Spatial audio: new release, new recordings?

hello! about a year ago, apple music introduced a new feature with dolby atmos called spatial audio. with headphones, it’s supposed to be a surround-sound experience that sounds like the artists are in the room with you. it’s not like they just changed it so it’s going back and forth around you, they’re actually new mixes.

these special versions appear at the same place as the existing apple music pages, but spatial audio must be turned on in settings (which it automatically is). my concern is that these may be different recordings and releases. this is not just apple music making the quality higher, it’s major labels having their producers mix the music for the new feature. in fact, many artists clearly are making their music for spatial audio. the older ones that have simply been upscaled with the existing stems don’t sound nearly as good as the ones that were recorded with spatial audio in mind.

the reason i think the recordings may be new is because they sound like new mixes and i’ve seen differences like mono and stereo are supposed to be different. the reason the releases may be new is because, well, new recordings can’t be the same release :man_shrugging:


also, it’s worth noting that these have different release dates. it’s not like apple just made the whole catalog available like they did with “lossless”, each artist did it on their own time.

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Different mixing / surround sound are supposed to be different MusicBrainz Recordings from a stereo mix, which therefore requires a different Release. As you say, the Spatial Sound releases have different release dates too.

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Apple Music releases are available in different quality tiers (Spatial Audio/Atmos, Hi-Res Lossless, Lossless and Lossy Stereo) based on what the listener’s equipment (phone or computer, plus headphones or speakers) can support, the listener’s connection strength/speed/type (i.e. wi-fi vs. cellular) and other settings on the listener’s device. Spatial Audio can only be played back on compatible equipment, a list of which is available here. The Mac I am using to write this post is not on that list, so if I try to play a release that’s available in Spatial Audio I will get the next-best quality setting available.

In my opinion is is an impossible situation that can not be represented in MusicBrainz. Apple is simply replacing existing releases/tracks with new mixes (which would be new recordings in MusicBrainz) willy nilly. And what “recording/mix” you get is dependent on your playback hardware.

There is no way to represent an Apple Music streaming release whose “recordings” may change at any given time.


This has been discussed in more detail before:

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so sorry! i tried searching for it before i made the post and didn’t see that thread

i don’t see why! we could have “dolby atmos” in the disambiguation and explain in the annotation why it’s a different release and how certian settings must be applied. or add a series and just explain it there.


Style / Series - MusicBrainz is pretty bare, bit I don’t think this is a MusicBrainz Series.

There are quite a few existing Series that I’d like to see deleted, but that’s getting into a different topic.

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that guideline is specifically for catalogs.
Series - MusicBrainz says “A series is a sequence of separate release groups, releases, recordings, works, artists or events with a common theme. The theme is usually prominent in the branding of the entities in the series and the individual entities will often have been given a number indicating the position in the series.”
they all have a common branding, being the dolby atmos logo that appears on it in the apple music app.

We don’t have a Series for Compact Disc Digital Audio either.

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Apologies if this has already been discussed, but is this materially different from being able to download an album from Bandcamp as a (lossy) MP3 or a (lossless) FLAC file? It’s the same album and same recordings. Just a different quality format.

Because a Dolby Atmos (or Dolby Audio which is used on Apple Music for 4.0 and 5.1 mixes) are different recordings. An MP3 and a FLAC are both stereo and the same recording.


No, it’s a different mix, different credited people (requires doing research for information not available directly on the storefront), etc.


It’s more than just a different quality, it’s an actual different mix, which usually would be a separate recording.

But as I understand these separate mixes now also start showing up for existing releases, and they will ve automatically used for playback if the device supports it.

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Maybe we should represent it similar to how we represent SACDs that have a stereo and a multichannel “layer”.

In this case, a digital release can have a stereo and a multichannel stream. So we would represent it at two separate mediums. “Digital Media (stereo stream)” and “Digital Media (multichannel stream)”

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That has concrete negative impacts on the tagging experience for something people aren’t even supposed to own, and I’m not sure it even makes sense when digital releases are currently shared between Apple Music and non-Dolby Atmos platforms like Spotify when the label doesn’t assign a different barcode because of Apple Digital Master / PDF track.

while that is true, it allows both versions. it’s not just replacing the old mix, it’s making a new one but still gives you the option to change your settings and play the regular version.

musicbrainz data is used for tagging, but it is not primarily a tagging site. we are a music database. if it’s decided this is a different release, it should be. picard is a separate project, and if this somehow causes a negative experience, that issue would need to be resolved by picard and not affect the correct musicbrainz data.

now, i don’t know how picard works because i don’t use it, but wouldn’t you just be able to select the release you have? i don’t understand the issue, tbh.

You should quote the whole thing, where I lay out the argument that it’s the wrong approach anyway.

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