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Dolby Atmos is lossy--and will continue to be

Posted on November 7, 2023 at 07:05:23

Posts: 3232
Location: Ohio
Joined: June 22, 2008
From "As We See It," p. 3 of the December Stereophile, by Fine and Austin:
--The streaming version of Atmos through Apple Music is a maximum of 768 kbps for loudspeaker delivery "roughly equivalent to one channel of CD-quality audio" and 256 kbps over headphones.

--Jeff Jones, the CEO of Apple Corps Ltd (the Beatles umbrella corporation) indicated that Blu-Ray discs containing Atmos remixes are "going away" because consumers don't care and they raise costs." The article authors note that Jones doesn't speak for the entire music industry.

--The authors think that Atmos will "slowly fade away" due to "higher production costs, lack of consumer interest, and inferior technical quality in this distributed form." They suspect people won't notice the reduction in audio qualit but will simply stop listening. So Fine and Austin "hope for the demise" of Atmos.


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I had already posted that a few of months ago, posted on November 7, 2023 at 10:47:31
Posts: 25927
Location: SF Bay Area
Joined: February 17, 2004
February 6, 2012
This was in connection with some of the articles on the Audiophile Style site, which goes into the subject in what I presume is far more depth than Stereophile's "As We See It" column does. Moreover, here's what Austin also said (in a footnote to one of Kal's MCh / Dolby Atmos equipment reviews) back in May:
[The BPO,'s streaming implementation of Dolby Atmos is] lossy to be sure, but to look at it another way, the 7.1.4 BPO [streaming] feed contains about 30% more information than a two-channel CD-rez FLAC stream does. What's more, the extra information is far more sonically meaningful than some extra samples in a two-channel feed.
I also think that one has to be careful quoting the Apple Corps CEO because of the possible confusion between Apple Corps (as you say, the Beatles corporation) and Apple Music (part of the largest corporation in America - at least sometimes!), the latter of which seems to be gung-ho in support of Dolby Atmos.

The likelihood is that, over time, the streaming capabilities of various streaming corporations (Apple Music, Amazon Music, etc.) will improve (in resolution) in their streaming of Dolby Atmos, as streaming has historically improved in general. But in the meantime, I agree with what Austin said in May. One has to ask oneself how audibly significant any increase in the bit rate is - is it used for something which listeners will notice, or not? And I feel that listeners are FAR more likely to notice the use of Dolby Atmos (i.e., with discrete channel feeds) than they are to notice an increase in 2Ch resolution from lossy 24/48 (using Apple's current algorithm) to lossless DXD.

Austin and Fine's current stance (as you report it) sounds to me like that of the typical Luddite audiophile. ("Ooh! Let's listen to some 78's with my special mono cartridge!") ;-) Of course, there's nothing wrong with that - to each his own. And as I've also said before, listening to Dolby Atmos over headphones (or with a soundbar) instead of with discrete channels is an exercise in futility.

In any case, I'll be interested to read the "As We See It" article once it appears online.


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