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Article: Using Apple Music as Your Entry to Immersive Audio


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Hi @bobfa, I have so many thoughts on this one, as you know. First, thanks for the article, that I know many audiophiles will think is blasphemous. How do I know this? I was in that camp! I remain a hard core audiophile, and always will remain an hard core audiophile, but I've also experienced immersive audio like you've written about and I'm all-in. 

 

When you first told me to put the phone on my chest and just listen, even I thought you were taking this immersive thing a bit far. Then I got the new iPhone 15 Pro Max, found some good music, and did just as you told me to do. I was so surprised at how cool it sounded. I texted you immediately. 

 

It sounds absolutely stupid that us knuckle-dragging audiophiles would be into this, but it can't be denied. 

 

Note: The left channel in an iPhone comes out of the bottom speaker. 

 

The headphone experience continues to improve as well. Apple's spatial audio renderer is getting better. Some Atmos albums actually sound great through headphones than speakers now. I used to describe the experience as having a picnic in one's basement, not the most ideal. Now, I like the headphone experience. 

 

One thing everyone should understand is that Apple tells the truth about headphone requirements, but not the whole truth. Atmos works on any pair of headphones, not just Apple's own products. The only thing missing on non-Apple products is head tracking. Not a showstopper by any means for me.

 

I use Apple Music with an AudioQuest DragonFly Red and my iPhone 15 Pro Max, and my Alclair Electro electrostatic in ear monitors. Setting Apple Music to always output Atmos, means I get the same Atmos as if I use Apple headphones without head tracking enabled. Everyone can seriously try this right now. 

 

Such a fun time to be in this wonderful hobby of ours. 

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Great article! I use the Apple 4K+ box into my Anthem to decode the Atmos stream. The box passes it right to the Anthem which does an excellent job decoding the stream.  The stereo tracks on Apple Music sound great too but you need to go into the app settings to set it for lossless as the default i AAC. I have no idea why. Happy listening!

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Good post @bobfa !

I've never been an Apple guy, but having been a multich guy for close to 50 years I just had to pop for an

Apple 4k box when they started offering all that wonderful new Atmos music.

I've got a feeling the way things are taking off, it won't be long till Apple starts streaming in Dolby TrueHD.

 

16 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

I remain a hard core audiophile, and always will remain an hard core audiophile, but I've also experienced immersive audio like you've written about and I'm all-in. 

You speak like having a great multich system excludes you from being an audiophile?

Anything that can be done with 2ch can be done X times better in surround.

It's only 5-10x more expensive.

But then it's never been cheap if your a dedicated music lover.  ;)

"The gullibility of audiophiles is what astonishes me the most, even after all these years. How is it possible, how did it ever happen, that they trust fairy-tale purveyors and mystic gurus more than reliable sources of scientific information?"

Peter Aczel - The Audio Critic

nomqa.webp.aa713f2bb9e304522011cdb2d2ca907d.webp  R.I.P. MQA 2014-2023: Hyped product thanks to uneducated, uncritical advocates & captured press.

 

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Thank you for your post @bobfa, and all your posts and explanations @The Computer Audiophile. I do in particular like the attitude of providing ideas that simplify the whole immersive audio stuff in order to get one‘s feet wet with the first drops of water …

 

Let me ask you one question only: The iPhone 15 Pro Max was mentioned several times as the starting point. Would the previous iPhone 14 Pro Max do the same, maybe provided it runs iOS 17? I did read that the 15‘s speakers are improved as compared to the 14. Please discuss - thanks in advance.

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4 hours ago, Sal1950 said:

You speak like having a great multich system excludes you from being an audiophile?

Anything that can be done with 2ch can be done X times better in surround.

It's only 5-10x more expensive.

But then it's never been cheap if your a dedicated music lover.  ;)

If you read some of my “hate mail” from people, you’d think I jumped the shark, switched to Bose, and lost any audiophile credibility I had. Many people are resistant to change, so I am reassuring them that I remain one of them. The situation is identical to when computer audio started “invading” the sacred ground of vinyl and disc spinners. I’m treading lightly, reassuring people, and just being honest. 
 

You’re absolutely right that anything done in stereo can be done better in surround. When people tell me that stereo can reproduce everything just as good, I ask, why not go back to mono? I then hope they are willing to mentally extrapolate the fact that mono isn’t as capable as stereo which isn’t as capable as surround. 
 

The cost? More, but worth every penny :~)
 

 

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4 hours ago, 111MilesToGo said:

Thank you for your post @bobfa, and all your posts and explanations @The Computer Audiophile. I do in particular like the attitude of providing ideas that simplify the whole immersive audio stuff in order to get one‘s feet wet with the first drops of water …

 

Let me ask you one question only: The iPhone 15 Pro Max was mentioned several times as the starting point. Would the previous iPhone 14 Pro Max do the same, maybe provided it runs iOS 17? I did read that the 15‘s speakers are improved as compared to the 14. Please discuss - thanks in advance.

Don’t get hung up on the 15 Pro. I had a 12 Pro prior to my 15 Pro Max and did the exact same things with immersive audio. I think the 15 is better, than the 12, but not night and day better. 

Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems AudiophileStyleStickerWhite2.0.png AudiophileStyleStickerWhite7.1.4.png

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Thanks for the article @bobfa.  I use an Apple TV 4K+ box and HDMI into my Lyngdorf.  Sounds wonderful.  BUT.....as a card carrying OCD audiophile I am forced to ask the following first world questions:

* would an Apple Silicon Mac potentially sound better than the ATV4K+?

* would offline saved Atmos streamed files sound better than real-time streaming the same song(s)?

 

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5 hours ago, 111MilesToGo said:

Thank you for your post @bobfa, and all your posts and explanations @The Computer Audiophile. I do in particular like the attitude of providing ideas that simplify the whole immersive audio stuff in order to get one‘s feet wet with the first drops of water …

 

Let me ask you one question only: The iPhone 15 Pro Max was mentioned several times as the starting point. Would the previous iPhone 14 Pro Max do the same, maybe provided it runs iOS 17? I did read that the 15‘s speakers are improved as compared to the 14. Please discuss - thanks in advance.

Use what you have to start with.  You might be surprised.  I started with the 14 and it is fine.  I am not sure this is a good enough excuse to purchase the new phone!  Now the Camera,.....

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34 minutes ago, ted_b said:

Thanks for the article @bobfa.  I use an Apple TV 4K+ box and HDMI into my Lyngdorf.  Sounds wonderful.  BUT.....as a card carrying OCD audiophile I am forced to ask the following first world questions:

* would an Apple Silicon Mac potentially sound better than the ATV4K+?

* would offline saved Atmos streamed files sound better than real-time streaming the same song(s)?

 

In my ATMOS system(s) (audio only) I do not have HDMI processors.  I have not tested HDMI out on a MAC to a processor.

 

I do not think I can hear a difference between the local copies of Apple Music files or streamed. Again this is were the complexity of the software might cause us some confusion.  An "ATMOS" file is not music it is more like a set of commands???  Not your fathers MP3 file.

 

bob

 

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6 hours ago, Sal1950 said:

Good post @bobfa !

I've never been an Apple guy, but having been a multich guy for close to 50 years I just had to pop for an

Apple 4k box when they started offering all that wonderful new Atmos music.

I've got a feeling the way things are taking off, it won't be long till Apple starts streaming in Dolby TrueHD.

 

You speak like having a great multich system excludes you from being an audiophile?

Anything that can be done with 2ch can be done X times better in surround.

It's only 5-10x more expensive.

But then it's never been cheap if your a dedicated music lover.  ;)

I want to avoid putting numbers around the costs of building an ATMOS system. There are a lot of relative values and costs here. Yesterday I listened to a set of $30k speakers driven by +$100K of two-channel gear. My 7.1.4 system was much less than that, and I KNOW we can do it cheaper. AKA iPhone and AirPods Pro 2 make a great system.  

 

For ME, simplifying the system and making it operational for the non-technical folks in the house is paramount.  There is a bit of needle threading that we have to do! With the current methods of ATMOS delivery, there are limits to the paths that work. Right now, I only know of two streaming services that can deliver ATMOS, that is Apple and Amazon, and there are very few ways of providing that sound.

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1 hour ago, bobfa said:

In my ATMOS system(s) (audio only) I do not have HDMI processors.  I have not tested HDMI out on a MAC to a processor.

 

Then where in your system is the Atmos being decoded and sent to 12+ channels?  (I am not interested in headphone signal path).

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1 hour ago, bobfa said:

My main system uses  Apple OS to decode the lossy ATMOS directly.  The TrueHD is done in the Dolby software.  We actually decode it to 7.1.4 WAV files ahead of time.  This gives us the ability to do full room correction work using  DSP on the MAC.

 

Chris just did an article on this process:

 

 

 

Thanks, yes I know Chris's process; I was asking about yours cuz, for example, "the Dolby software" was not listed in your ingredients for a good Atmos system.  And where do the channels get distributed (i.e what dac is used to deliver 12 channels to the amps)?  So..in summary, what Dolby software, what dac, what amps (again, the headphone stuff is of casual interest but not for serious main system listening)? 

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1 minute ago, ted_b said:

Thanks, yes I know Chris's process; I was asking about yours cuz, for example, "the Dolby software" was not listed in your ingredients for a good Atmos system.  And where do the channels get distributed (i.e what dac is used to deliver 12 channels to the amps)?  So..in summary, what Dolby software, what dac, what amps (again, the headphone stuff is of casual interest but not for serious main system listening)? 

 

 

 

 

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18 minutes ago, fredg_31 said:

Hello bobfa, a big thanks for this article, I really want to test atmos, and I’m ready to buy an Apple AirPod max, but I would prefer to use my senn hd800s, would any dac work by being connected to my MacBook Pro M1 Max ?

 

Thanks again!

Yes. Just make sure to setup Apple Music to output Atmos. 

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17 hours ago, bobfa said:

I want to avoid putting numbers around the costs of building an ATMOS system. There are a lot of relative values and costs here.

My only reason for mentioning costs is directly related to my above comments with Chris.

So many times I hear the "2ch forever" folks make comments to along the lines of "I've heard surround sound and was not impressed".  But when pressed for details, he has a six figure 2ch rig at home but listened his buddies $2k home theater and based his impressions/comments on that.

Honest comparisons do need to be made with apple to apples quality systems.  ;)

"The gullibility of audiophiles is what astonishes me the most, even after all these years. How is it possible, how did it ever happen, that they trust fairy-tale purveyors and mystic gurus more than reliable sources of scientific information?"

Peter Aczel - The Audio Critic

nomqa.webp.aa713f2bb9e304522011cdb2d2ca907d.webp  R.I.P. MQA 2014-2023: Hyped product thanks to uneducated, uncritical advocates & captured press.

 

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Thank you, @bobfa, for giving me the idea for how to put the remaining 2 out of 6 months of free Apple Music access to good use. It will be Apple Music in Dolby Atmos on my iPhone with Dolby Atmos ”Always on“, going into my Chord Hugo 2 or Cayin RU7 plus my Sennheiser HD800S or IE900.

 

My questions regarding Apple Music:

 

1. A quick web search for ”gapless“ yields many reports which boil down to gapless replay getting broken around the time when Apple introduced Dolby Atmos (iOS 15?). Did it get thoroughly fixed in the meantime, and is the latest iOS 16.7.2 good enough? (I don‘t run 17 yet.) As almost always on the web, reports on ”they fixed it“ are sparse or non-existent.

 

2. Does Apple Classical do the same things as Apple Music, in particular wrt Dolby Atmos?

 

Well, if you don‘t mind, a - personal - side remark on Apple Music: I spent the first 4 out of the 6 free months being really dissatisfied with the presentation of contents, the search engine, and the entire user look and feel. Both for Apple Music and Classical. It really felt like being in a record store on the proverbial wrong side of the tracks - only Tidal felt worse … For example: I tried to find e.g. Beethoven 9 Symphonies by Karajan from the 1960s on DG or Beethoven‘s 5th and 7th by Kleiber on DG (you know the 5th, movement 3 going gaplessly into movement 4, cf. above) - but these classic and even iconic recordings showed up only waaaay down in the search results. At least, the Kleiber also comes in Dolby Atmos, a candidate for checking gapless replay.

 

But anyway, if Dolby Atmos in these simplified setups described in the article above goes well, I might consider extending my free Apple Music access into a regular subscription.

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4 hours ago, Sal1950 said:

My only reason for mentioning costs is directly related to my above comments with Chris.

So many times I hear the "2ch forever" folks make comments to along the lines of "I've heard surround sound and was not impressed".  But when pressed for details, he has a six figure 2ch rig at home but listened his buddies $2k home theater and based his impressions/comments on that.

Honest comparisons do need to be made with apple to apples quality systems.  ;)

In my experience, you can get incredible results with an Atmos system that rivals and even exceeds the performance of expensive 2 channel rigs. Anthem AVRs and amps are fabulous performers.I have heard too many expensive rigs to know high price does not equate with happiness and satisfaction.

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2 hours ago, 111MilesToGo said:

1. A quick web search for ”gapless“ yields many reports which boil down to gapless replay getting broken around the time when Apple introduced Dolby Atmos (iOS 15?). Did it get thoroughly fixed in the meantime, and is the latest iOS 16.7.2 good enough? (I don‘t run 17 yet.) As almost always on the web, reports on ”they fixed it“ are sparse or non-existent


Gapless Atmos has always worked for me. Listen to Dark Side of the Moon to test it. 

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43 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:


Gapless Atmos has always worked for me. Listen to Dark Side of the Moon to test it. 

Thanks, Chris! I just did a test with both Beethoven 5th Symphony Carlos Kleiber Movement 3 into 4 and Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon, Dolby Atmos each. Streaming on my iPhone 14 Pro Max outside in a city on 5G mobile (DL 50 Mbit/s as per Ookla), and just the phone‘s speakers. Each track transition clicks and stutters quite audibly.

 

I‘ll repeat at home on WiFi at 250 Mbit/s from the ISP - unfortunately not more :-(

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7 minutes ago, 111MilesToGo said:

Thanks, Chris! I just did a test with both Beethoven 5th Symphony Carlos Kleiber Movement 3 into 4 and Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon, Dolby Atmos each. iPhone 14 Pro Max outside in a city on 5G mobile (DL 50 Mbit/s as per Ookla), and just the phone‘s speakers. Each track transition clicks and stutters quite audibly.

 

I‘ll repeat at home on WiFi at 250 Mbit/s from the ISP - unfortunately not more :-(


So strange. I just tested it via a cell signal and it works perfectly. 
 

IMG_0309.png

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