Remastering Liesl-Mae's Single - "Headspace" with Apple's Spatial Audio
Updated: Jun 22, 2022
The conventional process of audio mastering in stereo sound has been a mainstay with music producers and sound engineers way before the first iPhone was born. And while Dolby Atmos played a big role for an immersive sound experience in the cinematic world, the wizards at Apple brought this technology to it s ecosystem by introducing Spatial Audio back in 2020.
Many musicians and artists since then have adopted this new technology by providing their listeners a more intimate connection through sound. If you happen to be an Android user or don't own a pair of the latest AirPods and haven't experienced Spatial Audio, we suggest you go to the closest Machines store and try it out on Apple Music for yourself. Our experience entails the transformation it brings from your typical music listening, to a concerto-like environment as if the artist and choir in a song had been brought to life right in front of you.
In most occasions throughout this dream-like experience, it got us to wonder - How hard is it actually to produce music in Spatial Audio?
We had the opportunity to open our ears with local artist – Liesl-Mae, as well as the sound engineers from Scifi Studio, who remastered Liesl's single titled "Headspace" in Spatial Audio, and how this growing artist found her experience of projecting a lyrical tribute for mental health into her song as a masters degree holder in Professional Counselling & Psychology.
Liesl-Mae explained: "I feel like my life is mostly music or my counselling. At the time of writing the song, I couldn't exactly remember what I was going through or what I was thinking about. All I remember was how I felt, which was overwhelming and I had the need to write my feelings down on paper as it became a way to cope with my emotions for a therapeutic solution."
This heartfelt inspiration to evoke emotions utilising Spatial Audio has been explored further by the artist since then, in recognising harmonies and how her voice can be layered uniquely in 3D powered by Dolby Atmos.
"I feel like there's more room as to what I can do vocally which has opened more avenues in experimenting with my sound. I'm still in the learning process of working with producers and understanding myself as a singer-songwriter, coming from someone who was simply a bedroom singer with her guitar. Spatial Audio has helped me visualise further in creating atmospheric value and also stimulates my visual imagination for upcoming music videos too."
But was there more to it then just layering audio tracks? Our curiosity led us to Scifi Studio, one of very few supporting studios doing this form of audio mastering in Malaysia. To understand the technicality of remastering in Spatial Audio, we ask the immersive engineer and producer behind "Headspace", Nik Mustaza and Megat Sazali, about the learning curve even for experienced engineers.
"To achieve the immersive sound in Spatial Audio required us to have more speakers in the studio. A 10-speaker setup was our ideal situation to simulate the atmosphere we wanted to create using this technology. Limitations of conventional stereo which is usually a frontal feel, we can now reach other points of the room such as the back and sides. Experimenting with different vocal reverbs, delayed timing and layered harmonies can essentially be key-framed to certain parts of a song such as its verse, bridge and chorus,” said Nik and Megat.
Now, you may be wondering if this technology is accessible by the average bedroom producer with a laptop and a guitar. Native apple softwares such as Logic Pro 10.7 provides a complete set of mixing and rendering tools, that allows anyone to author their songs as Dolby Atmos music files compatible with Apple Music. Musicians, producers, and mix engineers can expand their stereo projects to the surround channels supported by Dolby Atmos, using new mixer and panner controls. Once the songs are published to Apple Music, listeners will be able to enjoy the immersive audio experience on their devices with spatial audio support.
Nik and Megat added: "The future of music will ultimately change thanks to Spatial Audio and the possibilities are endless. You can go crazy with all sorts of sounds and still have depth without creating a cramped noise effect."
Although, many users who've experienced Apple Music in Spatial Audio had similar complaints of volume outputs to be quieter than they'd like. Thankfully there are ways around this by enabling or disabling Sound Check within Apple Music's settings. A slight increase in volume will be heard when these few steps are applied:
Settings > Apple Music > Enable/disable Sound Check toggle
Be it Hollywood stars such as the likes of Billie Eilish or upcoming local musicians such as Liesl-Mae who choose to continue their unique creations in Spatial Audio, advancements in this new era of sound engineering can only open the floodgates to more creative expression. Challenging the status quo in its limitations of stereo sound which may soon be a thing of the past.
Written by Fitri Aiyub