Dolby wants you to experience music in a new way
Dolby, the company most of us know for bringing premium sound to movie theaters and high-end home audio, wants you to listen to music in a different way.
People of a certain age might recall Quadrophonic sound, which brought four-channel sound to recordings. Now try true multichannel, in the home, with immersive sound that goes beyond left and right to come at you from all directions—in front, in back, to the side of you and even over your head, should you chose to install speakers there.
Dolby's Atmos system, popular with high-end TVs and movie theaters for bringing multi-dimensional sound to the cinema, said Thursday it's adding music to its portfolio, and the company hopes to begin releasing tracks for streaming this year. Dolby says the technology lifts "songs with space, clarity and depth as never before."
The San Francisco-based company announced a deal with Universal Music Group, the largest recording label and home of artists ranging from Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga to Abba, Elton John and The Who, to begin re-mastering older and new tracks in Atmos.
Samuel Lindley, better known as "The Legendary Traxster," a producer who has helmed recordings for Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Ludacris, says Atmos is a "new way of expressing yourself in music." Lindley, who now serves as senior vice-president of Universal Music, likes that the music isn't "just in front of me, but it can surround me in a more natural capacity."
Beyond Universal, Dolby is looking to bring on other labels as well.
At a demo in the historic Capitol Records studio here, Dolby and Universal executives showcased the system, beginning by playing the classic song "What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye, over 16 speakers. The sound was distributed into several of the speakers, with the street chatter that opens the song appearing in front and the conga players in the back of the room.
Fans of listening to streaming music through their smartphones won't get as far with Atmos for mobile and listening on earbuds as they would in a recording studio. Dolby says Atmos just brings "enhanced sound" to mobile. For folks to get the most of it, they'll need to listen on speakers or home soundbars.
The Atmos system has been added to Universal's recording studios, which includes Capitol in Hollywood (where the Beach Boys, Bob Dylan and Neil Young all recorded classic albums) to Abbey Road Studios in London (The Beatles) and Berry Hill Studios (Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash) in Nashville.
Atmos technology currently works with Netflix and Amazon Prime for certain streaming titles and the Apple TV set-top box as well as some 40 soundbars from the likes of Sony, Vizio and Yamaha.
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