The Weeknd’s Atmos mix engineer on Dolby Atmos: “Artists would have these ‘oh wow’ moments… because what they heard in the room didn’t match experience on the headphones”

With over 1,000 songs in Dolby Atmos under his belt, Joe Grasso weighs in on the future of this immersive technology.

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Joe Grasso (left) and Audiomovers founder Igor Maxymenko (right)

Image: Joe Grasso (left) and Audiomovers founder Igor Maxymenko (right)/ Audiomovers

Joe Grasso, who has Atmos engineered music by The Weeknd, Yung Gravy and more, has opined on the current state of Dolby Atmos mixing and the artists who make use of the technology.

Grasso shares his thoughts in a recent conversation with Audiomovers founder Igor Maxymenko, the team behind the new Binaural Renderer plugin, which allows creators to sample what their Dolby Atmos mixes will sound like on Apple Music whilst still working in their DAW.

According to the mixing veteran, there often is a gap between what artists expect their songs to sound like on Apple Music and what those tracks end up sounding like.

“I mixed over 1,000 songs in Dolby Atmos. So I’ll give you a best case and worst case scenario,” he begins. “Best case scenario. We mix something in the room, the artist comes in the room, they hear it and they approve it, and they go home and if they want to hear a copy at home, we render out an MP4 and send it to them.”

“And they hear and they can approve it in headphones if they want. And it sounds just like what they heard and it goes on Apple Music and everything is great.”

As Grasso explains though, this pretty much “never” happens and “what ended up happening is, artists would have these ‘oh wow’ moments on Friday morning.”

“When it does get released on Apple Music, they don’t like what they [are] hearing, ​ we’re going backwards because what they heard in the room didn’t match the experience on the headphones.”

Fellow mixing engineer Ariel Borujow — who’s engineered for Madonna and the like — also chimed in on the conversation, saying “I think for a lot of the artists right now there still is a big mystery about Atmos. So getting them excited about it and to care about it as much as stereo is different.”

“They know they can check stereo in the car and they know what to expect everywhere. I think, right now, really getting them to be comfortable with what’s on Apple Music is key,” he adds.

“So I think doing this with the bigger artists who you know, mostly would say ‘I don’t care, I don’t care’. It’s not only helping speed up the approval process, but it’s actually helping us get approvals that we wouldn’t have otherwise gotten or would have gone to A&R rather than artist so that connection with the artist is great”.


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