Cubase 12 + Dolby Atmos + Waves Nx emersive listeneing + Atmos ADM File QC

Hello fellow Cubase friends,

I continue to be excited about Dolby Atmos being a native function in Cubase 12. There are, however, a few challenges when it comes to experiencing the full immersive sound of Dolby Atmos in headphones and the ability to check the immersive quality of the Dolby Atmos ADM file after it is exported. Without a 7.1.2 or 7.1.4 physical monitor setup, we can only hear a binaural mix with a limited sense of Atmos/surround/ambisonics beyond less than 180 degrees of the front half of a 360 sphere. Localization of sounds panned to the back half and large portions of the height information (bottom and top) will be hard to perceive from a fixed binaural (head-locked) listening scenario. Its like looking at 360 degree photos without the option to change the perspective to view the rest of the 360 field of view -its a 180 photo as far as the viewer is concerned. Its seems like a similar principle with immersive audio played in a head-locked binaural listening scenario. That’s the best way I can explain my experience in the immersive audio challenge with Dolby Atmos in headphones.

I found a few workarounds on YouTube using plugins and gear I already own which is Cubase 12 Pro, MR816x Steinberg/Yamaha audio interface, Waves Nx Virtual Mix Room plugin, and the Waves Nx Head Tracker hardware. I will paste the links at the bottom.

:smiley: :smiley: :smiley:Here is a summary of fixes :sweat_smile: :sweat_smile: :sweat_smile:
Monitoring Dolby Atmos mixes in your headphones (dynamic binaural). While I don’t think “dynamic binaural” is a actual term, I think its an accurate summation of this work-around to overcome head locked binaural immersive audio problem. It allows the mix engineer listen to the full 360ish spectrum of Dolby Atmos to make better mix decisions in using the vast amount of mixing space afforded by Dolby Atmos (More than stereo and 7.1). The only thing more immersive would be actual 2nd and 3rd order Ambisonics, which Cubase has been able to mix, export, and play back exported files for a while now. Dolby Atmos seems to be the happy medium for market and consumers.

  • For Dolby Atmos in Cubase, you need a virtual Ambisonics studio plugin like Waves Nx Virtual Mix Room (VMR). Nx VMR comes with traditional surround sound formats as well as an Ambisonics (B Format) plugin. , we need to use the Ambisonics version of Nx VMR

  • The head tracker is cool to have because it attaches to your headphones and it uses Bluetooth to communicate your head position to the computer. You can do this without the head tracker and use your computer’s webcam as well. If cant use either, you may be able to use the “Rotate” knob to rotate the virtual space around you. (Use the trial version to try it out)

I was unable to get this to work using the Setup Assistant for ADM Authoring for Dolby Atmos tool found under the Project Tab. Michael Wagner Tutorial from Drexel University set it up this way and it worked for me.

Manual setup -

  1. In the Studio tab at the to of Cubase, Audio Connections. In Audio Connecions, chose the Group/FXs tab. Create a 7.1.2 group channel to be used as your Atmos Bed (I recommend “Bed” be part of the name you give this channel). If you want to use Lfe, right click the Atmos group and select add Child Group and the Lfe will be available to send your Kick drum and other low frequency channels you may want to come from the Lfe as an added bonus for consumers who have Lfe playback. Best practice is to treat your mix as if there was no Lfe and mix our low frequency as you would for stereo
  2. Create a 7.1.4 group channel and select Dolby Atmos Renderer Plugin on the Insert
  3. Open the Renderer (each of the 128 dots represents a channel that can be panned throughout the Dolby Atmos sound field), Minimize it the plugin for later use.
  4. Under the Projects section at the top of Cubase, select ADM Authoring for Dolby Atmos
  5. In the Renderer section of ADM Authoring for Dolby Atmos, select the Renderer you created in step 2 in the drop-down, hit the “Add Bed” button and select the track Atmos Bed group you created in step 1 to the source section, then minimize or close the window
  6. Create a Ambisonics (3rd Order) Group Channel - change Ambi Decoder panner to Standard panner, then disable (bypass) the panner.
  7. Create a Quodro group channel- Set as main mix - no Audio interface channels selected - Disable (bypass) panner
  8. Create a Quadro Monitor in Control Room - Connect main out channels/Audio Interface. Insert Waves Nx Ambisonics into the Insert section of the Qaudro Monitoring in the Control Room Section

Routing Sections

  • Bed: Route generally statically panned tracks (e.g. kick, snare, bass, lead vocals) to the Bed group channel (channels 1-10 of the Dolby Atmos Rendering plugin are dedicated to the Bed Group). Remember that the bed is 7.1.2 as you make panning decisions.

  • Objects: All other tracks should be routed to the Dobly Atmos Render group (7.1.4 mix for panning considerations). Channels 11-128 of the Renderer plugin are call Objects . These channels are intended to be panned throughout the Dolby Atmos spectrum/space (7.1.4). Stereo tracks use two object (which are paired). Consider automation for creative panning options.

  • Groups - Dolby Atmos Signal flow to Waves Nx: The Setup Assistant creates an Output Bus instead of a Group. An Output Bus is routed to the Audio Interface for playback. We are using a Group because we want to rout the Renderer to Waves Nx for immersive monitoring in headphones. Because Waves Nx Ambisonics is B Format which is a 4 “Channel”/directional sphere (Center , Left-Right, Front-Back, Up-Down/Z), Cubase sees it as a Quadro Channel setup (4 separate speakers - surround/square) although its not. 4 channels = Quadro to Cubase. So we have to lead Cubase in the right direction while blindfolding it (potential Feature Request).

  1. Route the Renderer Group to channel to the Ambisonics (3rd order) Group Channel. The Renderer Trim and Downmix section should be set to 7.1.4. The Ambisonics panner needs to be changed to Standard and bypassed/disabled
  2. Route the Ambisoncs Group to the Quadro Group. The Quadro Bus/Output should be set to Main Mix.
  3. There should also be a Quadro Monitor in Control Room with Waves Nx on the Insert - make sure this monitor is selected in Control Room

Waves Nx should receive the Dolby Atmos Mix for monitoring in Full 3D. Waves Nx will Down mix the dolby into binaural, but in a away that allows you yo move around the full Dolby Atmos space

Quality Control
Once you Export Your ADM file, you cant just import it back into Cubase to play it back for quality control. Michael Wagner from Drexel University shares 2 ways.
1: Is an app called MediaInfo that can examine the meta data and content and tell you
2. Is use Amazon AWS to convert the file into an MP4 and play it back (I’m still trying to get it into Cubase to listen via Nx Waves). Cubase sees it but wont import it as a track. Its not free but really cheap as far as I can tell. Pay per conversion.

I may update/correct this as I go along. There was a lot of information to cover.


There are some templates and links to further guides on my Discord (including using NX):


Checking it out now. Thanks!

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