Apple Airpods Max, Nuendo, and Dolby Atmos

For those unfamiliar with the difference between Dolby Atmos binaural and Apple Spatial Audio binaural, I suggest grabbing a cup 'o joe and sitting down to read the following article. (Keep in mind it was written before Apple released Logic’s Spatial Audio Monitoring plug-in, which the author actually alludes is coming towards the end of the article):

Both. Apple can render spatial audio from both Atmos or multi-channel audio. (Obviously, Apple doesn’t want to be over-reliant on having to license Dolby tech for the long term…) Check out the well-written article from Pro-Tools-Expert which I posted above.

Thanks for that article/info. It doesn’t really make me any more convinced that there is a good headphone solution to monitoring/mixing Atmos content, regardless of whether it’s Apple’s renderer or Atmos’s. I guess, truth be told, I’m just not a fan of binaural mixing in general. To me it feels like taking a razor sharp multichannel mix with great separation and positioning and putting it into a foggy soup of sound that gets some of the positioning right, dampens separation, and overall muddies up the mix. Am I the only one who feels this way?

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No I tend to agree. It is however a ‘somewhat good’ way to down mix from multichannel to any user experience and allows us (as creators) to find a bigger audience and thus more budget.
But no it’s not a normal mixing method for me.

No, not at all, altough binaural can be better than Apple or Dolby with certain stand-alone encoders (Dear VR comes to mind), and it can be surprisingly good with individually measured HRTFs.

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I also agree that mixing binaural is a mixed bag at the moment. But jumping through the hoops is important because 99% of people (IMO) will only hear Atmos/Spatial audio mixes on Apple AirPods or the like…

I believe the general consensus today among the engineers (there are several interviews w/famous ones on YouTube) is that the binaural situation will get better as Apple and others improve their renderer software. Each OS update offers brings a new generation of improvements to the rendering algorithms. That’s why they say it’s imperative to create the master mixes on a full 7.1.4 system - because the binaural renderers (be they from Dolby or Apple) will always be a moving target while the 7.1.4 mix will always be a true representation of what the artist and engineers hear in the studio. (Nevertheless, Pro Tools engineers are just as frustrated with lack of real-time monitoring in Pro Tools for Apple spatial audio…)

So I’m glad I’m not on an island here - and that others are in this same limbo - which isn’t a good thing, but at least I literally know where I stand with Atmos and binaural. I think the biggest frustration, if you want to call it that, is that I want to give the experience I have of listening to an amazing mix of music in really incredible 3D space in my 7.2.4 room to others, but rendering down to binaural is such a letdown. I’ve often wondered if I’m just not doing it right, and there is always that possibility! But I don’t think so, especially after hearing you all speak up about it as well.

I think that maybe if I just approach the entire mess with the idea that I’m going to do (if only for my own amusement) a specific binaural mix, although I’ve never been able to stomach it for long in the past. It just feels like going from (and pardon the lame analogy) Dolby Digital back to Pro Logic.

Ok, so the difference is that the Apple renderer is creating a binaural mix that’s different from the one that Dolby does. That wasn’t really the point of this question since it was about Atmos. Like Bill wrote it doesn’t seem to be the same a listening to a mix that was actually encoded to Atmos and then decoded by an Apple renderer, either to binaural or anything else. Different thing.

So if what you want to do is mix for Apple device playback the Apple renderer might be good because you get the “correct” decode of a multichannel signal, but if you want to check an Atmos render/mix on binaural then you can still use the included Dolby renderer.

I don’t disagree btw that Apple’s renderer probably should be made available as a 3rd party cross-OS plugin.

OT: Sounds like Apple is getting into the multichannel spatial audio business. I wonder if they will eventually start selling/leasing encoder hardware as well.

If you care about how your mixes sound in headphones, you have to do both - so you understand how your Atmos mix will translate to AirPods. And just to be clear, although Apple’s engine is capable of rendering raw multichannel audio for their spatial audio, the S.O.P is for labels to submit Dolby Atmos master files to Apple Music. So monitoring the binaural mix in the Dolby renderer is only accurate for non-Apple distribution methods.

My guess is that Apple primarily developed spatial audio for their upcoming rumored VR products. I suspect that, unless things go sour with Dolby, they’ll continue to employ Atmos for spatial audio for Apple Music.

As for live, they did broadcast the last two Developer keynotes w/Atmos sound. I have no idea how they did it, but Tim Cook’s narration sounded terrible. Low volume, with a slight chorus effect? They have a ways to go… (The Atmos audio in the pre-baked demo material sounded awesome, however!)

I missed the above… I think you can set it up so that you get a downmix in realtime. It will be binaural and I think it might be off of the signal pre-renderer though I’m not sure. But I think it’s possible to do it real time. Do a search here on the forum because I seem to recall one member showing how to set it up… unless I’m misunderstanding what you meant.

jpgtr, I think I’m just feeling that the focus on Apple in this discussion is a bit beside the point. The point was just monitoring Atmos without a full set of speakers, not specifically about finishing for Apple Music. Many of us do post, not music, so the broader question is what I thought we were focused on.

Well, I could read between the lines to see where was going. (And the OP later even mentioned he’s mixing for music.) You can’t say you’re mixing for music and then ignore the elephant in the room that is Atmos Music… At any rate, with practice, mixing in headphones* can certainly get things in the ballpark, but in the end you really need to check the mix on a full system. (And also on AirPods if you plan to distribute your music.)

*of course you can monitor the binaural render in real time. Have a look at the Dolby Atmos Renderer manual (or better yet, download a trial version of the app and check it out for yourself). Not sure what the Nuendo capabilities are for doing this native. I strictly use the external DAR as it is currently much more flexible when working with Atmos.

Hi all,

my take on this:

  1. There is no single binaural solution for immersive sound in 3D, that fits all … producers and listeners. More to that futher below.

  2. Binaural encoding of 3D-Audio in realtime (with proper plugins) does technically work for headphones. But it is at best a mediocre emulation of a 3D-Audio production. It may work better for one, and poor for somebody else just sitting next to you with headphones on.

Yes, I know this is quite an agressive statement.

Background to this:

I tried almost half a dozen of plugins for binaural listening to a 7.1.4 mix with Dolby Atmos (there is a seperate thread on this). The intend was to generate a stereo signal with binaural audio besides the classic Atmos mix in 7.1.4. With most plugins and headphones on, the binaural sound seemed to come from the back - for me (!).

I found one plugin, that worked pretty well for me. Was able to locate sound with headphones on. Top, bottom, front, back etc. It did not work for a friend, who is a plugin developer (“… all sound seems behind of me …”).

From all the testing, reading and kind of research I did in the past couple of months, this all is related to each individuals listening characteristics. It is not just about the physics of your head and ears (size, hair, cheeks, beard, dimensions).

It is also related how your brain and ears - perhaps even also together with your eyes - were trained over your whole live time to be able to locate sound. And this is very, very individual. Hence my statement under 1). So individual psycho-accustic effects play a key role.

The closest you could get is, if you have a sophisticated personal HRTF created for you. Not the kind of give-aways, which come with a plugin. And this HRTF works only for you. It does not work for you colleague, and not for the listener (consumer).

If one is lucky, his head (physics etc.) may be similar or close to be similar to the one of the producer. Then he/she may be able to hear some or more of the specific 3D sound with the abilitly to locate the sound.

But in most cases, it may differ in all grades of variances.

This is why the results (… like here …) are so mixed.

LG, Juergi

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The fact that Dolby is almost exclusively promoting Dolby Atmos Music is also due to the fact that it is so easy to produce: All you need is a headphone and a DAW that supports Atmos.
The logic behind this is that most consumers also listen to music through headphones. Very few will enjoy their immersive music experience (whether Atmos, Atmos+Apple Spatial , Ambisonics, MPEG-H or whatever) through their 9.1.6 high-end system in their living room at home. More likely on the bus or subway. While a baby cries on the left and someone burps loudly into his cell phone on the right. You can really ask the fundamental question of how useful an immersive mix is under such circumstances.

We do post-production. There, it’s rather the other way around. But even with series and films, consumption is increasingly taking place via smartphone. That’s why we also test each of our mixes via headphones.
And I have to emphasize it again: You can only make a final statement about the end result once you’ve heard your mix in a consumer format. Already the difference between TrueHD with Atmos and E-AC-3 JOC is considerable. Not to mention AC-4, where you can encode an immersive stereo mix at 64 kbps. Ouch! :upside_down_face:

For those of us too tired to search out the other thread. Can you tell us the name of this plug-in? Please. :blush:

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Spatial Audio Designer - In-One Plugin. From New Audio Technology.

See also here for a bit more info. Is it possible to do this with Ambisonics? - #8 by Juergi

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To keep things in perspective: Many of us who mix 3D music do so for film scores or other types of music used in conjunction with “media” that the audience will hear through speakers.

… maybe not

through their 9.1.6 high-end system in their living room at home

, a humble 5.1.4 setup should be sufficient for most use-cases anyway. ;-D

I’ve seen quite a few hypes in the last few years. (Who hasn’t of us?) Most of them have disappeared again. And the few that have remained are carried by people like you. So those who don’t just do it “on the side” and go with it because it’s trendy, but because they recognize the advantages of a technology and try to exploit them.

If we are to believe Dolby, then it shouldn’t really make any difference. :laughing:

We did a survey two years ago. The result was that the majority listens to Atmos via a soundbar. However, it was about movies (BD/UHD-BD).