Apple Lossless Dolby Atmos

I scored a great deal on a NAD receiver/amplifier (with a phono preamp!) recently and finally had a chance to run it through its paces into my KEF Q150s. I primarily listen to vinyl through this setup but also have an older AirPort Express going into an outboard DAC via optical out so that I can stream music from Apple Music and Spotify via AirPlay from my iPad/iPhone.

Which is how I stumbled across the opportunity to check out some of Apple’s new Dolby Atmos versions of albums. First up was a quick run through Rush’s Moving Pictures. The Dolby Atmos logo showed up under the album art and I sent Tom Sawyer over to the NAD via AirPlay ready to have my socks blown off.

And it sounded like garbage. I did some A/B between the Apple version and the Spotify version and the plain old Spotify version sounded way better. So I did some digging and it turns out I was doing it all wrong.

The thing with Atmos-enabled albums is they should only be played on Atmos-capable speakers/headphones (like AirPod Pros or HomePods via Apple TV) not on a pair of regular KEF’s. It took me a while to figure out that it’s important to sanity check the Music settings on your iOS device to make sure everything is all cool before sending music over AirPlay.

When you go to Settings->Music->Dolby Atmos on your iPhone or iPad make sure it’s not set to Always On! If you put it on Automatic what happens is if you are playing through AirPod Pros (or other Atmos-enabled speaker) is that it plays that Atmos-version of the album but if you AirPlay to a regular stereo, it plays the Lossless instead.

I confirmed this and now when I choose to AirPlay to my HiFi system the logo under Moving Pictures changes from “Dolby Atmos” to “Lossless.” Pretty cool.

So, the regular stereo Lossless stuff sounds, as expected, pretty excellent through the NAD->KEF setup. Also, the Atmos stuff sounds pretty cool through the AirPod Pros I have, not sure if it’s anything more than a novelty at this point. Some mixes just sound a little wider but others (I stumbled on I Want You Back by Jackson 5) you can really hear the soundstage way more distinctly in the Atmos version as opposed to the plain stereo version.

I don’t do a lot of serious listening through my AirPods but if you have a pair and want to hear something really cool, click this link and wait about 10 seconds and then start to turn your head from side to side. Pretty cool, right?

So the next step here is to check out some Atmos stuff on my pair of stereo HomePods. I have a pair of the original HomePods and they sound killer as a stereo pair. Unfortunately you can’t airplay right from your phone to the HomePods and get Atmos-enabled sound. Instead you need to send audio from an Apple TV to the HomePods to get the Atmos features. Which isn’t too big of deal since we’ve got an Apple TV in the room with the stereo pair. I’m looking forward to checking that out.

Apple One

Signed up. It’s a no-brainer for my family as we were already on the 2TB cloud storage plan.

AppleTV+

It’s got Ted Lasso. Enough said. 

kidding. Still AppleTV+ has some terrific stuff on it. And Ted Lasso.

Apple News+

I’ve hated Apple News ever since it started asking me if I wanted to open RSS feeds in it but it seems to have stopped doing that maybe? And I’m curious to see how the audio version of news works. So, verdict is out on News.

Apple Music

Maybe the worst music service, ever. But I sync my Spotify lists over to Apple Music and can play them on my HomePods so, there’s that. We had Spotify Family. I think I’m the only one who won’t fully make the jump to Apple Music so I kept the individual Spotify plan for myself and we’ll see how the rest of the family makes the transition. I don’t think they’ll miss Spotify like I would.

Arcade?

I don’t know what it is and am not likely going to find out.

Fitness+

Kinda excited to see how this pans out. I use Zwift right now but everything about Zwift’s bluetooth/hardware integration feels janky. Hoping Apple can do this better.

Zoom volume and Music Volume control with Keyboard Maestro

My new favorite Keyboard Maestro shortcut allows me to toggle between audio outputs (Built In Output device and my USB output). The Built in volume controls my iMac speakers, the USB output controls my Amp. So, combined with the superb Rogue Amoeba’s SoundSource, I can easily bounce back and forth between controlling my music volume (Roon, Spotify, archive.org) and my Zoom volume using my keyboards volume controls. This sounds like it would be easy and it is, sort of, by using switchaudiosource-osx (available as brew install switchaudio-osx from command line). 

Anyway, this is a huge problem solver for me. Stoked. Click pic below for larger version if you want to see the actions.

 

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Friday Links for Feb 7, 2020

 

 

Other stuff? My dog ate my Kindle. I had the base model and upgraded to the fancier Paperwhite. Since I use the JUMBO FONT to read without my glasses on, that extra 300dpi really looks nice! Highly recommend paying the extra $30.

Also, been doing a lot of work building out my HiFi setup with an Intel NUC running Roon/Qobuz and loving it. Will do a writeup next week when I’m not so busy. 

Friday Links for Jan 31, 2020

  • Dark Mode for Web – Some css tips for making a dark mode version of a website. Putting this on my list of things to tackle.
  • You Are A Strange Loop – YouTube – Was speaking with some friends about Doug Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach the other day and then serendipitously came across this great, short video explainer of the strange loop, key to understanding what he’s getting at in his book. So worth the viewing time.

Other things from this week? I’ve been doing a deep dive on Roon’s audio player as a way to unify my local music catalog with my Qobuz account. Very good so far but I think I need to buy a Mac mini or something to run it as my old MacBook Air isn’t working out so well.

This is somewhat unnecessary right now as I just got in the mail the vinyl LP of Yola’s Walk Through Fire and that has been in heavy rotation on my turntable. Dan Auerbach from the Black Keys plays on/produced this masterpiece. Dude has an incredible ear. Such great stuff.

Friday Links for Jan 24, 2020

  1. Instapaper Saves for This Week:

Pinboard Saves for This Week: