Apple Music’s spatial audio playlists have spotlighted the surround-sound Dolby Atmos mix of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band since the feature launched in June, but Beatles fans shouldn’t get too attached to that version of the album. Producer Giles Martin, who’s been supervising remixes and reissues of the Beatles’ classics in stereo and surround formats, isn’t quite happy with the Sgt. Pepper’s spatial audio mix, and plans to redo it and replace the current version before the end of the summer. “I’m actually going to change it,” Martin says. “It’s good, but it’s not right… It doesn’t sound quite right to me.”
The Sgt. Pepper’s Atmos mix dates back to 2017, and at that time, it could only be presented in movie theaters. “It was, I think, the first album ever mixed in Dolby Atmos,” Martin says. “I liked the idea of the Beatles being the first to do something. It’s cool that they can still be the first to do something.” But a mix meant for cinemas doesn’t necessarily translate to headphones or even home theater systems, so Martin intends to redo it in “what’s called near-field Dolby Atmos, which is meant for consumers, as opposed to cinema Dolby Atmos.”
Martin adds that he finds the mix “a bit bright, a bit digital. It seems to lack a bit of bass and a little bit of weight behind it.” He’s much happier, however, with the other Beatles album currently available in Atmos on Apple Music. “Abbey Road is a much better-functioning Atmos mix, because it’s much closer to the stereo mix, sonically,” he says.
In his full Q&A with Rolling Stone on the Beatles and spatial audio, Martin also reveals that he’s hoping that Abbey Road Studios’ source-separation software — which allows engineers to derive separate, remix-ready tracks from old recordings that might have bass, drums, and guitar on a single track — will improve enough that he can someday tackle Rubber Soul and Revolver. And he reveals his overall philosophy for surround-sound mixes: “I feel immersive audio should be an expansion of the stereo field, in a way. I like the idea of a vinyl record melting and you’re falling into it.”