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Article: Atmos? We Don’t Need No Stinking Atmos


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Greatest poster ever!  I can't remember if mine had the Maxell logo or not...

 

Very interesting piece.  When I read "more analog", are there aspects other than the better soundstage?  Please describe.  Also, any theories on why that might be?  Thanks

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Hi @joelha thanks so much for the article. 

 

This topic is one that touches some sacred audio cows. Two channel Atmos? I thought the "experts" said Atmos doesn't scale down to two channels very well? I've heard that so many times over the last couple years, that I've lost count. Kind of like the Atmos doesn't do gapless "expert" opinions (new flash: it does).

 

I really love your enthusiasm for trying things that may increase your enjoyment of our wonderful hobby. What's the worst thing that can happen, a few minutes of listening to great music? Best case scenario is you discover something new that's equally or more enjoyable. 

 

I also love your approach to Atmos in two channels. You know a bit about the technology and certainly the arguments for/against it, but you decided to just listen for yourself and make up your own mind. Such a rational approach :~)

 

As someone with twelve channels, my opinion of two channel Atmos is limited. I've listened to it, but mainly over headphones, not loudspeakers. I really should spend more time listening to the two channel mixes. There are some headphone Atmos mixes that I much prefer over the traditional stereo mix I've listened to for decades. My guess is this should translate to loudspeakers. The best part is that I'm not forced to guess, I can just listen or myself!

 

Note to others interested in listening to some two channel Atmos. Everyone with a Mac computer and Apple Music can stream tons of Atmos content to their stereo whether it has two, six, eight, twelve, or sixteen channels. That's the beauty of Atmos, a single file adapts to the system on which it's played. 

 

In Apple Music the setting for Atmos is pictured below. I usually have mine on Automatic because it works best. However, one may have to force it to Always On if Automatic doesn't work. 

 

Screenshot 2024-01-02 at 1.01.45 PM.png

 

 

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4 minutes ago, PeterG said:

Greatest poster ever!  I can't remember if mine had the Maxell logo or not...

 

Very interesting piece.  When I read "more analog", are there aspects other than the better soundstage?  Please describe.  Also, any theories on why that might be?  Thanks

 

Hi Peter, I certainly don't speak for @joelha but will offer my opinion.

 

You should download the sample track to see what you think, on your system. That's what really matters.

 

The curious part of us wants to know why, of course. A couple reasons include, it's a completely different mix and the dynamic range is frequently double that of the traditional stereo mix.

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

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40 minutes ago, PeterG said:

Very interesting piece.  When I read "more analog", are there aspects other than the better soundstage?  Please describe.  Also, any theories on why that might be?  Thanks

By "analog", I mean smoother. It's often tough putting what we hear into words, Peter.

 

But I agree with Chris. Best to download the track and see if your experience mirrors mine.

 

Joel

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41 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

I really love your enthusiasm for trying things that may increase your enjoyment of our wonderful hobby. What's the worst thing that can happen, a few minutes of listening to great music? Best case scenario is you discover something new that's equally or more enjoyable. 

 

I also love your approach to Atmos in two channels. You know a bit about the technology and certainly the arguments for/against it, but you decided to just listen for yourself and make up your own mind. Such a rational approach :~)

That's very nice of you to say, Chris, although there's no way I would have had the opportunity to experience Atmos in the way I have without your considerable help.

 

Thanks very much for that.

 

Joel

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Thanks, Joel and Chris,

 

i appreciate both the "smoother" and DR explanations, and in addition to the aforementioned soundstage improvement compared to digital, and the lower hardware cost compared to 7.1.4, 2-channel Atmos seems very promising.   If I had a spare laptop I would try this today.  Alas, my only two sources are a Naim Uniti Core (closed environment server) and a turntable.  So I'm going to just watch for a while longer.  Cheers

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4 minutes ago, PeterG said:

Thanks, Joel and Chris,

 

i appreciate both the "smoother" and DR explanations, and in addition to the aforementioned soundstage improvement compared to digital, and the lower hardware cost compared to 7.1.4, 2-channel Atmos seems very promising.   If I had a spare laptop I would try this today.  Alas, my only two sources are a Naim Uniti Core (closed environment server) and a turntable.  So I'm going to just watch for a while longer.  Cheers

Your Uniti Core can play two channel FLAC files. That’s all you need to try the file in the article. 

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

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The title of this article is surely clickbait and could arouse some pretty hard feelings on all side of the Atmos question. I thought the article would totally bash Atmos as Stereophile recently did. Not, thank you. 

I have a 5.1.2 Atmos array at home, which is essentially the minimum spacial audio requirement. Yes, there is limited lossless Atmos content, but it sounds great to me. Even some of the lossy Apple-streamed Atmos albums are acceptable to my ear because of the spacial effect being so different.

 

I had been into MCH 5.1 for many years, so to get into the Atmos gig only required me to purchase two in-ceiling front height speakers and an additional amp to run them, along with the aforementioned $400 Dolby Reference Player for decoding. So yes, an additional investment, but certainly modest as compared to my investment up to that point in my main system, which uses all Revel speakers and Bel Canto amplification. 
 

I have a second 5.1 MCH setup in a den which uses KEF LS50s for mains and center and an Andrew Jones-designed Pioneer bookshelf speaker for surrounds. I’ve got a pair of inexpensive Klipsch ceiling bounce Atmos speakers (I tried those before buying the additional Revel in ceiling speakers for my main system).  I plan to place the Klipsch speakers on top of the LS50 mains for the front height requirement. I already have an amp that can take on the extra channels in the den, so the add on for Atmos to that system costs me nothing additional but my time to put it together. 
 

My point is that Atmos is like 2-channel, in that you can spend outrageous sums — as Chris has done with his Wilson 7.1.4 system (which does sound great and, @joelha, you really should trek to Minneapolis to hear) — or you can spend modest amounts to get into it.  If you already have a 5.1 MCH setup, it’s a small leap from there to spacial Atmos. 
 

I’ll have to check out the 2-channel Atmos mixes — I haven’t tried that yet!  Thanks. JCR 

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1 minute ago, jrobbins50 said:

The title of this article is surely clickbait and could arouse some pretty hard feelings on all side of the Atmos question. I thought the article would totally bash Atmos as Stereophile recently did. Not. 

Thanks for your comment, jrobbins50.

 

I plead guilty to having written a provocative title. Given some of the comments out there, my intent was satire as much as anything else.

 

I'll hope people won't have hard feelings about the title as there are things to have hard feelings about in life. The title of an article about Atmos shouldn't rise to that level.

 

Good feedback about your systems and the relatively modest cost of getting into them.

 

And your comment about hearing Chris' system is duly noted. I have no good excuse.

 

I'm looking forward to learning what you think of the short clip I posted.

 

Joel

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I have heard a couple Atmos stereo mixes and they do sound great. Even Atmos naysayer, Michael Fremer noted that the two channel Atmos fold down mix of Pet Sounds sounded great on his system even after he crapped all over the full Atmos mix played at the Dolby facility in Manhattan. great article!

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3 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

Your Uniti Core can play two channel FLAC files. That’s all you need to try the file in the article. 

 

Embarrassed enough by my poor reading comprehension score on this portion of the exam, I have downloaded and played...

 

You guys are such a tease!  It kills me that this was only a minute.  Nevertheless, a terrific minute of music, and it sounds very good.  I don't think I would have mistaken it for analog had I not known, but I agree on the excellent soundstage, or maybe I should say on the excellent use of the stereo effect.  Similar to John Lee Hooker's Burnin' with the reverb.  REALLY good bass.  I am going to buy the CD or LP to compare.  I recommend all give this a listen

 

Thanks 😊

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I downloaded the file. Played it in Roon and found Qobuz version of the release as well.

 

OK, I do hear more bass and I guess more air in the mix. But I'm old and remember all the prior attempts at "Quad" back in the 70's. I even had one of those phase shift boxes that were suppose to flesh out rear channel content from subtraction. It was a fun lo-fi attempt.

 

Personally, I'm not interested in "Atmos" or any other more than 2-channel music. I'll leave that for the Home Theater fans (and yes I had a Yamaha 5.1 channel AV system in the early 2000s.) I see the forum here attempting to really promote "immersive" music and I simply ignore it. For those that love it... great. I'm happy for you.

Analog: Rega P8 'Table > Ortofon Cadenza Black Cartridge > Bob's Devices SUT 1:20 > Naim Supernait3 Phono Section

Network Streaming: SoTM SMS200 Ultra w/ SoTM SPS500 power supply > Holo Audio Spring 3 KTE DAC
Digital Disc: Shanling ET3 CD Transport > Holo Audio Spring 3 KTE DAC

Audio: Naim Supernait3 Integrated> Harbeth P3ESR Speakers w/ Two Goldenear Forcefield 3 Subwoofers
Power: PS Audio Stellar PowerPlant3

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15 minutes ago, PeterG said:

 

Embarrassed enough by my poor reading comprehension score on this portion of the exam, I have downloaded and played...

 

You guys are such a tease!  It kills me that this was only a minute.  Nevertheless, a terrific minute of music, and it sounds very good.  I don't think I would have mistaken it for analog had I not known, but I agree on the excellent soundstage, or maybe I should say on the excellent use of the stereo effect.  Similar to John Lee Hooker's Burnin' with the reverb.  REALLY good bass.  I am going to buy the CD or LP to compare.  I recommend all give this a listen

 

Thanks 😊


This is what it’s all about. Giving stuff a try, with an open mind. 

 

 

 

8 minutes ago, davide256 said:

ummm, one of the most enthralling performances I have heard at CAF was mono LP recordings with custom EQ using VPI turntables and very large KEF monitors. So clearly

number of channels does not determine how enjoyable a recording is.


I think you may be countering a point that was never made and would never be made by any rational person. 

 

 

7 minutes ago, creativepart said:

I downloaded the file. Played it in Roon and found Qobuz version of the release as well.

 

OK, I do hear more bass and I guess more air in the mix. But I'm old and remember all the prior attempts at "Quad" back in the 70's. I even had one of those phase shift boxes that were suppose to flesh out rear channel content from subtraction. It was a fun lo-fi attempt.

 

Personally, I'm not interested in "Atmos" or any other more than 2-channel music. I'll leave that for the Home Theater fans (and yes I had a Yamaha 5.1 channel AV system in the early 2000s.) I see the forum here attempting to really promote "immersive" music and I simply ignore it. For those that love it... great. I'm happy for you.


Nothing is for everyone. As long as you’re happy, I’m happy. 

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

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2 hours ago, PeterG said:

You guys are such a tease!  It kills me that this was only a minute.

I promise, the intent was not to tease but rather to avoid copyright infringement as much as possible, which I might not have done regardless. 
 

Enjoy the album. 
 

Joel

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2 hours ago, creativepart said:

Personally, I'm not interested in "Atmos" or any other more than 2-channel music. I'll leave that for the Home Theater fans (and yes I had a Yamaha 5.1 channel AV system in the early 2000s.) I see the forum here attempting to really promote "immersive" music and I simply ignore it. For those that love it... great. I'm happy for you.

This is a textbook way to disagree with an article. 

 

"I don't love it but if you do, have a nice time."

 

Thanks for reading and commenting on the article. 

 

Joel

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Very interesting article, now I understand that even headphone users could rip some 4K UHD movies / concerts while enjoying those 7.1.4-channel Atmos tracks in lossless TrueHD format

 

https://audiophilestyle.com/ca/immersive/lossless-truehd-atmos-just-got-much-easier-r1170/

https://audiophilestyle.com/forums/topic/68908-atmos-for-stereo-users/#comment-1262840

 

BTW, the whole point here really is all about upsampling those (properly) decoded FLAC files with PGGB 256.

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FYI - here's a great site for those of us who are interested in learning more about stereo versus Atmos mixes of the same album

 

https://magicvinyldigital.net

 


 

Somewhat OT but multi-channel DACs (e.g. Merging HAPI) are actually good choice for stereo tracks, too

 

https://www.headphoneclub.com/thread-761860-1-1.html

https://hifiplus.com/articles/merging-nadac-digital-converter/

Quote

In fact, the NADAC is built around the high-performance eight-channel ESS Sabre ES9008S D/A converter, and in the NADAC’s eight-channel guise, these channels can be summed into respective left and right digital outputs from the menu. Summing eight-into-two should give slightly superior linearity, a greater dynamic range and a lower noise floor over the two-channel only version.

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There are interesting thoughts in this article. From my personal point of view, there is one goal and that is high fidelity. To hear the music as the musician or musicians intended, composed and played it. The first steps were quadrophonic and in Switzerland it was Jürg Jecklin who promoted this. Today, with digital technology, we have other possibilities at our disposal. Be it Atmos or my preferred Auro3d. My aim is to achieve the most authentic reproduction possible. I had the opportunity to listen to live broadcasts of NHK in Auro3d and I can say it was phenomenal.

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2 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

?

 

Whether we're going through USB or RAVENNA, virtually all 8-channel DACs out there should be limited to 8fS

 

https://www.ravenna-network.com/solutions-by-merging/

Quote

High resolution sample rates up to 384kHz PCM, DXD and DSD256

 

https://www.merging.com/products/interfaces/merging+anubis

Quote

44.1 kHz up to 352.8 kHz (DXD), 384 kHz, DSD64, DSD128 & DSD256

 

https://nadac.merging.com/product/specifications

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Ethernet (RAVENNA/AES67) on RJ45 connector. Accepts 44.1kHz – 384kHz PCM, DXD, DSD 64, DSD128, DSD256

 

https://exasound.com/Products/s88StreamingDAC.aspx

Quote

PCM/DXD: 44.1kHz to 384kHz at 32 bits

 


 

OTOH, we need at least 16fS for PGGB or else it wouldn't get anywhere

 

https://audiowise-canada.myshopify.com/blogs/news/why-upsampling-with-pggb-is-a-good-thing

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It's recommended to upsample to 16fS (705.6/768kHz) at noise-shaped 24 or 32 bits. PGGB files present best on DACs with an analog section that resolves the full frequency signal.

 

https://audiophilestyle.com/forums/topic/62699-a-toast-to-pggb-a-heady-brew-of-math-and-magic/page/23/#comment-1138565  

On 6/4/2021 at 11:23 PM, Zaphod Beeblebrox said:

PGGB applies different noise shaping based on the output rate and bit depth but there were two goals I had in the design, to be able to reproduce small signals accurately and to have a quantization noise floor very very low. As an example, the noise shaper PGGB uses for 16FS signal to noise shape output signal to 32bits has a noise floor below -350dB in the audible range and can easily reproduce a tone at -200dB anywhere in the audible range.

 

https://audiophilestyle.com/forums/topic/62699-a-toast-to-pggb-a-heady-brew-of-math-and-magic/page/19/#comment-1136844  

On 5/29/2021 at 4:36 AM, austinpop said:
  • The Mojo is a Chord DAC, and to get the benefit of PGGB, you need to bypass the WTA1 stage - just like we are doing on our DAVEs, TT2s, etc. This requires 16FS PGGB files. You can't really use half measures here. Upsampling to 4FS or 8FS does not get the WTA1 stage out of the way, so the benefit of PGGB, while still possible, is going to be unknown.

 

BTW, there's this comparison between 7.1.4-channel sampling with HQPlayer and 2-channel upsampling with PGGB 256 last year

 

https://audiophilestyle.com/ca/bits-and-bytes/my-visit-to-audiophile-style-hq-—-another-take-on-immersive-vs-2ch-audio-r1186/

 


 

Guide: How to play Atmos (from 5.1.2 up to 9.1.6) on Windows using multiple audio devices on without an Atmos receiver

https://www.reddit.com/r/htpc/comments/13lzm49/guide_how_to_play_atmos_from_512_up_to_916_on/

 

While it might seem to work just fine (on the hardware side that is) if we're actually stacking multiple units of 2-channel DACs, mostly likely we aren't having luck with ASIO4ALL whatsoever

 

https://yabb.jriver.com/interact/index.php/topic,133782.msg926767.html#msg926767

Quote

DAC manufacturer ASIO driver plays any format locally but none from the server, ASIO4All plays anything under 192Khz from everywhere, but isn't able to go above that freq (384Khz PCM and DSD); no way to have every format supported by my DAC played from a server like I'd want.

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8 hours ago, seeteeyou said:

Somewhat OT but multi-channel DACs (e.g. Merging HAPI) are actually good choice for stereo tracks, too

 

https://www.headphoneclub.com/thread-761860-1-1.html

https://hifiplus.com/articles/merging-nadac-digital-converter/

And for the HAPI....................https://www.stereophile.com/content/merging-hapi-mkii-multichannel-digital-processor

Kal Rubinson

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

 

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