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Dolby Atmos: #SwiftTok and sonic immersion

| Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Makayla Hernandez I The Observer
Image sources: MDC The Reporter, Spin, uDiscover, Amazon, Thatgrapejuice.net, Imperial Consultants

If you’re on #SwiftTok (the Taylor Swift side of TikTok), chances are you’ve probably heard her songs being played through Dolby Atmos. Some of these sounds have produced hilarious results, with music cut off in comical places and fragmented, echoing vocals.

But, you may also have wondered, what the heck is Dolby Atmos?

I personally had no idea until just recently. If you’re as confused as I was, fear no more. Today, I will be once again delving into the intricacies of sound for Scene — because there are more ways to immerse yourself in art than you’d think.

Dolby Atmos is a spatial, surround sound experience developed 10 years ago by Dolby Laboratories that allows you to immerse yourself within a piece of entertainment, whether it be a song, video game or film. Just as you would watch a movie in 3D, Dolby Atmos allows you to experience sound multidimensionally through a variety of placement points.

Most cinemas you’ve been to and movies you’ve watched likely already use Dolby Atmos, but since 2018, nightclubs across the world started incorporating the sound system for a more engaging sensory experience.

Some of the Taylor Swift songs processed through Dolby Atmos on TikTok are labeled “Dolby Atmos stems.” To the best of my knowledge, certain stems — or sound elements — have been manipulated in these clips to enhance the listener’s sonic immersion. So, you will notice that some vocals or instruments have been elevated over others to make the listening experience exquisitely detailed.

Before I offer my recommendations for what to listen to, head on over to Dolby’s online visualizer to hear a demo of a popular song and compare it to normal stereo sound. (I highly recommend trying out Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.”) But, wait! Before delving into the demo’s beautiful sounds and mesmerizing visuals, make sure you’re wearing headphones to have a full immersion.

Obviously, the songs likely sound better on the surround sound speaker systems Dolby Atmos was engineered for. Regardless, trust me on this — listening to music with this sound system will scratch a brain itch you didn’t even know you had.

Now, for some of my six favorite Taylor Swift songs to listen to with Dolby Atmos (And because this piece wouldn’t be complete otherwise). I have to admit most of these don’t even make it into my top 10 Taylor songs, but Dolby Atmos has certainly allowed me to appreciate them in new, fascinating ways.

1. “Cruel Summer”: Some of the YouTube comments for the Dolby Atmos version of this “Lover” masterpiece say that it sounds like a tour concert, and I have to agree. The synth sounds are so cool, and her vocals are simply majestic. 10/10, would recommend it.

2. “Breathe (Taylor’s Version)”: The Dolby Atmos version of “Breathe” is nothing short of heavenly, which is a lot coming from me, since I don’t care much for the stereo version. The violin on its own makes me want to break down sobbing.

3. “Better Man (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)”: You can also listen to Taylor’s most iconic cover in Dolby Atmos. “Better Man” has beautiful instrumentals that enhance the backing vocals wonderfully. You can barely hear the singer for most of the song unless you really listen, but I admittedly don’t mind it.

4. State Of Grace (Taylor’s Version)”: Love the guitar and the violin, love the experience of listening to her vocals (when you can hear them, which is not too often in this version, but I don’t mind because the instruments sound so good). Listen to it on YouTube.

5. “Change (Taylor’s Version)”: You know what? I’m about to say it. “Change” is criminally underrated. If you disagree, let its Dolby Atmos version change your mind. Imagine it playing as the soundtrack to your senior year of college. That is all.

6. “Everything Has Changed (feat. Ed Sheeran) (Taylor’s Version)”: Not sure if it’s Ed Sheeran’s influence, but “Everything Has Changed” has always been a safe bet — instrumentally, at least. The percussion and guitar are just fantastic, and Dolby Atmos lets you experience it all in your bones. And don’t even get me started on Taylor’s opening and backing vocals.

In any case, Taylor’s songs are not the only ones you can listen to on Dolby Atmos. This will be the first and last time you hear me say this, but if you’re on Apple Music, good for you! You can turn Dolby Atmos on in your phone settings, per Apple’s support page. Otherwise, stick to YouTube, which honestly has provided me only with good Dolby Atmos experiences. Happy listening!

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About Adriana Perez

Adriana is a Notre Dame senior from Guayaquil, Ecuador, majoring in political science and minoring in the Gallivan Program of Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She served as Editor-in-Chief of The Observer for the 2021-2022 term. You can find her at @adrianamperezr on Twitter.

Contact Adriana