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Giles Martin: “You can’t mix for a technology, you have to mix for a song”

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Talking to MusicRadar, record producer Giles Martin told about the technicalities of transferring game-changing Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds to Dolby Atmos.

In his review of Beach Boys’ 1966 album for Record Mirror, Norman Jopling wrote: “Pet Sounds has been the most widely-heralded long-play pop album for some time, the subject of much praise and no criticism”. The record that turned their contemporaries on to the kaleidoscopic world of psychedelia is now adjusted to Dolby Atmos technology. The Beatles’ iconic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band wouldn’t have happened without Pet Sounds.

The Dolby Atmos mix of the trailblazing psychedelic album was completed by Giles Martin (a son of The Beatles’ record producer George Martin), who had previously worked on restoring audio for the Peter Jackson’s Get Back project.

Although it seems that 1966’s wall-of-sound approach can be easily converted into spatial audio format, the process was, in fact, more laborious, in Martin’s words “the equivalent of restoring paintings, brightening up an old Dutch master’s work”. The original record came in as mono which requires a “mix to the source” approach when one revisits it for such technology as Dolby Atmos.

“I always saw surround sound as being mono that’s been hit with a toffee hammer”, says Martin. “You have this central focus, which is where the power comes from. If things are too dispersed you lose the immediacy of it. It’s like being in an echo chamber. You need that directness from a focal source. Then other elements can materialise around you.”

When talking about the most appropriate sound equipment to savour the new mix, Martin names Sonos’ Era 300 speaker system and Apple (speakers rather than headphones).

The Dolby Atmos version of Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds is available here.

Author

  • Irina Shtreis

    Irina Shtreis is a music writer, researcher and musician. Her byline has appeared in British publications such as MOJO magazine, The Quietus and Louder Than War. Irina has been a news editor of the latter since 2020.

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