The albums were remixed by PMC, the loudspeaker manufacturer that provides professional monitors for many recording studios, including Capitol Studios in Los Angeles, where the remixing occurred. The original analog master tapes, which consist of three mono tracks, were obtained with the permission of the Davis family estate, including Erin Davis, Miles’s son, and Miles’s drummer and nephew, Vince Wilburn Jr., who were in attendance for the demonstration. From these masters, a new stereo mix was created, played back in the studio, and recorded using microphone placements mimicking a Dolby Atmos speaker configuration, but without any additional equalization, compression, or manipulation of any kind.
The playback chain in the demonstration room consisted of three of PMC’s top-of-the-line floorstanding Fenestria loudspeakers up front, in addition to 16 of the company’s on-wall Wafer 2 speakers used as surround, back, and height speakers -- so 19 speakers in total. On the electronics side were an Oppo Blu-ray player, Bryston SP4 surround processor, and other electronics on a rack, along with stacks of Bryston power amplifiers hidden behind curtains.
While the hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of audio equipment in the room was impressive, the demo was supposed to be more about the music. And the minimalist techniques that were used to create the Dolby Atmos tracks resulted in a recording that had stunning clarity, amazing depth, and huge breadth of soundstage, with a subtle yet effective surround ambience. Cuts from both Kind of Blue and Sketches of Spain imaged holographically at the front of the room and sounded as good as the best stereo recordings I have ever heard.
I don’t usually take the time to sit around and wait for long demonstrations at audio shows, but I was glad that I did for this demo of Miles Davis in Dolby Atmos -- it was certainly one of the better ones in recent memory. Hopefully, someday these excellent Atmos recordings will be made commercially available, and maybe I’ll even have a system as capable as the one PMC had to play them on.
Can Dolby Atmos be hi-fi? If you'd heard the Miles Davis demo pumping out of PMC's Atmos system, the resounding answer would have been, 'yes'. PMC has turned out an exclusive mix of the biggest-selling jazz album of all time and in a permanently-packed demo room, complete with in-ceiling speakers, it was sounding superb.
Jason Victor Serinus | May 13, 2019
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 AnalogPlanet.com—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.