I have a Dolby Atmos home studio in 5.1.4.
This did not start like this. I see many articles talking about the costs of releasing music in Dolby Atmos. I'd like to demestify a few notions here.
Contrary to a movie, you do not need to be a Dolby Certified Studio to release music in that format. Some labels may ask you for your certification if you work on certain music projects, but as an indepedent artist, nobody will ask you for any credential or certificate for you to release music in the Dolby Atmos format on Digital Streaming Platfroms (DSP).
You have basically 2 options for DSPs:
But let's rewind a bit.
I started making music in stereo with a simple Focusrite scarlett interface 4i4, two Yamaha HS7 monitors on stands and a Mac with Logic Pro. I would produce some tracks or record from my stereo modular synthesizer. Already I loved to play with the stereo space and make sounds move from left to right and vice versa.
During a jam with some friends at home, I think it was with Distco and r beny, they pointed out that I was missing some low end as their type of music was using a bit more the low end. You need to feel the kicks in with your body! As I was listening to music and watching movies on my Mac I decided to buy a subwoofer. To keep the same sound color, I decided to stick with the same brand as my monitors. I chose a Yahama subwoofer HS8S and added it to my setup. I did not need a new interface because you can route the left and right signal to the subwoofer and then back to the two speakers. The subwoofer extract the low end from the left and right and renders it.
Now, I had a 2.1 Studio
To improve the spatial capabilities on my modular synthesizer, I looked for mixers with CV panning. I got a Toppobrillo first and then a WMD Performance Mixer.
I then discovered quadraphonic modular synthesizer, thanks to a performance by Suzanne Ciani made for Don Buchla memorial concert at the Gray Area in San Francisco. I also listened to Morton Subotnick and a few others. I started my journey to build a eurorack that can do quadraphonic. My first setup was by using the two mixers I had, one for the front and one for the back.
Here is my first performance using this configuration:
And the explanation of the performance:
I still did not need to upgrade my interface, as it had 4 ins and 4 outs.
If you are curious, see my page on how to chose eurorack modules to build a Quadraphonic Modular Synthesizer.
Now I needed two more speakers. I got another two Yamha HS7 on stands.
Now, I had a 4.1 studio
I needed a new interface so I got the Focusrite Scarlett 18i/20. Using its internal mixer, I was able to simulate a center speaker using the two front speakers.
Now, I had a virtual 5.1 studio
I made and released several tracks and albums in quadraphonic, usally encoded in 5.1
And then Apple announced they would support Dolby Atmos on Apple Music. I got the Dolby Renderer amd later upgraded to Logic Pro X with its Dolby Atmos capabilities. I did not upgrade my speaker set as my music was quadraphonic. I was just using the Dolby Atmos format to release quadraphonic music via Distrokid to Apple Music, Tidal and Amazon Music.
It is a relatively simple setup, you place an object in each corner and this is your quadraphonic output.
But I wanted to also produce Dolby Atmos Music. Time to upgrade. I needed a center speaker and 4 speakers to place on the ceiling.
The Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 has 10 outuput and this would allow me to do 5.1.4, however it would nullify the two stereo outputs on the front. I did not really need them anymore, as it is best to listen to Dolby Atmos on speakers than headset. And if I need an headset experience, I wear my iPod Pro and connect them to my Mac via blutooth.
To keep everything with the same color, I bought one Yamaha HS5 for the center speaker and four Yamaha HS5M with their mounting brackets.
I used Nylon self-drilling drywall anchor screws: four per mounting bracket. They hold the weight of the speakers quite nicely. I slanted the speakers to point to the central position.
Now, I have a 5.1.4 studio.
I did not go for a 7.1.4 Studio, because my room is not convenient for this format. I think 5.14 is already enough to get the spatial audio bubble and be able to produce and release in this format.
This was my progression. I did not get into Dolby Atmos immediately but as you can see while the price for a 5.1.4 studio is more than a stereo studio, it does not need to be extremely expensive. You can upgrade it as your needs increase, as you want better interfaces and better speakers.
And now some of the music I have made in this studio: