Image Credit: Rolling Stone; Alex Lake; PA Wire/AP

Giles Martin talks about Apple Music’s spatial audio and the experience on The Beatles ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Loney Hearts Club Band’ album.

Earlier this year, alongside lossless audio, Apple Music introduced spatial audio with Dolby Atmos on the music streaming service. Spatial audio brings a 360° surround experience to music on the platform. Unlike lossless audio, the advantage of spatial audio is, it doesn’t require specialist hardware to experience it, but that’s not to say everyone hears the same thing, even on identical equipment.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, The Beatles producer Giles Martin commented on the spatial audio mix of Sgt. Pepper’s Loney Hearts Club Band.

Sgt. Pepper’s, how it’s being presented right now, I’m actually going to change it. It doesn’t sound quite right to me. It’s out in Apple Music right now. But I’m gonna replace it. It’s good. But it’s not right. Sgt. Pepper’s was, I think, the first album ever mixed in Dolby Atmos. And we did that as a theatrical presentation. I liked the idea of the Beatles being the first to do something. It’s cool that they can still be the first to do something. So Sgt. Pepper’s is a theatrical mix that’s then being converted into a smaller medium. Therefore, it’s not quite right.

Giles Martin – Rolling Stone interview

When asked what he would change about the album’s listening experience, Martin said “It seems to lack a bit of bass and a little bit of weight behind it. Abbey Road is a much better-functioning Atmos mix because it’s much closer to the stereo mix, sonically.”

The producer was also asked how he approaches mixing for the spatial audio experience. “We start off with the stereo. I feel immersive audio should be an expansion of the stereo field, in a way. I like the idea of a vinyl record melting and you’re falling into it.” Later adding “And we are by our nature, forward-facing individuals who don’t like too many things creeping up behind us. If you have a lot of sound coming behind you, you want to turn your head. I get criticized sometimes for not being expansive enough with these mixes, but it’s what I believe. I like the idea of falling in the record as opposed to just being circled around.”

Martin says getting the spatial audio mix just right is important as even the average person can hear the difference. “You can hear the difference with spatial audio. It may not always be better, but there’s a difference.” Continuing “Spatial audio in headphones is hugely variable, depending on the size of your head, the way your neck is on your shoulders. Where we perceive sound coming from varies with our physical bone structure.”