be performed with tremendous skill and superb sound quality.
Another new release from Deutsche Grammophon that captures the sound and acoustic environment of a solo performance wonderfully, this time of the piano. Very dynamic without a hint of stridency. I find across all genres of music that Atmos excels at capturing the scale and tone of the piano much more so than I have ever heard from two channel.
This recording is not available in full until September but one track is available on Apple in Atmos and it is well worth a listen. Yuja Wang is, as expected, superb. What a talent! If you have heard the DG recordings of John Williams, you know what to expect with the capturing of the orchestra. Impactful yet with finesse. Looking forward to the full release. Hopefully it will be released on Blu ray so we can see this performance as well.
Being from Philly, I can’t leave the classical genre with a recording from the local band, The Philadelphia Orchestra. Strolling through the classical Atmos catalogue has led me to discover some amazing young talents, like the featured soloist here, Randall Goosby. He gives an amazing performance here as does the entire orchestra of compelling music, beautifully captured by the folks at Decca and presented in Atmos. Classical orchestras or the symphony for my friends in the UK, was made for Atmos.
I have to say I am not a fan of country, but for those that are, this is a very good Atmos mix to show off what this format is capable of if you are not into stodgy music like jazz and classical. This mix features a centered vocal, instrument separation and good dynamics. The surrounds are a bit too active for my tastes but the rest of the mix makes up for it. Check it out.
It is amazing that legend Joni Mitchell is able to perform again after suffering from a brain aneurism in 2015. With the help of Brandi Carlisle, she was able to get back into live performances, first at her home in California, and culminating in this set, her first visit to Newport since 1969 back on July 24, 2022. This set presents a wonderful tribute to Joni Mitchell with the help of Ms. Carlisle, Marcus Mumford, Taylor Goldsmith and Celisse on classics such as Big Yellow Taxi, A Case of You, Amelia, Circle Game, Help Me and Both Sides Now, just to name a few. This set was well recorded with an Atmos mix that places you up front in the audience that in turn wraps around you. Well done by the folks at Rhino.
With the recent death of Toni Bennett I thought it appropriate to include his last release with Lady Gaga. I have heard the stereo release of this recording and found it to be so compressed to border on shrill. I couldn’t listen to it even though it features the usual great arrangements one finds on Tony Bennett recordings. However, when I saw it pop up in Atmos, I had to give it a listen. I am glad I did. It sounds wonderful in Atmos. The shrillness is gone, with silky strings galore. Shocking I know. This release in Atmos just goes to show you what is on these modern recordings before the mastering engineers crank up the compression at the request of the labels. I guess Atmos is so niche that the bean counters allow the Atmos engineers to work their magic, on their own.
It has been a real treat to be able to experience Atmos music in my home theater via a 2021 Apple TV. The good news is that more Atmos is added each week. Looking forward to more.