With the recent launch of the Man of Steel soundtrack on several formats and editions, a new Zimmer app (the 4th for those who are counting) called Z+ in his trademark black, was quietly made available on the App Store.
Similar to what Dolby Headphone aspires to do for personal listening in surround, a proprietary algorithm is utilised to localise sounds where they were designed to be.
In this case of actual music, and specifically a movie score, it is an interesting initiative which Hans of course likes to push the boundaries and pioneer the enjoyment of the end user experience.
DTS is no stranger to music in surround with a significant investment in the area beginning with their own surround CDs in the SACD/DVD-A multi-channel music era.
Z+ is not unlike the Dark Knight app which employed Z+ for music from The Dark Knight Rises. Where that app concept was augmenting the score from real life sounds from the microphone pickup and GPS and accelerometer, this app is more traditional but aims for a higher placement effect through 11.0 channels. The 0.1 bass channel is omitted.
What’s particular new with this app is that it is totally narrated by Hans himself, in a baritone like manner akin to a movie director giving a movie commentary on home video. The effect within the app makes one think of Vincent Price in an obscure German renaissance project.
It is at the channel check phase where the intended effect is most striking and yet starkly setting yourself up for disappointment; naturally it is the left and left channels where the sense of space and localisation is widest or furthest sounding, followed by the centre.
Thereafter the responses for front and rear surround channels and their corresponding height channels are placed too close to your listening post, resulting in an almost flat depth where front and rear are practically interchangeable.
As nifty as sound checks can be, the true test is with actual music. For those without redemption codes provided in the CD SteelBook edition, pre-release track Ignition is provided for free, with the 6 others available at the app standard price of $1.99.
However, one can still sample the 6 tracks for 30 seconds each.
Actual results may vary, and in my case toggling between modes was like simply switching EQ presets, or wide stereo and straight stereo.
The source material does not employ placement as demonstrated by the channel checks, especially with the fast and busy tracks.
The only perceived improvement was better bass ironically.
1. A Demo button to remind you of how cool Hans sounds when calling at you from different locations.
2. An 8th track I Will Find You, available for free when you sign up to the mailing list.
If you also hadn’t noticed, a visual distinction is made using the album art appearing in throbbing colour when DTS mode is engaged, and the monochrome steel flat art when disengaged.
At the end of the day, due to the closed nature of the app, where the aim is to enjoy a music experience, one cannot avoid being frustrated with the lack of flexibility of music control or external sources.
When fans are expected to double dip, and not be able to extract them to enjoy within their iTunes playlists, the audience would be fairly limited, leaving this user to enjoy the album in the modes below.