As the end of 2023 approaches, it’s time to look back on fan-favorite releases from last year in surround sound and immersive audio. The Grammy Award for Best Immersive Audio Album, formerly Best Surround Sound Album, was first awarded in 2005. Since then, the Recording Academy has always 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 IAA wants to make sure your voices are heard.

IAA offered our first Listener’s Choice Award in 2020 and followed it up with even more successful campaigns in 2021 and 2022. It that spirit, we’re thrilled to announce its return for music released in 2023!

To acknowledge the difference and impact of different formats in which artists now release their music, we are hosting 2 distinct categories: one for the best immersive audio album you streamed in 2023, and one for the best immersive audio album you downloaded or purchased on physical disc.

The nominees in each category are as follows.


Artist: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Title: Greatest Hits (1993)
Format: Streaming
Immersive Mix By: Ryan Ulyate (Dolby Atmos)
Release Date: 10/12/22

Following his acclaimed work on the Wildflowers and Angel Dream reissues in 2021, it’s no surprise that the Petty estate has once again tapped expert mixer Ryan Ulyate to create a Dolby Atmos mix of The Heartbreakers’ classic 1993 Greatest Hits compilation.

Every track sounds amazing, but “Don’t Come Around Here No More” from 1985’s Southern Accents would have to be a standout. Arguably one of the band’s most ambitious tunes ever, it sounds massive in Atmos with the programmed drums and vocal chorus raining down from above.

Artist: Joni Mitchell
Title: The Asylum Albums (1972-1975)
Format: Streaming
Immersive Mix By: Ken Caillat & Claus Trelby (Dolby Atmos)
Release Date: 11/10/22

Among the most celebrated reissue campaigns of the past several years is the Joni Mitchell archives, an ongoing effort from Warner/Rhino centered around uncovering previously unreleased recorded material from singer-songwriter’s vast back catalog. The latest reissue in the series, The Asylum Albums (1972-1975), covers four of the most popular albums in the Joni Mitchell canon: 1972’s For The Roses, 1974’s Court and Spark (along with its accompanying live release Miles of Aisles from that same year), and finally 1975’s The Hissing of Summer Lawns.

Though the box set once again disappointingly forgoes any immersive audio content on disc, brand new Dolby Atmos remixes of all four albums quietly became available on the streaming services soon after its release. Mixed by Ken Caillat (perhaps best known for his engineering & production credits on Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours) and Claus Trelby at Marshmellow Skies studio in Westlake Village, CA–with oversight from Joni Mitchell herself–these new Atmos versions sound absolutely phenomenal.

Read our full review here!

Artist: R.E.M.
Title: Murmur
Format: Streaming
Immersive Mix By: David Leonard (Dolby Atmos)
Release Date: 5/2/2023

Though much of R.E.M.’s catalog became available in 5.1 surround sound during the mid-2000s, their first several albums released under the independent label I.R.S. (everything prior to 1987’s Document) were conspicuously skipped. 

The band’s classic debut album Murmur (1983) finally received the immersive treatment courtesy of award-winning mix engineer David Leonard. Leonard’s Atmos mix really uses the whole space, with Stipe’s vocal hovering between the fronts & front heights and the drum kit extending outward towards the side speakers. There are even some drum fills that go up into the height speakers, plus isolated acoustic guitar, piano, or organ in the sides & rears.

Artist: The Band
Title: Music From Big Pink (1968)
Format: Streaming
Immersive Mix By: Bob Clearmountain (Dolby Atmos)
Release Date: 7/5/2023

Music From Big Pink (1968) was The Band’s classic debut album, featuring the classic line-up of bassist Rick Danko, pianist Richard Manuel, organist Garth Hudson, guitarist Robbie Robertson and drummer Levon Helm. Having originally performed backup for Bob Dylan on his 1966 tour as the “The Hawks,” the members of The Band gathered at a house in upstate New York (colloquially known as “Big Pink” due to its exterior color) to develop original music.

In June 2023, a new Dolby Atmos rendition of the album quietly appeared on the Apple Music and Tidal streaming services. Similar to Giles Martin’s recent Dolby Atmos remix of The Beatles Revolver album, Bob Clearmountain used filmmaker Peter Jackson’s proprietary AI-based stem separation software to parse out vocals and instruments recorded to a single track on the multitrack master. 

“The Weight” was more of a three-channel affair in the 2018 5.1 surround mix, with most of the core instrumentation & vocals arrayed across the front soundstage while ‘you-are-there’ ambience and organ permeating the rears. Now-thanks to the ‘de-mixing’ technology-the opening guitar riff hovers between the front right and side right speaker while piano is almost entirely confined to the side left channel. The rears again feature the organ, with the ambient sound spread both behind and above. 

Read our full review here!

Artist: Neil Young
Title: After The Gold Rush (1970)
Format: Streaming
Immersive Mix By: Niko Bolas & Neil Young (Dolby Atmos)
Release Date: 7/12/2023

Immersive music fans were no doubt pleasantly surprised to discover much of Neil Young’s classic catalog–including iconic releases such as 1970’s After The Gold Rush and the seminal 1979 live album Rust Never Sleeps–suddenly became available to stream in Dolby Atmos earlier this month.

“Only Love Can Break Your Heart” sounds massive in Dolby Atmos, with Neil Young’s distinctive vocal placed upfront and multiple acoustic guitar parts filling out the side & back channels. During the chorus, background vocals burst from the rear surround speakers.

Physical Disc/Digital Download:

Artist: Mr. Big
Title: Mr. Big (1989)
Format: Digital Download, SACD
Immersive Mix By: Chris Bell & Michael Romanowski (5.1 & Dolby Atmos)
Release Date: 4/21/2023

In the Summer of 2021, Evolution Music Group (evoXS) surprised audiophiles and immersive music enthusiasts by issuing a 5.1 surround SACD of California hair metal band Mr. Big's classic 1991 studio album Lean Into It. Naturally, fans began to speculate whether or not the band’s 1989 self-titled debut would receive a similar deluxe reissue. Such conjecture proved correct in January 2023, when evoXS announced a 5.1 SACD of the album with remastered stereo & new 5.1 remixes for release on April 21, 2023.

We at IAA were thrilled to offer the album as an exclusive immersive digital download through our online shop, with high-resolution 5.1 FLAC files as well as Dolby TrueHD/Atmos MKVs. Chris Bell and Michael Romanowski’s immersive interpretation of the album is impressive, especially given the relatively limited number of elements in play. The album sounds quite ‘big’ in stereo, but in reality the core four-piece band’s studio performance is augmented only by the occasional background vocal, guitar, or percussion overdub.

Read our full review here!

Artist: Tears For Fears
Title: The Hurting (1983)
Format: Blu-Ray
Immersive Mix By: Steven Wilson (5.1 & Dolby Atmos)
Release Date: 6/9/2023

Released through Mercury Records in March 1983, Tears For Fears’ debut studio album The Hurting spawned three top-40 international hit singles–"Mad World", "Change", and "Pale Shelter"–and ultimately became known as a defining album of the early-80s British new wave/synth pop movement. Lyrically inspired by psychologist Arthur Janov’s primal therapy and Roland Orzabal’s own difficult childhood, The Hurting explores dark concepts such as child abuse, psychological trauma and depression.

It seemed unlikely that The Hurting would be revisited again after the extensive 30th anniversary reissue, but and Universal Music have teamed up to deliver what is surely the final word on the album in this fantastic new 40th anniversary Pure Audio Blu-Ray. Not only does it include new remixes by Steven Wilson in stereo (both vocal and instrumental versions), 5.1, and Dolby Atmos, but also a brand new remaster of the original 1983 stereo mix and never-before-heard early renditions of “Mad World” and “Watch Me Bleed” produced by Mike Howlett.

Though the position of each element varies throughout, the 5.1 surround mixes typically utilize the rear speakers for digital percussion, synthesizers, guitars, and backing vocals, while the rhythm section is arrayed across the front channels and lead vocals take up residence in the center channel. The Dolby Atmos mixes take the immersion even further with the addition of the side surround channels and four overhead speakers. 

Read our full review here!

Artist: The Pineapple Thief
Title: How Did We Find Our Way? 1999-2006
Format: Blu-Ray
Immersive Mix By: Bruce Soord (5.1 & Dolby Atmos)
Release Date: 6/23/2023

Ever since Bruce Soord first embraced immersive audio for his 2015 self-titled solo album, immersive music fans have wondered if he’d ever consider going back and remixing the band’s vast discography for surround. 

The new How Did We Find Our Way? 1999-2006 box set finally answers that question, featuring new 5.1 & Dolby Atmos mixes of the albums Abducting The Unicorn/Abducted At Birth (1999), One Three Seven (2002), Variations On A Dream (2003), 8 Days (2003) 8 Days Later (2004), 10 Stories Down (2005), and Little Man (2006).

Soord has outdone himself on this set, with nearly 9 hours(!) of music remixed in 5.1 surround & Dolby Atmos. The Atmos mixes interestingly tend to have a good bit of dry drum signal in the height speakers (in addition to isolated elements like backing vocals, synths, and rhythm guitars): it really does give that interesting effect of being in a 'bubble' of sound, with the kit floating in space instead of being tied to just the front channels.

Artist: Ryan Ulyate
Title: Act 3 (Immersive Edition) (2023)
Format: Digital Download
Immersive Mix By: Ryan Ulyate (Dolby Atmos)
Release Date: 9/12/2023

Ryan Ulyate has been recording, mixing and producing music professionally since 1978. In 2005, he began a decade-long collaboration with Tom Petty that included mix and production credits on the Mojo (2010) and Hypnotic Eye (2014) studio albums.

Ulyate’s latest project is Act 3, his debut album as a solo artist. Inspired by the bands he listened to while growing up, as well as artists he’s worked with, it’s a tapestry of classic British and California rock. As of this writing, the album is exclusively available as a high-resolution immersive download through IAA’s online shop. The Dolby Atmos mix was created by Ulyate himself and mastered by Michael Romanowski at Coast Mastering.

“Dreamland” kicks the proceedings off in style with Ulyate’s layered vocals surrounding the listener, before blasting off into full immersion with the drums filling up the entire space at ear level, acoustic rhythm guitars upfront, an electric rhythm part in the side surrounds, and lead guitar fills popping out of the front heights. Lead vocals are loudest in the center speaker, but some additional dry signal spills over a bit into the front and side channels for a more cohesive experience.

Read our full review here!

Artist: The Who
Title: Who's Next / Life House (1971)
Format: Blu-Ray
Immersive Mix By: Steven Wilson (5.1 & Dolby Atmos)
Release Date: 9/15/2023

The new Who’s Next / Life House Super Deluxe Edition will no doubt deliver the final word on this period of the band, including dozens of previously-unheard studio and live recordings from 1970-72 across a massive 11-disc box set. The most exciting aspect of this reissue for audiophiles is undoubtedly the Blu-Ray disc containing brand-new stereo, 5.1 surround sound & Dolby Atmos remixes of the original nine-song Who’s Next album and fourteen(!) associated studio recordings by Steven Wilson. 

Though Who’s Next is perhaps not as densely-layered as other albums from this era that Steven Wilson has remixed in 5.1 surround or Dolby Atmos, such as King Crimson’s Lizard (1970) or Yes’ The Yes Album (1971), he’s nonetheless made the most of the limited (by today’s standards) original multitrack recordings to craft an exciting new immersive experience chock full of detail yet also faithful and respectful to the original production.

Read our full review here!

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Immersive Audio Album is a marketplace where immersive and surround sound artists can sell their music.