Practitioners' Perspectives on Spatial Audio: Insights into Dolby Atmos and Binaural Mixes in Popular Music

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This paper presents the practitioners' perspective on mixing popular music in spatial audio, with particular emphasis on Dolby Atmos and binaural mixes generated by the renderers offered by both Dolby and Apple. It presents the results of a dual-stage study, which utilized focus groups with nine professional music producers and a questionnaire completed by 140 practitioners, all engaged in mixing music in spatial audio formats, particularly in popular music styles. Analysis of the focus groups and questionnaire revealed the continued influence of stereo approaches on mix engineers, partly due to its historical dominance as a production platform and consumers' continued use of headphones. It was also found that core elements of popular music productions, such as snare drums, tom-tom drums, kick drums, bass guitars, main guitars, and vocals, were less likely to have binaural processing applied (near, mid, and far in Atmos) compared with other sources. It was also shown there were perceived differences in the suitability of spatial audio mixing for specific genres, with Electronic Dance Music, Jazz, Pop, Classical, and World Music rated as the most suitable. Regarding the binaural renderers, there was less user satisfaction with the Apple device compared with Dolby's, and this dissatisfaction manifested mainly regarding the need for more user control. Finally, mix engineers were very aware of the importance of their mixes translating to smaller speaker systems and headphone playback, in particular. The results of this study serve as crucial information in understanding the professional music producer's perspective on spatial audio mixing of popular music and contribute to the ongoing development of spatial audio in popular music production.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAES: Journal of the Audio Engineering Society
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 20 Feb 2024

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