Maurice Patist at Highland Park

Dolby Atmos Music is enjoying a huge creative uptake, says PMC

Currently celebrating its thirtieth anniversary, British loudspeaker brand PMC is rapidly becoming synonymous with Dolby Atmos Music. An early advocate of immersive audio, the company has been a prime mover behind the format, fitting out some of the world’s most prestigious recording studios and driving interest within the music community.

Maurice Patist heads up PMC USA, Working with the likes of Steve Genewick at Capitol in LA on various Dolby Atmos Music mixes (including Miles Davis Kind of Blue ), he’s been instrumental in PMC’s involvement with the format.

“I’ve always had a personal interest in surround music, specifically movie scores,” Patist told Audio Media International. “Being able to work with some of the greatest composers and scoring engineers taught me a great deal about mixing in surround, and also helped us to assist our clients even better.”

There have been various attempts to bring surround sound into the mainstream. DVD-Audio, championed by British audio company Meridian, failed to gain consumer traction, as did the multichannel variant of Super Audio CD. 

There’s a world of difference between Dolby Atmos and previous surround sound applications in music, says Patist.

“The immersive format was something I really got excited about since it addressed a lot of the issues with the older (surround) formats that prevented it from becoming mainstream. Sonically, this is an incredible format that allows people to be really creative and it will deal with the issue of scalability, so you can play it back if you don’t have a full (13.1.6) Dolby Atmos system. That’s when I really thought this format would have a much higher chance and acceptance rate, both for the professional as well as the consumer.”

PMC Dolby Atmos Music studio

Remastering classic albums in Atmos

PMC has facilitated some remarkable Dolby Atmos remastering projects, notably remixing two Miles Davis albums Kind of Blue and Sketches of Spain

“Working on the Miles Davis albums was an incredible experience and we were thrilled to be able to share this with people at the (consumer facing) Munich High End Show. We realized we had now set the bar really high for ourselves and wanted to continue being involved and producing more exclusive music with and for our partners.

“Last year we mixed and produced Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band The Gordian Knot album with Tommy Vicari and Steve Genewick. This was done at our PMC Los Angeles Atmos Studio and was a really exciting project – almost the opposite of what we tried to achieve with the Miles Davis Album. Gordon’s big band arrangements are modern and spectacular, and he really wanted to use the space and make you feel as though you are on stage with the big band.”

Dolby Atmos Music is seeing a “huge uptake” by the creative community, notes Patist. “Judging by the number of studios we are currently building, not just for labels but also for leading independent producers and engineers, I feel that it’s really taking off. The more people that start working in this format, the wider its potential will become, especially as Dolby is continuously updating its tools to facilitate the requests from the creative community.

“It’s been really positive. More and more people are being exposed to it and are seeing its potential. That, in turn, creates a new demand and I really feel that this will be the year where both the professional and the consumer market see (and hear) the results of the developments in Dolby Atmos Music.”

The best Dolby Atmos music albums

Audio Media International asked PMC’s Chairman Peter Thomas, Commercial Director Oliver Thomas and President PMC USA Maurice Patist, to name their favourite Dolby Atmos albums – recordings they deem particularly successful or inventive…

Peter Thomas: “It has to be Rocket Man by Elton, mixed by Greg Penny. It begins with fairly light use of the rear and height channels, just giving a nice in-room spread. When the chorus begins, the backing singers soar over and above you, making it all the more involving. It is incredible to hear new life in a 49 year old recording and it confirms how great Gus Dudgeon was as a producer of those early albums.”

Oliver Thomas: “Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue – in case Maurice has a wave of modesty and doesn’t mention this in his selection. He, of course, was involved with the Capitol Studios Atmos team of David Rideau and Steve Genewick who produced this Atmos mix. It represents subtlety and restraint when you have unlimited tools available. The atmosphere added into all the surround channels gives an immense feeling of space without any obvious FX type panning throughout.  

“My second choice is LL Cool J,  Mama Said Knock You Out. This mix, again out of Capitol Studio C, shows off all the tools available to you with the Atmos format along with what can be done when you can play with the original mix and get creative. I love the impact when the bass line comes in and the candid use of centre channel. It is 30 years since the original track and 30 years since PMC was founded, so a nice joint anniversary to celebrate music making!” 

Maurice Patist: “As we are so closely involved with this format we are exposed to incredible engineers and incredible music all the time, so it is hard to just pick one or two favourites. Every time I hear Gregory Porter’s Mona Lisa, mixed by Steve Genewick at Capitol Studios, I get goose bumps. That voice and the way Steve mixed the orchestra around it is just stunning. Completely different, but equally impressive is Nick Rives mix of the latest Coldplay album Everyday Life, which was mixed in our PMC Los Angeles Studio.

“Ryan Hewitt created a stunning mix of Harry Connick Jr’s Anything Goes and Colin Heldt really nailed Post Malone’s Beerbongs and Bentley’s, both at UMG’s East Iris Nashville Studios, and to be honest the list just goes on and on. When great music meets great engineers like this all will benefit and enjoy it, regardless of the musical genre or style.”