United in Spatial Audio Gold

Welcome back one and all to the latest weekly installment of Spatial Audio File. As a card-carrying Spatial Audiophile, it's my sacred honor to select five (count ’em) prime Spatial Audio releases on Apple Music by vetting and recommending key individual tracks and (every now and then) full albums via deep-dive listening sessions on my home system and headphones alike. What you will find here is the very best in the immersive Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos universe that’s available in the ever-expanding Apple Music library so you can experience the aural wonders of it all for yourself.

And this week’s fab five are. . .


Hip-hop icon Kendrick Lamar has done it once again with the many fascinating facets of his May 2022 magnum opus, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, instantly cementing its position as one of the top album releases of 2022. And the opening track “United in Grief” is even more unifying, and more impactful, in Atmos.

“Grief” commences with a full-channel, full-volume, heaven-sent vocalized sentiment, “I hope you find some peace of mind in this lifetime,” with an echo chamber effect that makes it feel like we’re going to, if not already ensconced in, church. Next comes a stark admonition to “Tell them / tell them the truth,” nestled above the plane and center left, before the melody of the opening hymnal returns with another slightly altered verse in tow. A start/stop channel-split piano riff comes in, and everything halts for just a split second. During that fleeting moment, you wonder, “Are we officially off the rails, or. . .?”

We’re actually not—well, not exactly, that is—as Lamar flat-out states, “I’ve been going through something,” and the piano resumes off to the sides, his low-toned voice now fully out front and dominant in the overall field.

And then, the laminar Lamar flow fully takes over, those piano-comp counters reacting to each thought spread wide left and wide right when he pauses in between them, along with a few skittery bass bumps and resonant percussion effects popping in to keep things slightly off-kilter.

As the next verse rolls on at Lamar-speed, the piano riff takes on more of a jazz-improv vibe while whooshing, backwards-sampled percussion swoops in and out of the full vortex of the track. Then, everything falls away as an urgent, insistent drum beat goes on for a bar or two (or three) too long for the exact intended effect before Lamar returns to spiel overtop it on high and up the middle. “I grieve different,” he intones, with the drums out of play for only a moment before returning, along with the piano riffs. The drums get louder and louder, and a burbling synth now joins the fray. There’s no let-up as burled string effects waft up to the clouds during the return of the “I grieve different” incantation, with Lamar’s voice remaining in the ether as well, mainly centered though veering slightly right and left as he carries onward. The intensity of the drums finally begins to fade in volume toward the end of the track as the piano figure comes forward in the mix, taking over the full soundfield to the final chordal fade.

Budding hip-hop producers and rappers alike, please take note—this is how you build and release tension across an entire cut, the all-channel audio equivalent to climbing to the apex of a rollercoaster track then holding on for dear life until you get to the end of the line. And then, of course, you want to ride it again and again.

“United in Grief” is truly the song we all need to hear right now—most especially in its most riveting 360-degree form—and it is without question our tip-top Made for Spatial Audio track of the week.


Following the overtly somber mood of January 1991’s The Soul Cages, Sting swung his creative pendulum back toward (mostly) sunnier topics with March 1993’s Ten Summoner’s Tales. The album’s linchpin track, “Fields of Gold,” is an absolute beacon of wonderment in Atmos.

A quick acoustic guitar figure opens the proceedings on the left, with Vinnie Colaiuta’s always precise percussion, triangle, and rim taps immediately following, all mainly just barely left of center. David Sancious’ tone-setting synthesizer blanket fills the field on high in support, as the rim taps become the dominant instrumental element in terms of both volume and placement until Sting finally enters the frame in full, his voice high and wide with his first lines, “You’ll remember me when the west wind moves / Upon the fields of barley.” His emotive, breathy lead vocal stays high and dry, and in all the right ways, to reinforce his emotive intent.

When Sting gets to his initial reading of the title phrase “fields of gold,” a fine blend of chromatic harmonica and Northumbrian small pipes enters behind him, slightly more left of center than the percussion. His vocal shifts to the left quadrant for much of the second verse, though it moves back more to the center when a somewhat buried guitar element falls in behind his voice during the third verse. The harmonica/pipes blend returns to enmesh around the title phrase yet again, essentially acting like an aural ray of golden sunshine caressing the words in a most loving fashion.

You should be able to hear fingers moving on frets during the brief classical guitar solo, and then note how the classical guitar stays in the mix throughout the next verse. When Sting gets to his final repeat of the title phrase, Colaiuta’s rim taps return to the forefront of the mix and carry the load, with Sancious’ all-out synth wash in full tow, until the fade.

I never make promises I can’t keep, and I can assure you “Fields of Gold” glistens clear and true as a shining sonic beacon in Atmos.


Perhaps the most formidable indie-rock duo of our modern times, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney—a.k.a. The Black Keys—continue moving forward on an endlessly innovative aural path with their stunning May 2022 album, Dropout Boogie. Lead track “Wild Child” is just what the glam doctor ordered in its Atmos form.

Auerbach’s gnarly electric guitar figure opens in the center, with Carney’s kick/bass drum and cowbell hits joining in right with him up the middle. The guitar falls back just a tick when Carney takes a brief run around the kit left of center before loud, multilayered guitars yank the track into the ether. The mix of Carney’s drums is spread wide enough so the lead guitar lines and their counters can rule the main field.

“I’m just a stranger with a twisted smile and a wandering eye,” Auerbach sings with a slight echo effect, his vocals hovering just above the instrumental bed, though not too high up there in the heights. You’ll also detect some vocal residuals slightly off to the right.

The layered vocals on the chorus take over the plane in that oh-so-seductive Black Keys way, with the guitars and drums supporting the melody line to a key, er, T.

The volume crunch dials back a bit on the next verse, which rightly mirrors the lyric that starts it, “You are a sweet dream.” Dig Carney’s resonant cymbal ride at center right, and Auerbach’s Stonesy guitar riff twisting behind his vocal line in the middle. If you’re not fist-pumping and mouthing the “wild child!” chorus right along with the Keys gents the very next time it appears, please check your pulse and/or heart rate accordingly.

The sustained guitar solo floats above the field, giving way to the centralized bass drum anchoring the “I just wanna hold you every day” singalong bridge, the held guitar line taking us right into the next infectious chorus run. The repeated phrases take turns moving center right and center left up to the final drum hit and sustained fade. I also can’t get enough of the way Auerbach leans into the multisyllabic singing of, “too-day-ee-ay-ee-ay.”

Glam bam, thank you, ma’am—er, man! “Wild Child” sure lets it all hang out in Atmos—and I very much like it, like it; yes I do.


New Orleans funk/soul outfit Tank and the Bangas indeed know how to have a good time together, and their third studio album, May 2022’s Red Balloon, is essentially a nonstop party every listener is invited to both attend and partake. The quite celebratory “Communion in My Cup” raises the bar (and quite a few glasses, for that matter) in its Spatial Audio incarnation.

Sweetly harmonic a capella “oohs” open the track up in the clouds and spread wide, with a sleek bassline, melodic whistling, and fingersnaps all holding the rhythm in the middle before string effects come in behind Tarriona “Tank” Ball’s quite inviting lead vocals, which in turn take over the mix from this point forward. Listen for the deep breath Tarriona takes before she starts the next verse with, “Purple-tinted rims is spinning”—I just live for hearing “human” moments like that, moments not edited out for the sake of overcompensating vocal precision that only endear me more to the personality of the singer. Also take note of how she extends the vowel in “chur-urch” at the end of the same line.

When Tarriona gets to the title line in the first chorus, the whistling follows behind her, with fuller centralized percussion, handclaps, and background vocals adding to the broader palette. Incidentally, said backgrounds are courtesy The Ton3s, a vocal trio perhaps best recognized for their prior working backing up singer/songwriter Anthony Hamilton (when they were then known as The Hamiltones).

Some of the instrumentation drops out of the next verse to give Tarriona more room to move and be enhanced further by The Ton3s’ background vocals that sometimes spin off to the left, but then come back to reinforce her “that’s absurd!” exclamation center left a moment later. She veers off to the right for her last line, with an organ stab/fill now coming in at the left, before the chorus returns on high. The harmony vocals also join the organ on the left too—and Tarriona soon enough joins the three vocal lads over there to lead into the bridge, coming back center left with added cymbal taps fully centered to give her the space she needs.

After a scatted line repeating the word “stunt” and a slight hiccupped laugh, Tarriona admits, “That’s the human in me,” and it only makes you love the character of her voice that much more. The ensuing whoops, hollers, and the four-letter-word-derived phrase for “made a mistake” all help carry the track home—with a cool sax break up the middle as additional close-out sweetener.

Thing is, if there was a true modern equivalent to Motown, Tarriona “Tank” Ball would already be their new soul-standard bearer without question, for “Communion in My Cup” is the kind of joyful tune that brings everyone together in Atmos.


The one and only Shania Twain literally defines the concept of a country-pop legend, and her undeniable breakthrough April 1995 blockbuster album The Woman in Me fully sealed the deal. Produced and co-written by her then-husband Robert John “Mutt” Lange—also known for his stellar AOR-oriented production work for the likes of AC/DC and Def Leppard—the key Woman track “Any Man of Mine” became Twain’s first No. 1 Country single, and with good reason. Even better, “Any Man” sounds even more unstoppable in Spatial Audio.

A clean acoustic guitar line starts things off up the middle and resonates over to the left, before cymbals and a pedal-steel guitar collectively swoosh back and forth across the stage. Next, a fiddle leads the melody, while stomps and handclaps further anchor things with Twain’s processed “ooh” spread wide and ensuing “woo” up high, followed by her quick laugh.

Much of the instrumentation drops out, with the one-two stomping and emphasized handclaps kicker remaining before Twain takes to the high ether with the opening line, “Any man of mine better be proud of me.” (The more rock-oriented listeners amongst us will likely ascribe the flow of that inescapable stomp beat to the similar beat heard during the verses of Def Leppard’s July 1988 No. 1 single “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” also produced by Lange.)

Twain’s vocals are doubled on the next verse and spread wider, the fiddle nestling in behind her as full support, but also moving multiple times from center left to center right, and back. When Twain intones, “And if I change my mind,” a sinewy electric guitar riff enters for further emphasis. Her full-on call-and-response “yeahs” induced me to sing right along with every one of them—and I ain’t ashamed to admit it, neither.

As “Any Man” continues to unfold, you’re again reminded of Lange’s penchant for knowing exactly how to layer tracks densely, but not to their detriment. Twain remains the focal point throughout, just as she should be—and that also reminds you why she shot up into the country-pop stratosphere in the first place, thanks to the template set forth on this track alone. It’s not just due to Twain’s fine leads and harmonies, but her added “woos” “oohs” and “Mmms” all add to what endeared you to her first even more—not to mention that final laugh off to the right as the song begins to fade out.

Yeah, I like it that way. “Any Man of Mine” totally knows how the story goes in Atmos.


For more about the specs, gear, and setup options you’ll need to experience the very best of the ever-expanding Apple Music universe of fully immersive Made for Spatial Audio Dolby Atmos mixes, go here.

Still want more Made for Spatial Audio options to listen to before an all-new Spatial Audio File returns next Friday? Go to Apple Music: Spatial Audio Relations to get an additional all-channel fill.