The latest update to Vermont Sleep Sounds & Music adds support for Apple’s Spatial Audio feature, giving AirPods Pro users the ability to enjoy relaxing soundscapes in an immersive surround sound experience.
Spatial Audio is a Game-Changer
Vermont Sleep Sounds & Music is a pioneering app in being the first iOS app of it’s kind to provide support for Dolby Atmos, an audio format designed to to present a richer, more immersive listening experience. Up until now, however, playback of Dolby Atmos content within the app was limited to an iOS device’s own speakers, with headphones defaulting to a stereo or binaural mix of the multichannel audio source. With the new Spatial Audio feature added in iOS 14, Vermont Sleep Sounds & Music users with AirPods Pro can finally take advantage of Dolby Atmos when creating their own surround soundscapes for relaxing. (Apple is expected to expand support for Spatial Audio to other devices in the near future.)
Spatial Audio expands the level of customization within the app
Users of iPhones and iPads often seek out white noise, nature, or other similar ambient sound relaxation apps for a variety of reasons, be it to help cope with stress and anxiety, to help them unwind before bedtime, or as a means to aid in mindfulness or meditation. Whatever the reason, everyone seems to have their own favorite sound which helps them best unwind. Vermont Sleep Sounds & Music offers a large variety of sounds and relaxing music, and the app gives users an unprecedented level of control in creating their own sonic soundscapes. Many sounds have selectable parameters such as variable speeds for fans, different size waterfalls, and even the option to toggle thunder on or off during rain sounds. The addition of Spatial Audio expands the level of customization within the app by giving users yet another variety of sound to select from when building their own personal soundscapes.
New features for iOS 14
Along with Spatial Audio, Vermont Sleep Sounds & Music has recently gained additional features for iOS including support for Dark Mode, the ability to save custom playlists, and support for Siri Shortcuts. Custom shortcuts are even compatible with the new Wind Down feature added to the Health app in iOS 14. A full list of app features is available on the Vermont Sleep Sounds & Music App Store page. (see link below)
Vermont Sleep Sounds & Music is available as a free download for iPhone and iPad on the Apple App Store.
Vermont Sleep Sounds & Music features original recordings of music, nature and white noise sounds, meticulously hand-crafted for the highest quality and effectiveness on mobile devices. The iOS app is the first of it’s kind to include support for Dolby Atmos, a new feature on iPhones and iPads which takes advantage of multiple speaker arrays to present a richer, more immersive audio experience.
Not Your Typical Sleep App
Beyond it’s innovative support for Dolby Atmos audio, Vermont Sleep Sounds & Music is also unique in that many of the sounds offer variable options to allow user to customize their own sleep soundscape. For example, fan sounds all have various speed settings and the rain sounds are offered as with or without thunder. A mixer page allows users to blend sounds and set custom audio levels, and the sleep timer features a slow, gentle fade.
Vermont Sleep Sound & Music Features
- Configurable sounds let users adjust fan speeds, select wind intensity, or even toggle thunder on or off for rain sounds.
- Dolby Atmos support enhances speaker or headphone experience to help users escape their surroundings.
- Music ambiance tracks feature a mix of tranquil piano and classical guitar melodies. Perfect for meditation or drifting off to sleep.
- Mixer function allows users to blend sounds and set custom audio levels.
- Supports all Airplay 2 and Bluetooth devices including Apple TV, AirPods, and HomePod.
- Subscription-free business model. A single in-app purchase unlocks all current and future sounds.
Pricing and Availability
Vermont Sleep Sounds & Music is available as a free download iPhones and iPads on the Apple App Store. A single in-app purchase unlocks all current and future content.
The latest Surround Sound Ear Candy app update brings three new surround sound music tracks, including a reimagined version of the famous James Bond Theme. From the production notes:
James Bond Theme reimagines the famous movie soundtrack as a 64-piece orchestra comprised entirely of guitars! A dramatic bass drop in the song’s introduction provides a cinematic element while familiar “007” musical motifs split off into various speaker positions on the surround soundstage. This arrangement features a heavy emphasis on modern surround production while staying true to the time-honored themes originally composed in 1962 by Monty Norman.
The update also includes two other surround sound music tracks, titled Reflection and Walk the Plank.
Reflections features specially-timed delay effects used to create unique, musical-sounding echoes designed to envelope and surround the listener as the melody unfolds. These immersive surround sound effects were inspired by delay effect techniques pioneered by legendary guitarist The Edge for his mesmerizing guitar riffs on U2 hits such as "Where the Streets Have No Name" and "Pride (In the Name of Love)."
Walk the Plank is a short orchestral arrangement inspired by the “Pirates of the Caribbean” soundtrack, and joins Surround Sound Ear Candy’s library of bonus “experimental” surround sound content.
Surround Sound Ear Candy is available as a free download for iPhone, iPad, and the Apple TV.
Guitar tab and lesson shows you how to play Jason Hook’s blistering guitar solo, showcased during his on-screen interview for the rock music documentary Hired Gun.
Released in 2017, Hired Gun is a rock music documentary focusing on session and touring musicians from famous bands and artists such as Metallica, KISS, Nine Inch Nails and others. While the majority of the film concentrates on capturing the stories and accountings from a handful of venerable session players in the industry, one of the memorable highlights which stood out to me as a guitar player was Five Finger Death Punch guitarist Jason Hook performing a blistering rock guitar solo in the midst of his own personal recording studio. On the anniversary of the Hired Gun theatrical release, I reached out to Hook (who is also the executive producer for the film) to give some insight into his performance and to share a few tips for guitarists looking to learn how to play some of his blistering solo licks and melodies.
Check out Hook’s solo below, then download the PDF here.
- As Hook ascends the A minor pentatonic scale throughout the first two bars, he frequently applies palm muting to certain notes in order to create powerful, punchy-sounding rhythms. In the transcription, the abbreviation “P.M.” illustrates exactly which notes should receive a palm-mute technique.
- Bars 2-4 largely revolve around a fifth-position, A minor penatonic blues scale. To replicate Hook’s flowing lead lines, pay attention to any arced lines, called slurs, appearing above notes. Slurs indicate wherever Hook performs any hammer-ons or pull-offs.
- If you have any trouble figuring out how to finger a particular note passage, try locating the corresponding part in the YouTube clip and viewing at a slower playback speed.
- Throughout the transcription, diagonal lines indicate where Hook uses a slide technique to move into or between notes. For example, Hook uses ring finger notes slides to create the cool-sounding ascending 5th-interval lick in bars 7 ad 8.
- When performing the massive two-step note bend on in bar 10, Hook adds his middle and index finger in behind the note to help support and reinforce the string bend. The additional digits act as extra finger “muscle.”
- To create the screaming note bend on beat two of bar 11, Hook intentionally catches the second string under his ring finger while performing the bend technique. The dissonance created by playing two notes with different bend intervals, combined with heavy distortion results in a cacophony of harmonic overtones which really makes his note jump out from the speaker!
- At bar 13, Hook engages a digital delay pedal to create a hypnotic-sounding melodic run up and down the first string. He creates this particular lick by syncing his picking in perfect timing to the dotted 16th-note rhythms created by a specific delay timing. While Hook specifically uses a Boss DD5 pedal set to a “dotted-8th” setting, you can recreate the sound with your own pedal or multi-effect device by following the text notes below the tablature in the transcription. (You can also hear Hook employ a similar delay effect in 5FDP’s cover of “House of the Rising Sun.”)
- The solo concludes with a dramatic “stutter effect” applied to a pick scrape and subsequent note slide. Hook says; “The stutter effect was created using the old blue line6 Mod pedal set to OPTO TREMOLO and the ‘Tweak’ and ‘Tweeze’ cranked up to the extreme setting.”
Visit www.hiredgunthefilm.com to learn where you can watch the documentary in it’s entirety.
There may be several reasons for surround sound not working on your Apple TV 4 or Apple TV 4K, ranging from improper audio settings, to faulty cables, to even software bugs. Follow this short checklist to find out where your problem might lie, and how to get your Apple TV surround sound back up and working again!
Before gettings started, make sure you are testing your system with *actual* Dolby Digital surround sound audio during each step. While you can certainly use an iTunes movie containing Dolby Digital surround sound, you’ll spend a lot of extra time searching for and rewinding to any obvious surround sound “moments.” A better solution is to download a speaker utility such as the free Surround Speaker Check app, specifically designed for troubleshooting surround sound audio on the Apple TV.
Recommended: Surround Speaker Check [Free]
Step 1: Check Apple TV Surround Sound Settings
The first thing you should do when your surround sound fails is check the “Surround Sound” settings in the tvOS Settings app. Open the Apple TV “Settings” app, go to “Video and Audio” and then look for the “Surround Sound” pop-up menu. By default, you should select the “Best Quality Available” option. If you have an older receiver, you might want to try the “Dolby Digital” setting to see if this fixes your problem.
Step 2: Make sure your receiver or sound bar is on the correct audio setting.
As most AV receivers and their accompanying remote controls contain a large number of buttons and audio setting options, it can be confusing as to which one you need to get basic surround sound compatibility with your Apple TV. As such, your AV unit user manual is most definitely the best source of info for learning which setting enables surround sound. Manual aside, try looking for an “Auto”, “Straight”, or “Direct” setting, as either of these modes should provide straight-forward audio processing of the Dolby Digital signal.
About Apple TV’s “Best Quality Available” setting.
With “Best Quality Available” selected in the Apple TV Surround Sound audio settings, be aware your receiver may not display the text “Dolby Digital” on the front like it might when hooked up to a Blu-Ray player or game console, or even an older model Apple TV 2 or 3 (see image above). This is perfectly normal, and is because the Apple TV models 4 and 4K decode the Dolby Digital signal on board the Apple TV itself and then sends raw PCM format audio downstream to the receiver. With the Apple TV audio settings on “Dolby Digital” option, the Apple TV decodes the Dolby signal on board, and then re-encodes the signal to Dolby Digital AC3 audio for compatibility with older receiver models. In this case, the receiver will indeed say “Dolby Digital.” However, due to the re-encoding process to the lower-quality AC3 format audio (as opposed to Dolby Digital Plus E-AC3 format), it is recommended you choose the “Best Quality Available” setting mentioned in Step 1.
Step 3: Check your physical cable and speaker wire connections.
This includes all connected HDMI cables as well as speaker cables. Over time, incidental contact with AV components as well as general household vibrations (including those induced by rowdy pets or kids!) can potentially cause a shift in connected items. Cables which look fine on the surface might actually be only half inserted into their sockets or connectors, wreaking intermittent havoc on your home theater setup. So you write up your problem to faulty hardware or software, go through and make sure all connections are good and snug. (This is also probably a good time to dust off the top of your AV components as well to prevent issues from heat buildup!) If you’re still experiencing problems, another good troubleshooting step is to swap out HDMI cables to see if a bad cable is causing trouble.
Finally, once everything looks and sounds correct, use a dedicated home theater test app such as the above mentioned Surround Speaker Check to confirm the your speaker wiring. Perhaps the most common wiring issue with most home theater systems is that the left and right rear speakers are often wired backwards, a problem not easily detected with an iTunes or Netflix movie alone!
Step 4: Confirm your content is actually sending surround sound audio.
Sometimes, the reason your surround sound isn’t working is actually due to a bug in a media app, rather than your Apple TV setup. If you rely on streaming apps such as Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime to play home theater content containing surround sound audio, you can try ruling out that software issues by simply attempting to play surround content on the various apps. If surround works on one source, such as an iTunes movies or the Surround Speaker Check app, but does not work with another, such as on Netflix or Amazon Prime, then the problem is likely due to a software bug within the affected app. If this is the case, make sure you have the latest updates for tvOS and your streaming media apps. Software-related bugs can often be temporally remedied by re-launching the app, or by re-booting the Apple TV. Though sometimes, all you can do is submit feedback to the developer and sit tight until they can fix it in the next app update. (Which, fortunately, is usually the case.)
Yet another reason why it may seem that surround sound isn't working on your Apple TV is because not all movies or TV shows take full advantage of surround sound audio. It’s entirely possible (and actually fairly common) for a title to implement and advertise Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, yet have little to no audio routed to the rear speaker channels. As such, you should conduct your surround system testing and troubleshooting steps using content produced to take full advantage of Dolby Digital surround sound capabilities.
Hopefully, the troubleshooting steps above will work to help solve your Apple TV surround sound problem, and you’ll soon be back to enjoying the awesome Dolby Digital surround sound in your favorite movies and TV shows!
Surround Speaker Check is available as a free download in the iOS and tvOS App Stores.