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

This paper presents the practitioners’ perspective on mixing popular music in spatial audio, particularly Dolby Atmos and the binaural mixes generated by the Dolby and Apple renderers. It presents the results of a dual-stage study, which utilized focus groups with eight professional music producers and a questionnaire completed by 140 practitioners. Analysis 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 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 satisfactionwith theApple device comparedwith Dolby’s, and this dissatisfaction manifested mainly in 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.


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