PMC Does Miles in Dolby Atmos

Thanks to Michael Fremer, whom I ran into at the MOC while we both waited for the show to open on Day 3, I ended up at a private listening session in the PMC room. There, after Michael pulled out his video camera and engaged in a thorough, only-Michael-would-know-enough-to-ask-such-questions Q&A with PMC's Maurice Patist—it will appear at—we listened to two revivified tracks from Miles Davis's iconic Kind of Blue that have been given the full Dolby Atmos surround treatment.

I haven't spent much time thinking about Dolby Atmos, which I've always thought of, perhaps incorrectly, as a process whose application was limited to movies and home theater systems. But after hearing the astounding transformation wrought to this album, and listening multiple times to the Dolby Atmos processing on one of Stereophile's forthcoming Records of the Month, I realize that Dolby Atmos is about far more than increasing the big-boom factor of violent action flicks.

Briefly, PMC's goal with this album was to recreate the sound of the live sessions in Columbia Studios where Kind of Blue was recorded. Given that those studios have been razed for an apartment building, the PMC/Dolby team decided instead to try to build a Dolby Atmos music mixing room in Capitol Studios A, remove the glass wall between the recording/equipment room and the musicians, and present the music as if witnessed by audience members in the studio.

The original sessions were recorded in three-track, with two of the six musicians on each track, and then mixed to mono. As the PMC/Dolby Atmos team soon discovered, the sound on the masters was so excellent that three was absolutely no need for EQ, compression, or anything else that would have messed with the original recording. The only challenge was to balance the levels of the many speakers in PMC's surround simulation of the studio environment so that the sound would gain in dimensionality while still seeming to come from musicians playing in front of audience members.

"You cannot be disrespectful to the most iconic jazz album on the planet," Patist told us. "We haven't changed anything; we just cued it up and let the room do the rest. We also knew that we'd have to put our heads on the chopping block if we screwed it up."

We listened to two tracks. "So What" sounded pretty straight ahead in front of us, with significantly added depth, presence, and sense of space than on the mono original. "Flamenco Sketches," which seems to have been recorded at another session—I don't know which was recorded first—had far more height and three-dimensionality, and was, for me, positively breathtaking. I may not be a jazz expert—far from it—but I know truly sublime musicianship when I hear it. To hear Bill Evans play so exquisitely as his piano hung in front of us to the left was, to say the least, thrilling; to then hear a snippet of the original mono mix was to realize how much more alive the music becomes with Dolby Atmos processing that has been applied as carefully as in this case.

Thought has been given to making the Dolby Atmos versions of Kind of Blue and Sketches of Spain, available to the public via a Blu-ray, surround sound download, and/or streaming. What the producers will do next was not shared with us. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for news when the time comes. This is a recording worth waiting for.

Solarophile's picture

Isn't it strange to compare the Atmos mix to MONO?

What about comparing it to just the stereo mix with nice speakers sitting in the sweet spot? Once they do that, then we can get a much better comparison of whether Atmos is worth it.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

If you are a speaker manufacturer, amp and pre-amp manufacturer, cable manufacturer, cable elevator manufacturer, power conditioner and/or generator manufacturer, power cord and power outlet manufacturer ....... surround sound and object based sound are great gifts from Heaven :-) .........

Solarophile's picture

But home theater, surround people too reasonable to fall for snake oil voodoo like expensive cables, cable lifters, and the like.

tonykaz's picture

Is it curious how our Audiophiles seem to rely on only a tiny few Albums. The 1985 Audiophile Gold Standard was Amanda McBroom. Now it seems like "Dark Side of the Moon" & "Kind of Blue".

Something NEW is coming, it's "worth waiting for" suggests a possible new Standard to Judge all Gear with & by.

Are "peeling eyes" as painful as having to listen to Fusion Jazz has always been for the vast majority of non-audiophile wives ?

Playing & Showcasing "Kind of Blue" is the dam good reason behind Audiophiles being banished to Basements and Garages.

Tony in transit

ps. PMC was playing a Master ? , is that a Tape Master ?, A Tape Master would always have superior Sound Quality and is NOT a legitimate comparison to tease readership with.