Want to mix in Atmos? We take a look at compatible DAWs.
Immersive audio is becoming increasingly popular, and of all of the various formats, Dolby Atmos is undoubtedly the most prevalent. Whilst it has been commonplace in post‑production for quite some time, demand for music mixed in the format is on the increase, too, with streaming services such as Apple Music, Tidal and Amazon Music now all offering Atmos content. Dolby state that for a DAW to be suitable for mixing music in Atmos it must natively integrate, or be able to connect to, a Dolby Atmos Renderer, as well as supporting 3D object panning. In this month’s Spotlight, we take a look at the options that meet those requirements.
Version 10.7 of Logic Pro brought with it native Atmos integration, delivering a built‑in renderer and extending the mixer’s level meters and surround panners to 7.1.4 to accommodate the additional height channels. A 3D Object Panner can also be selected on any non‑surround channel, which will automatically configure the source as an object and allow precise spatial panning. A range of the DAW’s surround‑capable plug‑ins were also extended and optimised for Atmos: Space Designer, Limiter, Loudness Meter and a selection of effects processors all now feature 7.1.4 support. Binaural rendering is provided to allow monitoring of Atmos mixes on headphones, with a standard mode joined by a host of options that provide compatibility with the various rendering modes used by Apple Music. There are also speaker virtualisation options for creating mixes that take advantage of the immersive sound features offered by supported Apple devices. Logic can import and export ADM files, although it is not possible to configure downmix settings, and output files can only be delivered in six pre‑configured speaker layouts up to 7.1.4. However, it can be used with the Dolby Atmos Renderer in order to overcome these limitations.
£199.99 including VAT.
Both Studio and Ultimate versions of Avid’s Pro Tools now feature support for Atmos mixing, although there is no renderer built in, so they must currently be used alongside the separate Dolby Atmos Renderer application. Both versions can directly route 7.1.2 beds to the software, and also offer a range of channel configurations that exceed the bed limit by using static objects to accommodate speaker layouts with additional height channels — Studio provides options up to 7.1.6, whilst Ultimate extends that support to 9.1.6. When a stereo or mono track is assigned to an object output path or output bus with an immersive channel layout, panning can be carried out using the software’s 3D panner, which is equipped with a Theatre mode that displays the location of the sound within a rotatable 3D room. ADM files can be exported using the DAW’s Bounce menu, and it is also possible to export re‑renders in all of the supported channel configurations. Pro Tools can open Atmos sessions or import ADM files without a connection to the external renderer, allowing edits to be made whilst monitoring a rough mix via the software’s Bed/Object Fold Down path.
Studio: £259/year or £29/month. Ultimate: £519/year or £89/month excluding VAT.
Studio: $299/year $29.99/month, Ultimate: $599/year $99/month.
The latest DAW to introduce Atmos support is the previously stereo‑only PreSonus Studio One, which, as of version 6.5, now includes a built‑in renderer and support for channel layouts up to 9.1.6 as standard. As well as introducing surround and 3D panning capabilities, PreSonus have also upgraded the DAW’s plug‑in set to support the new multi‑channel configurations. The latest version of Open Air is kitted out with a new library of 7.1.4 impulse responses, offering a range of built‑in spatial reverb options, and there is a new multi‑tap Surround Delay plug‑in that has been specifically designed with immersive audio in mind. Binaural capabilities are also included for monitoring Atmos projects on standard headphones, and a dedicated headphone channel eliminates the need to change configurations when switching between headphones and speakers.
Perpetual: £339 including VAT. Studio One+ Subscription: £20/month, £180/year including VAT.
Perpetual: $399.99 Studio One+ Subscription: $19.99/month, $179.99/year.
Although it may seem strange to see a video editing package on this list, Blackmagic Design’s Davinci Resolve comes equipped with Fairlight, a powerful built‑in audio post‑production environment. What’s more, if you opt for the flagship Studio version of Resolve, its capabilities are extended to support a range of immersive formats — including Atmos configurations from 5.1.2 up to 9.1.6. Once a format has been selected in the Fairlight preference menu, tracks and busses will be equipped with a 3D panner, and a 3D Spaceview tool allows users to visualise multiple sound objects’ locations. A built‑in renderer makes it possible to export Atmos content in layouts up to 7.1.4, and the software can be used alongside Dolby’s own renderer application for those who require higher channel counts or more advanced functionality.
£245 including VAT.
Merging have worked alongside Dolby to offer seamless integration between the flagship version of Pyramix and the Dolby Atmos Renderer, allowing users to automatically configure the DAW’s I/O routing with a single click. Due to its prevalence in the mastering world, it’s no surprise that Pyramix offers a wealth of options for importing Atmos content. It provides full details of ADM files before importing them, and can load single or multiple files into a session with ease; routing to the renderer can be mapped automatically or manually, and there are options for preserving the original configuration or removing unused channels for optimisation. There are also some clever routing options which allow users to work with channel formats that exceed the maximum bed input size of the Dolby Atmos Renderer by using objects to ‘emulate’ a speaker, all whilst remaining in compliance with Dolby’s guidelines. Export capabilities are equally comprehensive, and Merging have included Apple, Universal, Sony and Warner Brothers naming conventions to ensure compatibility with their delivery specs.
£2979.60 including VAT.
Steinberg’s Nuendo 12 features native integration of the Dolby Atmos Renderer, meaning that users are able to create, monitor and deliver Atmos content in speaker layouts up to 7.1.4 without the need for any additional software. 3D panning is taken care of by the software’s VST MultiPanner plug‑in, which is equipped with dedicated Bed and Object modes. The renderer also offers a binaural downmix feature for creating an Atmos mix for headphones as well as speaker systems, and there are options for assigning different binaural rendering modes for each channel within a bed. A Trim and Downmix Editor also allows users to specify settings for lower channel count downmixes (including 5.1 and stereo), which are stored as metadata in the ADM files when the project is exported. Although Nuendo supports channel configurations up to 9.1.6, it can only natively render in formats up to 7.1.4, and will need to be used with the external Dolby Atmos Renderer application to export mixes with a higher channel count.
£859 including VAT.
As of version 12, Cubase Pro also comes with a built‑in version of the Dolby Atmos Renderer, and shares many of the features found in its post‑production‑focused sibling. It can natively mix, monitor and deliver content in layouts up to 7.1.4, and still offers binaural, surround and stereo downmix options. There are a few restrictions when compared to the implementation in Nuendo, however: Cubase is limited to the use of a single bed, and can only export (not import) ADM files. It also only supports native rendering, meaning that it cannot be used with the external Dolby Atmos Renderer application.
£497 including VAT.
If you’re keen to give immersive mixing a go but your DAW of choice doesn’t currently support it, then all is not lost. Fiedler Audio’s Dolby Atmos Composer plug‑in not only makes it possible to create and deliver Atmos content using any DAW, but also offers built‑in binaural monitoring facilities that mean you don’t need to fill your room with speakers first! Dolby Atmos Composer can be placed on the master channel of your session, whilst a second Dolby Atmos Beam plug‑in is inserted on individual tracks, enabling their audio to bypass the DAW’s mixer functions and be routed to the main plug‑in along with 3D panning information. The plug‑in can accommodate speaker layouts up to 9.1.6, allows users to export their mixes as ADM files and also offers useful tools such as built‑in downmix and trim options and integrated loudness measurement. There is also an Essential version, which provides a reduced set of features at a lower price.
Dolby Atmos Composer: €249. Dolby Atmos Composer Essential: €149.
Dolby Atmos Composer: $249, Dolby Atmos Composer Essential: $149