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Dolby Atmos and Lossless Audio: What you need to know about Apple's new sound

Dolby Atmos and Lossless Audio: What you need to know about Apple’s new sound

In mid-May, Apple announced its streaming offer Apple Music is seriously drilling. The company now wants to impress high-end listeners with music in a loss-free format, whose sound quality is similar to music CDs, and with a high-res lossless format, its quality comes close to studio recordings. Thousands of titles in the form of Surround Sound are available to Dolby Atmos to attract all customers. Jane Lowe commented on the technically significant step, “TV got HD – music now gets 3D”. Apple Manager and Radio Host consider 3D sound to be the successor to stereo design.

It is obvious that modern recordings with Dolby Atmos sound more spatial and fatter than ever. You can hear “7 Rings” written by Haryana Grande. The synth bass reaches deep into the very low record, the synthesizer arpeggios shines very high on the crystal and seems to be slapped right in between the singer’s voice.

Even more interesting is how much the old recordings change with the 3D sound.

It is raining everywhere

The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm” provides a clear example, first of all an analog Eight tracks recorded since 1971. The stereo version in Ultra HD is just as good as it sounds on Amazon Music. But the Dolby Atmos version of Apple Music, as they say in Hamburg, is a completely different prank.

If the thunderous noise acting as the background to the title comes straight from the middle in the stereo version, the guitar is definitely on the right and the electric piano is on the left, the 3D version of the Apple opens completely different configuration. Looks like you had a thunderstorm. The guitar and piano are still distributed on the left and right, but they move closer together. The dynamics of the bell-shaped Fender Rhodes piano are considerably more intense. After all, the bass played by Elvis Presley’s bassist Jerry Chef goes very low.

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Dolby Atmos runs on any devices

To listen to music in Dolby Atmos format, you first need an Apple Music subscription, which costs 4.99 to 14.99 per month. The Apple device running the current version of the Apple Music app is also missing. Currently these are exclusively for iPhones, iPods and Macs, and later the Apple Music app for Android will be modified accordingly.

Dolby Atmos will then run automatically on Apple headphones and many other Beats models. If you want to experience the new design in headphones from another manufacturer, you should go Settings Under Music / Dolby Atmos Ann As always Click. But Dolby Atmos can also be heard on the device’s built-in speakers, which is at least acceptable on larger iPods and MacBooks. So it is logical that home bot speakers should work as well. This applies if the Apple TV transmits music from 4K to external speakers via the receiver.

However, the choice of topics that can be heard in the form of space filling is still limited. There are big gaps in Apple’s Dolby Atmos range. For example, Depeche Mode and Radiohead’s songs are lossless, but not in 3D audio format. So it remains to be seen how many albums will actually be converted to the new format. That process is not something that can be done automatically, Apple manager Eddie Q warns »Billboard« -Interview: “It takes a sound engineer, the artist sitting in the back and listening, to make the right decisions, he knows what to do.”

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Lossless listening problem

It is different with the lossless form. Here Apple starts with 20 million songs, which are already available in high resolution versions of Apple Music. It will be much harder for Apple to sell higher sound quality than Dolby Atmos. After all, most music listeners have become accustomed to abbreviated music over the past two decades.

With the MP3 format, music physics was released from data carriers in the mid-1990s and became Internet-enabled, which spurred the rise of music sharing sites and download websites. The ability to share songs on the internet, hated by record companies and musicians, came at the cost of the loss of sound quality, and many happily traded the availability of free music anywhere. But those times are a thing of the past, because services like Spotify have made it possible to listen to music legally on the Internet – often only at a lower quality.

Offers like Gopus, Prime Music HD and Sonos Radio HD from Tuesday have been trying for some time to turn Audiofil customers into streamers – but always charge extra.

Only cables can do that

It’s not free – you have to be a subscriber – but Apple’s Lossless offer does not charge extra for all customers who pay, and offers them CD quality (lossless) and Studio quality (high-res lossless), at least in theory.

The first hurdles to overcome are the bandwidth and space requirements of high-definition music. Apple estimates that the three-minute song in AAC format is six megabytes (MB), 36 MB in lossless format, and 145 MB in high-res lossless format.

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Above all, with hi-res music, you have to say goodbye to the idea that you can listen to it wirelessly. Bluetooth technology used by headphones compresses music to transfer the required amount of data. So you absolutely need a cable connection and an analog one. Apple’s airplanes fall through the grid because in-ear headsets only run via Bluetooth. Only the Airports Max can play lossless audio when connected to a 3.5mm audio cable using the preferred Lightning. “Due to the analog-to-digital transition on cable, playback will not be completely lossless,” Apple warns.

To really take advantage of lossless audio, you will need headphones from a third-party manufacturer that can be connected to the iPhone, iPad or MacBook via a cable. If you want to connect your headphones to newer iPhones and iPods without a headphone jack, you’ll need a Lightning or USB-C to 3.5 -mm headphone jack adapter, which Apple sells for ten euros.

If you want to hear high-res lossless, you need so-called digital-to-analog converter in addition to good hearing and good headphones. Such devices are available for 99 euros, but you can easily afford many of them.

On the Apple TV 4K you can at least listen to lossless music via a receiver connected via HDMI, but hi-res is not lossless. Above all: Apple has announced an update to the homepot speakers, including the larger models that have been announced, which makes seamless audio possible. But there is no date for this yet.