Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon album just turned 50. On the occasion of the anniversary it has been reissued once again. This album is one of the most remixed in the history of music, among other things because it was one of the ones that took the most work to record.
Pink Floyd and producer Alan Parsons used some of the most modern technology of their time, but little did they know that an immersive sound version using Dolby Atmos technology would be released in 2023.
For those who are more demanding when listening to music, the arrival of this version has unleashed a intense debate about the experience it provides compared to previous versions. But the truth is that most of the analysis that has appeared on this new remix of the album in specialized media is positive and even enthusiastic.
It is quite curious that to listen to this disc in spatial audio it is necessary to physically acquire it in Blu-Ray format. There is no other way to do it. Neither old vinyl nor CDs can reproduce spatial audio. This is because the Dolby Atmos immersive audio standard requires a large amount of data to stream the music. But the vast majority of those who listen to the album will not pay the more than 300 euros for the space edition.
They will listen to it on a Dolby Atmos compatible streaming service like Tidal, Amazon Music and especially on Apple Music. The Cupertino company is the one that is betting the strongest on spatial audio, among other things to distance itself from Spotify, which does not incorporate the immersive audio experience into any of its plans.
The alliance between Apple Music and Dolby is more important than it seems. Even though Spotify is still the go-to music streaming service, many artists want to stand out on Apple Music because they get more profit. One important way to achieve this is to record your songs in Dolby Atmos.
Apple gives more priority to recorded music, what they call spatial audio. The consequence of all this is that Dolby Atmos is ceasing to be a sound system associated with movie theaters and home theaters. Now it also begins to be a standard in the music industry.
In Spain there are numerous studios that are already certified to record music with this standard, which denotes that it has a future. Although at present there are few who listen to music with this sound standard. Among other things because the hardware necessary to achieve it is still somewhat exotic.
Sonos has taken an important step by adding the Era 300 speaker to its product portfolio. In a record store in the Madrid neighborhood of Malasaña we had the chance to hear what these speakers were capable of. The first thing that strikes you when installing one of these speakers is that with just one of them the sound seems to come from everywhere.
Especially if we place it in a strategic place in the room. To achieve this, the Sonos Era 300 launches sound even towards the ceiling that rotates in all directions. Although as we have verified the experience improves significantly when pairing two Sonos Era 300. And even better if we link the set as we have tested the new Sonos Era 100.
A speaker that, despite not being certified with Dolby Atmos, if we add it to a set of speakers with the Era 300, the feeling that the music is enveloping improves even more. In the presentation that Sonos made of this product, we were able to see how a complex sound system, with several Sonos Era 300 and a Sonos Arc sound bar, surprisingly reproduced a Queen song remixed in Dolby Atmos.
The experience is difficult and at the same time easy to describe: if you close your eyes you have the feeling that you are surrounded by the band, since each instrument and Freddy Mercury’s voice come from different points. But, of course, this depends on the skill with which a song is mixed or remixed.
In addition, it is true that we are talking about optimal listening conditions. Few are those who, due to economic and space reasons, will be able to have a team of these characteristics. But the Sonos Era 300 demonstrates what may be about to happen: more and more Dolby Atmos-compatible speakers for streaming music will start appearing. Well, as we said, a single unit of this system is capable of reproducing ambient sound.
It should also be taken into account that Dolby Atmos certified sound systems allow you to listen to both music and movies filmed with this standard. After all, this technology was born in the cinema and did not make its leap into music until a few years after it was created.
Many headphones are Dolby Atmos certified, but the experience is poor
But there are also controversial aspects that we must take into account. The first of these is that not everything that is mixed in Dolby Atmos has to be better. If spatial sound is not added correctly to a recording, the result can be worse than if we listened to it recorded in stereo.
Also, Dolby is certifying for a wide range of devices, from not-so-quality headphones to mobile phones. And we attest that the spatial sound experience that can be achieved with some of these products is far from what is achieved with a single certified speaker, such as the aforementioned Sonos Era 300.
It should also be noted that although Dolby Atmos has managed to establish itself as a surround sound standard, Dolby is not the only company that has launched into this field. Sony 360 Reality Audio is the commitment of the Japanese company to achieve surround audio. And interestingly they promise that it is possible to achieve this with any headset.
We have done the test with quality headphones with a few years behind us, the Sony WH-1000XM3 that are not certified for Sony 360 audio. And the truth is that playing music with this system from the Japanese company supported by the corresponding app , and the experience can be surprising.
Alan Parsons, producer of Dark Side of The Moon, mixes in Dolby Atmos today
Much better in fact than some headphones that are theoretically capable of reproducing sound with Dolby Atmos, as is the case with the Realme Buds Air 3 Neo headphones. Tidal and Amazon Music by the way contain songs capable of being played with the Sony 360 standard.
Spatial sound seems to be here to stay, but it will probably take quite some time to completely oust, if ever, stereo sound in music. It is easier that we are seeing increasingly better Dolby Atmos sound systems for home theater. There are many sound bars with Dolby Atmos certification, some cost less than 200 euros. Although the surround audio experience is uneven.
Be that as it may Alan Parsons, the producer of Dark Side of The Moon, seems to be delighted with the spatial sound. After all, 50 years ago he tried to overcome stereo sound by recording the album in the quadraphonic surround sound system, devised in the 1950s. So much so that in March the legendary sound engineer achieved an award for a mix made with Dolby Atmos. Although the remastered edition in Dolby Atmos of his most popular album has not been his work. But that is another story.
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