The Grammy Award for Best Immersive Audio Album, formerly Best Surround Sound Album, was first awarded in 2005. Since then, the Recording Academy has annually recognized the best of the best in surround sound and immersive audio experiences. As music formats have evolved and expanded over the years, so have the audiophile fans - so much so that we want to make sure your voices are heard! IAA created our first Listeners Choice Award last year for the best albums of 2020 - and we’re happy to announce its return for 2021!

Now through November 12, we'll be accepting nominations for YOUR PICK of the Best Immersive Audio Album of 2021. The release dates for albums to be eligible are between September 1, 2020, and September 30, 2021 (the same as the Recording Academy guidelines). We’ve outlined some choices below, for your consideration. Now is the time for fans to speak!

Submit your nominations for IAA’s Listeners Choice Award here!

Artist: Ultravox
Title: Vienna (1980)
Reissue Label: Chrysalis
Format: 5CD/DVD
Immersive Mix By: Steven Wilson (5.1)
Release Date: 10/9/21

This ‘80s classic gets the deluxe treatment for its 40th anniversary, including a never-before-released live recording and new stereo & 5.1 remixes by Steven Wilson. Wilson’s 5.1 mix is an absolutely incredible listening experience, with the rear speakers used heavily for isolated synthesizers and backing vocals. The box set also includes some great stereo-only extras, such as the previously-unreleased “Live At St. Albans” performance from 1980.

Artist: Tears For Fears
Title: The Seeds Of Love (1980)
Reissue Label: UMe
Format: 4CD/Blu-Ray
Immersive Mix By: Steven Wilson (5.1)
Release Date: 10/9/21

The long-awaited super deluxe edition of Tears For Fears’ third and perhaps most ambitious album, The Seeds Of Love (1989), was finally released in October 2020. Perhaps the crown jewel of the set is Steven Wilson’s 5.1 remix, created under the close supervision of Roland Orzabal. Wilson’s short essay in the liner notes details the herculean effort undertaken to remix the album: it took nearly a year just to assemble all the multitrack components! The dense, layered production of the album lends itself perfectly to his treatment, and is a must-hear for any immersive fan.

Artist: John Lennon
Title: Gimme Some Truth (2020)
Reissue Label: UMe/Apple
Format: 2CD/Blu-Ray
Immersive Mix By: Paul Hicks & Sam Gannon (5.1 & Atmos)
Release Date: 10/9/21

To celebrate what would have been John Lennon’s 80th birthday, Yoko and Sean Lennon commissioned the creation of this new “best of” compilation album featuring new stereo, 5.1 & Dolby Atmos remixes by Paul Hicks & Sam Gannon. While perhaps not as impressive as some of Steven Wilson’s multichannel remixes, Hicks & Gannon have done an impressive job adding clarity to John’s vocals and bringing out some previously-buried instruments in the rear speakers. The songs from Double Fantasy fare especially well in surround sound.

Artist: Steven Wilson
Title: The Future Bites (2021)
Reissue Label: Caroline
Format: Blu-Ray
Immersive Mix By: Steven Wilson (5.1 & Atmos)
Release Date: 1/29/21

Steven Wilson’s much-anticipated sixth album, The Future Bites, was finally released in January 2021 after being pushed back from its initial June 2020 release date. For the first time ever, Wilson has included a Dolby Atmos remix in addition to the usual stereo & 5.1 options. The 5.1 mix is presented in Wilson’s typically wonderful style, with very active rear speakers. “Personal Shopper” in particular is a real workout for your home theater.

Artist: Be-Bop Deluxe
Title: Drastic Plastic (1978)
Reissue Label: Esoteric Recordings
Format: 4CD/2DVD
Immersive Mix By: Stephen W. Tayler (5.1)
Release Date: 2/26/21

Esoteric’s Be-Bop Deluxe reissue series continued in February 2021 with the release of the band’s final album, Drastic Plastic. The new edition once again included new stereo & 5.1 remixes by renowned producer/engineer Stephen W. Tayler. This new 5.1 mix might be Tayler’s best to date: check out the swirling synthesizers in “Electrical Language.” Demo-worthy!

Artist: Al Stewart
Title: Year Of The Cat (1976)
Reissue Label: Esoteric Recordings
Format: 3CD/DVD
Immersive Mix By: Alan Parsons (5.1)
Release Date: 3/26/21

For this reissue from Esoteric Recordings, original producer Alan Parsons has gone back and revisited the classic 1976 album in 5.1 surround. Already an audiophile-grade production, Parsons’ new 5.1 iteration takes it to the next level: the title track opens with the iconic piano riff completely isolated in the rear speakers, while the band kicks in from upfront.

Esoteric has already announced that a deluxe edition of Time Passages (1978) will follow later this year, once again featuring a 5.1 mix by Parsons.

Artist: A Bad Think
Title: Lifelike (2021)
Reissue Label: Windmark Records
Format: Blu-Ray, 5.1 FLAC, Atmos MP4, Atmos MKV
Immersive Mix By: Bob Clearmountain (5.1), Dave Way & Steve Genewick (Atmos)
Release Date: 4/2/21

Immersive fans were surprised to find that Michael Marquart was able to release a follow-up to The Savior so quickly, especially during a pandemic! Likelike includes a Dolby Atmos mix in addition to the usual stereo & 5.1 mixes by Bob Clearmountain. Once again, Clearmountain has done a fantastic job spreading out the layers of synthesizers, guitars, and vocals throughout the three-dimensional space.

Artist: Jethro Tull
Title: A (1980)
Reissue Label: Chrysalis
Format: 3CD/3DVD
Immersive Mix By: Steven Wilson (5.1)
Release Date: 4/16/21

Jethro Tull’s acclaimed 40th anniversary reissue series continues with A (1980), now featuring new stereo & 5.1 remixes by Steven Wilson. Though perhaps not one of Tull’s more popular offerings, many fans seem to have given it a reappraisal thanks to Wilson’s fantastic new remixes. The 5.1 mix in particular is fantastic, revealing tons of hidden details and previously-buried instrument flourishes.

Artist: Gentle Giant
Title: Free Hand (1979)
Reissue Label: Alucard
Format: CD/Blu-Ray
Immersive Mix By: Steven Wilson (5.1 & Atmos)
Release Date: 6/25/21

British musician/producer Steven Wilson has remixed more than fifty classic albums into 5.1 surround over the last decade, but his work on cult British progressive-rock act Gentle Giant’s back catalog stands out as particularly exemplary. This music is perfectly suited to a three-dimensional presentation, and he’s made the most of every opportunity to engage the additional speakers in a way that’s both extremely entertaining and true to the original two-channel mix.

The latest entry in the series, Free Hand, might be the best to date. In addition to the new stereo & 5.1 remixes, Wilson has also created a Dolby Atmos remix of the album.

Artist: George Harrison
Title: All Things Must Pass (1970)
Reissue Label: UMe/Apple
Format: 5CD/Blu-Ray
Immersive Mix By: Paul Hicks (5.1 & Atmos)
Release Date: 8/6/21

George Harrison’s debut LP is the latest Beatles solo project to receive a deluxe reissue, complete with previously unheard demo recordings and a brand-new stereo mix. In addition to the stereo remix, Grammy-winning engineer Paul Hicks has created 5.1 surround & Dolby Atmos mixes under the close supervision of Dhani Harrison. Hicks’ immersive mixes open up the densely-layered album nicely, while adding much-needed clarity where possible. Standout immersive tracks include “What Is Life,” with the lead guitar mostly emanating from the rear speakers, and “Apple Scruffs,” with the vocal harmonies placed in the rear speakers.

Submit your nominations for IAA’s Listeners Choice Award here!

About the Author
Jonathan is an audio engineering enthusiast from New York with a passion for immersive audio, having amassed a formidable collection of multichannel optical discs and quadraphonic vinyl. He earned his undergraduate degree in Television-Radio from Ithaca College and is currently enrolled in a Master’s Program in Audio Technology.
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